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UCLA's Derrick Coleman has found the zone

After being denied by Stanford, the Bruins' bruising back has scored seven of UCLA's last 13 touchdowns, most from short range.

November 09, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA running back Derrick Coleman makes his way through the Arizona State defense during the Bruins' victory Saturday. Coleman has played well on short yardage plays for the Bruins this season.
UCLA running back Derrick Coleman makes his way through the Arizona State… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

All running back Derrick Coleman wanted was one yard. He didn't get it. But he did take away a lesson from a goal-line stand by Stanford last month.

UCLA got to the four-yard line on its first drive and came away with nothing.

Coleman, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound senior, had two tries at scoring — a one-yard run came up one yard short and a third-down effort ended with him in the arms of three Cardinal players just shy of the goal line.

"I didn't get in, that's all I remember," Coleman said.

It was his Stanford education.

"Stanford put it back in our face," Coleman said. "It showed that you can get down there, but it doesn't mean you're going to get it in. You can't take it for granted. You have to be physical."

His Cardinal rule became: "Dive, run through people, around people, just get in."

And it has worked. Coleman has scored seven of UCLA's last 13 touchdowns, including two on one-yard runs in the Bruins' 29-28 upset of Arizona State last Saturday.

"When the game gets down to rugged, there is no better guy to give the ball to," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

Johnathan Franklin starts for the Bruins, something he has earned with 1,127 yards in 2010 and 606 this season. Coleman waits, usually until the second quarter.

"He does cry and complain, pull on my coattail," running backs coach Wayne Moses joked. "Whenever we need him, we just say, 'You're up.' He goes in and gives us what we need."

Coleman has 542 yards rushing and a team-high 11 touchdowns, which he has accumulated with a bruising style.

"All I want is my five yards per carry, anything else is a luxury," Coleman said. "My offensive line trusts me and I trust them. We're going to pound you. That's the type of running back I am.

Coleman, who has averaged 5.4 yards a carry in his UCLA career, is still not entirely comfortable with his role as a reserve. "You always want more," he said. "That's what makes Johnathan and I such good running backs. We are constantly competing.

"Everyone wants to come in and be a star. All I can do is what God gave me the gift to do, get some tough yards."

Coleman had a modest 27 yards rushing in a 28-25 victory over Washington State, but scored two touchdowns. He had 80 yards rushing and scored three times in a 31-14 victory over California.

Against Arizona State, he ran for 119 yards. His first touchdown put UCLA ahead, 16-14. His second, with 49 seconds left, was the game-winner.

You can call him a short-yardage specialist, but he is not a plodder. Coleman had touchdown runs of 20 and 24 yards against California. He had a 41-yard run against Arizona State.

"He has a burst of speed," quarterback Kevin Prince said.

The most comforting thing about having Coleman in the backfield, Prince said, is, "if it's third-and-short, it's a first down. If it's third-and-goal, it's a touchdown.

"When we watch the game tape, you see guys who just don't want to hit him."

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