Derrick Coleman had a team-high 51 yards rushing, 43 coming on a touchdown… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
UCLA center Kai Maiava lounged on the bench, smiling as he peeled off equipment, while the Bruins continued to scrimmage Saturday. A year ago, he was carted off the field after breaking his ankle during the first series.
"This was a whole lot better," Maiava said.
This was how it was planned.
The Bruins went through 90 plays before a sparse audience at Drake Stadium. The attendance estimate was boosted when many key players became spectators early.
Running back Johnathan Franklin was done after one series. Defensive end Datone Jones was out after 13 plays. The first-team offensive linemen were told "we would be in 20 plays," tackle Mike Harris said. They were in for 21.
The safe-and-sane approach, plus a conservative game plan designed to be shown on YouTube, meant the Bruins exposed little, neither their personnel nor intentions, with the opener at Houston two weeks off.
Injury avoidance was the key to the game.
"We didn't want anything like what happened to Kai last year," tackle Sean Sheller said.
UCLA nearly got away injury-free, but starting cornerback Aaron Hester suffered a hamstring injury on kickoff coverage.
"I was sprinting down and tweaked it," Hester said. "It's not serious. I wanted to go back in."
Coach Rick Neuheisel was more concerned, considering the lack of depth at cornerback. The Bruins have already lost Jamie Graham, who had knee surgery and is out at least a month.
"We're going to look at this optimistically, because we think Aaron will be back soon," Neuheisel said. "In the event he isn't, it's going to require some head scratching."
Reserve defensive end Wesley Flowers reinjured his hip. Other than that, things went as planned.
"We were going to break a sweat and get out," Maiava said.
Running backs Derrick Coleman and Malcolm Jones, competing for playing time, made their cases.
Coleman had a team-high 51 yards rushing, 43 coming on a touchdown drive. "I wanted to show that I'm an automatic four or five yards a pop," he said.
Jones was second on the team with 34 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run.
Quarterback Richard Brehaut completed seven of 12 passes for 75 yards and directed two touchdown drives. Kevin Prince was four for 11 for 81 yards (he was hurt by two drops) with one touchdown drive.
As for which way he is leaning, Neuheisel said, "I'll know when I know."
Neuheisel was in midseason form, screaming at Prince once and Brehaut twice for mistakes.
"I get irritated when they miss assignments," Neuheisel said. "They get an 'A' in the classroom and come out here and somehow it doesn't translate to the testing area."
A video by quarterback Jerry Neuheisel and tight end Luke Gane was the hit of the team's annual talent night Friday.
In it, Neuheisel portrayed his father doing a recruiting call and was tortured by Gane, who played a Heath Ledger-like "Joker" so well "it was creepy," one player said.