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UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA receivers are sharing the gift of grab

Twelve Bruins caught passes in the victory over Nevada. 'At any moment the ball could come to you,' Jordan Payton says. 'This encourages you to go out there and be ready.'

September 04, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • Jordan Payton, center, Brett Hundley, left, and Torian White, right, celebrate after a touchdown during UCLA's 58-20 victory over Nevada.
Jordan Payton, center, Brett Hundley, left, and Torian White, right, celebrate… (Harry How / Getty Images )

A dozen UCLA receivers caught passes in the Bruins' 58-20 victory over Nevada.

The last time as many UCLA receivers made receptions was during a 38-7 victory over Boise State in 1999.

With offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone calling the plays, consider it more of a trend than anomaly. UCLA had 11 receivers catch passes in the same game four times last season and had nine receivers with 18 or more receptions for the season.

"I hate it when the starters get 60 plays in a game," Mazzone said. "For us to play at the speed we want to play at, we're asking these guys to do a lot. I just don't think they can sustain that for three or four plays without a break."

Shaquelle Evans led the team with six receptions for 81 yards and one touchdown against Nevada. Devin Fuller had four catches for 39 yards. Everyone else had either one or two catches.

"It's amazing. You don't really see that anywhere else," receiver Jordan Payton said. "We love that we're all getting something in the game."

Mazzone will often flood the defense with five receivers. It keeps UCLA receivers at full attention.

"At any moment the ball could come to you," Payton said. "It keeps the confidence up. Sometimes, when it's one or two guys getting the ball the whole game, you're going, 'What's up?' This encourages you to go out there and be ready."

Instead of dividing receivers, it brings them together, said Evans, who led UCLA with 60 receptions for 877 yards and three touchdowns last season but is happy to spread some of those numbers around.

"You get close as a group," Evans said. "You know you can totally depend on a person. I do my job, knowing that someone else is going to make a play even if it's not me."

The only downside, the Bruins say, is for opponents.

"It shows it's going to be hard to stop us," Evans said. "It they key on me, Devin, Jordan, someone else is going to be wide open."

Back in

Running back Damien Thigpen will practice without a red no-contact jersey Thursday, a big step in his return from a knee injury.

"Thiggy came up to me [Tuesday] and said, 'Can I take the red jersey off?'" Coach Jim Mora said. "He's ready to get hit. I told him, 'Let's wear it one more day and see how it feels.'"

Mora said, "I think physically, he's in pretty decent shape. He has to get over the mental part, be in traffic, take some hits."

Thigpen could be ready by the Bruins' Pac-12 Conference opener against Utah on Oct. 3. "That would be great, and it's not too far-fetched," Mora said.

Thigpen ran for 262 yards last season and was the Bruins' third-leading rusher. He was also dangerous as a receiver and kick returner.

Workload

The Bruins get the weekend off while their next opponent, Nebraska, plays Southern Mississippi.

Mora said there was value in both scenarios. "For us, as a young football team, I like that we get to gather ourselves a little bit, regroup, and see what we need to improve on, then attack," he said.

Meantime, Nebraska "gets to evaluate themselves and their scheme. They get to make improvements that come when playing under pressure situations."

And UCLA coaches get a second game tape to pore over.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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