Joseph Fauria had two touchdown receptions against Nebraska last Saturday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
What makes UCLA receiver Joseph Fauria special?
"He's 6 feet 8, you can put the ball up for him," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said.
The advantage seems clear.
"I'm 6-7 and the coaches know it," Fauria said.
OK, is he 6-8 or 6-7?
From a Houston defensive back's vantage point Saturday, does it really matter?
Fauria, a senior, has seven receptions this season, three for touchdowns. Two have come on four-yard passes.
"He's a matchup problem down in there, where speed is not necessarily an issue, but body position and body control and height is," Mora said.
But it's dangerous to pigeonhole Fauria as a big lummox. True, at times he resembles a giraffe in full stride, but as one Nebraska defensive back can attest, pressing Fauria can be dangerous.
Fauria got loose on an out-and-up route, resulting in a 27-yard touchdown reception during the Bruins' 36-30 victory.
This season has already recharged Fauria.
He had 39 receptions for 481 yards, catching six touchdown passes, in 2011. Yet, he felt adrift.
"I'm being called a 'receiver' this season, which is kind of cool," Fauria said. "I was used primarily as a blocker last year. Now I'm primarily running routes."
Still, Fauria laughs, adding, "I haven't been a tight end since I got here."
That's the position Fauria is projected to play in the NFL. Although he's not "looking too far ahead," the idea of impressing NFL scouts "is definitely on my mind during games," Fauria said.
That, though, serves as motivation rather than a distraction.
"The NFL likes winners," Fauria said. "They like people who produce."
Fauria has this season, especially when the Bruins get the ball near the goal line. He had a four-yard touchdown reception against Rice on a fourth-and-goal play. He had another four-yard touchdown reception against Nebraska.
"If I line myself out there, it's an option for us," Fauria said. "At the same time, if the safety comes over to help out, it opens up the run. There are endless possibilities."
Mora knows one of them.
"He's a 6-8 guy with great hands and great body control," Mora said.
OK, is this guy 6-8 or 6-7?
Said Fauria: "6-7 1/2."
UCLA faces a Houston team run by another cookie-cutter quarterback from Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School.
David Piland replaced Case Keenum as the Cougars' quarterback this season. He completed 53 of 77 passes for 580 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech last week.
Piland, a sophomore, led Carroll to an 11-2 record in 2009. He was another in a line of successful Carroll quarterbacks.
Chase Daniel (Missouri) and Greg McElroy (Alabama) are two Dragons who went on to illustrious college careers. Kenny Hill, Carroll's current quarterback, has committed to Texas A&M.
"Playing there trained me to compete," Piland said. "You see the guys who came before you and you want to leave your mark. You want to be the next 'name.'"
This week might not be Piland's moment. The Cougars are 0-2 and No. 22 UCLA is coming off a victory over Nebraska. The last time Houston started 0-3, the Cougars finished 0-11.
Linebacker Patrick Larimore returned to UCLA's practice Thursday, as an observer, coach and cheerleader.
Larimore was forced to walk away from playing because of multiple concussions. But he wanted to maintain a role with the team.
"The hardest part was not being around the guys," Larimore said. "I want to be out here and help any way I can."