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Layoff Provides Time to Think of Bowl, USC

Times Staff Writer

Now that UCLA has locked up a bowl berth with Saturday’s 34-26 victory at Oregon, the Bruins will have three weeks off before playing their regular-season finale against No. 1-ranked USC on Dec. 4 in the Rose Bowl.

“We’ll enjoy the win for a couple of days, but since we don’t have to play SC for a while, we’ll get a chance to focus on us right now for a week or so,” senior receiver Craig Bragg said. “It feels good to secure a bowl game. That alone in itself is major.”

The Pacific 10 Conference has ties to seven bowl games but will not fill all of them this season because Arizona, Stanford, Washington and Washington State will finish with losing records.

If the conference’s top three teams (USC, California and Arizona State) close the regular season with wins, UCLA (6-4, 4-3 in the Pac-10) would finish as the Pac-10’s No. 5 team and play a Big East representative in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 in Phoenix.

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The Trojans and Golden Bears would represent the Pac-10 in bowl championship series games with Arizona State going to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego as the No. 3 team.

Although UCLA is tied with Oregon and Oregon State in the conference, unless the Bruins defeat USC, they will finish behind the winner of Saturday’s game between the Oregon schools, which would go to the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

A scenario UCLA players will deal with when the time comes.

“It’s awesome to be coming off this win and then get to keep this feeling for three weeks before playing SC,” junior center Mike McCloskey said.

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Redshirt freshman cornerback Trey Brown, who returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown Saturday, on UCLA’s defensive effort against the Ducks: “A lot of the plays they ran, we were familiar with because we saw them on film.... Whenever you see something 100 times, you should be able to make a play when you see it in a game.”

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Because UCLA does not play again until Dec. 4, the extra rest will benefit injured players such as running back Maurice Drew, who did not play at Oregon because of an ankle injury, and tight end Marcedes Lewis, who played sparingly because of a sore back.

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In Saturday’s game, safety Jarrad Page suffered a hamstring strain and did not play in Oregon’s final drive, and linebacker Ben Lorier and backup running back Derrick Williams suffered concussions. As a precaution, Williams spent Saturday night in an Oregon hospital and returned to Los Angeles on Sunday.

With five kickoff returns for 68 yards against Oregon, senior Tab Perry became the school record holder in career returns with 67 and kickoff return yards with 1,476.... Bragg did not catch a pass against the Ducks, ending his streak of 42 consecutive games with a catch.


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