UCLA running back Malcolm Jones breaks into the Oregon State secondary… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Call it Malcolm up the middle.
That's what UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel enjoyed seeing from running back Malcolm Jones. His 29 yards in six carries during the second half were vital to the Bruins' grinding out a 17-14 victory over Oregon State on Saturday.
"I saw he was moving the pile again, and that was fun to see," Neuheisel said.
Jones, a true freshman, had seen few opportunities in meaningful situations since fumbling twice against Houston on Sept. 18. He had only eight carries in the next three games before getting 10 in mop-up duty in the 60-13 loss to Oregon three weeks ago. He didn't play against Arizona.
But his return to good graces meshed with the Bruins' conservative approach in the second half against Oregon State.
"He has been more physical and, after the couple of mishaps, he has been very protective of the ball," running backs coach Wayne Moses said.
Jones' first college season was slowed by an ankle injury in August that he said has now healed. But he has shown glimpses of the ability that made him a highly coveted recruit out of Westlake Village Oaks Christian.
He had 52 yards rushing in seven carries against seventh-ranked Stanford.
"My practice habits have improved," Jones said. When his ankle healed, "I was finally able to go at full speed. I have really felt good the past couple weeks."
Jones has moved past the fumbles. They were bothersome at the time, especially since both came deep in Houston territory, denying the Bruins a chance to score.
"Primarily, I had to show that the coaches could trust me," Jones said. "I worked twice as hard in practice, keeping the ball tight, making sure I didn't put it on the ground. It was on my mind a little bit, but the more carries you get, the better you feel that you're not going to drop the ball."
Jones got the significant carries in the second half against Oregon State. He had five carries for 17 yards in the Bruins' nine-minute drive in the third quarter that produced a game-tying touchdown. The biggest was bowling ahead three yards on a fourth-and-one play at the Oregon State 38.
"I think Malcolm is a non-complainer," Neuheisel said. "He nursed his ankle back to health and now I see a little more bounce in his step."
Linebacker Patrick Larimore is awaiting a second opinion on an MRI taken on his left shoulder. He dislocated the shoulder against Oregon. An MRI taken at the time showed small tears in his labrum.
"I'm still hoping to get back this season," Larimore said.
Tight end Cory Harkey missed practice because of food poisoning.… Free safety Dalton Hilliard (concussion) returned to practice Wednesday, but was wearing a red no-contact jersey.… Wide receiver Jerry Johnson, who had surgery on a broken left ankle, was at practice. He will be able to begin rehabilitation in 10 to 12 weeks and should be ready by spring practice.… Sam Tai, a defensive end from Las Vegas Liberty High School, orally committed to UCLA on Wednesday.