UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin and many of his teammates got a sneak… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)
Reporting from San Francisco — There was an unofficial homework assignment for members of the UCLA football team's offense during their holiday break: Watch the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.
Whether Arizona State could defeat Boise State was irrelevant. What was of interest was studying Sun Devils offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who is sliding over to UCLA.
"I wanted to see what our new offense coordinator was like," running back Johnathan Franklin said. "What offense he was running, how he was coaching his players after they came off the field, stuff like that."
Mazzone is a proponent of the one-back spread formation and going without a huddle. The Sun Devils ranked 10th nationally in passing yards, averaging 316.7 per game.
Although Boise State rolled to a 56-24 victory, UCLA players saw a lot that they liked.
"They threw to the back a lot and used bubble screens," wide receiver Shaquille Evans said. "I think that offense will help me out. I'm pretty versatile. I can play outside and inside."
Wide receiver Ricky Marvray said he played in a similar offense at Corona Centennial High.
"What I liked was how they made sure to put the ball in their playmakers' hands," he said.
Wide receivers certainly like the offense. Arizona State, using four wideouts, had four players with at least 36 receptions this season.
"I'm ready for it," Marvray said.
Franklin saw areas where he could be successful.
Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall had 1,050 yards rushing this season. He also had 24 receptions. UCLA running backs had a total of 13 receptions.
"I like how they throw the back the ball," Franklin said. "They get him in open space."
UCLA tackle Brett Downey will start his first game since 2007, his senior year at Angels Camp Harte High. The reward for all that patience is to tangle with Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday.
Mercilus, a consensus first-team All-American, leads the nation with 14.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
"I have been watching a lot of tape on him to learn his tendencies so I can beat him," said Downey, who earned a scholarship two years ago.
That's a lofty ambition for a guy who has spent much of the season on the bench.
"It's going to be hard, but this is what I worked for," Downey said. "I got the chance to walk on here, worked my butt off to get to this spot. Now I'm here and I have to make the most of it."
Downey is getting his opportunity because Albert Cid is academically ineligible and Chris Ward is out because of a knee injury.
Patrick Larimore is sidelined
Linebacker Patrick Larimore, who leads the Bruins with 80 tackles, will not play Saturday.
Larimore, who had surgery for a torn ligament in his thumb two weeks ago, was told he could reinjure it if he played. Jordan Zumwalt moves from outside linebacker to the middle, where he played last season.