Quarterback Is Question Again

Times Staff Writer

Well, that was better.

UCLA’s 46-point explosion in an upset of 18th-ranked Washington on Saturday was stunning, to say the least.

It was a huge emotional lift, and a step forward for the heretofore beleaguered Bruin offense -- even if 25 of UCLA’s points came as a result of turnovers, and two touchdowns were scored by the defense.

“We are getting better, we’re definitely getting better,” offensive coordinator Steve Axman said. “We are not a good offense yet.”


They are not consistent yet, but there were flashes -- a 5 1/2-minute, 91-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, and all those deep balls for Craig Bragg to leap and snag.

But look what’s next: The quarterback question arises again.

Axman hadn’t even finished savoring his victory cigar before he heard it twice.

So who starts the next game?


Matt Moore shouldn’t lose his job because of injury, Coach Karl Dorrell has said, and after a brief mop-up appearance against Washington coming off a bone bruise in his leg, Moore is going to be itching to go.

But Drew Olson is making strides, has cemented his connection with Bragg, and most important, has won two games in a row.

Shouldn’t that earn him another start?

“I’ve got to say yes,” Axman said. “We’ll evaluate it and go from there. I’m very proud of what Drew did. He still made a lot of mistakes, but he’s a young quarterback. He’s getting better.”


The Bruin coaches took a cautious approach with Moore for the Washington game, sticking with Olson.

“I didn’t think Matt was ready coming off the injury. You don’t want to force someone coming off a leg injury to do things they’re perhaps not prepared to do,” Axman said.

“I’m very happy the way Drew’s progressing, and I’m very happy Matt is back in the fold and close to being ready to go. I was glad to see him get a few reps at the very end, even though it was just handing the ball off, so he got a feel for the game again.”

The good news is the Bruins play Arizona next, so if the Bruins can blow out the struggling Wildcats early, Moore could get plenty of time in the second half to show what he can do.


The Bruins want to see this as a quarterback luxury, not a quarterback controversy. So good, so far.

“Olson’s looking like a veteran quarterback,” Bragg said. “He kept his cool. The interception hurt, but he came back. I’m real happy for him. He’s improved every week. The team is starting to rally around him. It would be tough to take him out, but we all like Matt too.”

UCLA has another adjustment to make after losing starting center Mike McCloskey, who underwent ankle surgery Sunday and is out for the season. McCloskey, a sophomore, will be replaced by redshirt freshman Robert Chai.

Mostly, the Bruins came away encouraged. They rolled up 392 yards and Olson passed for 258.


But he threw one interception and was sacked four times, and the Bruins were 0 for 5 on third-down conversions in the first half before going a solid five for eight in the second. There were more sustained drives -- four scoring drives of 66 yards or more -- but there were five that stalled at seven or fewer, excluding one that ended the game.

The most pleasing development for many was seeing the Bruins take advantage of Bragg.

Olson connected with Bragg eight times for 142 yards with a long of 41 and found him on the sideline on two big third-down plays during the long drive.

“We felt going into the game we could get some deep isolations on Washington,” Axman said. “We feel Craig Bragg is as good as there is going deep. That was a big part of our game plan. Actually, I wish we’d done it more.”