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Offenses Figure to Be Firmly at Forefront

Times Staff Writer

Although Northwestern Coach Randy Walker said Monday that he would not be surprised to see a low-scoring Sun Bowl, Friday’s game is expected to be a high-scoring contest between UCLA and the Wildcats.

“Right now, it’s set up to be that way, and I’m just talking statistics,” UCLA quarterback Drew Olson said about the matchup between two defensively challenged teams with high-powered offenses.

The 17th-ranked Bruins have the nation’s seventh-best offense at 38.1 points a game. But UCLA also gives up 34 points and 458 yards a game.

Northwestern has the nation’s eighth-best passing offense at 492.7 yards a game. But the Wildcats also give up 32.5 points and 462.9 yards.

“It seems like we’re in the same boat,” said Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton, Big Ten Conference freshman of the year. “They definitely have a high-powered offense ... with an excellent back in Maurice Drew, and an excellent quarterback in Drew Olson. But they also have a low-ranked defense.”

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If the game turns into a shootout, each team likes its chances.

“We’ve played in similar games all year,” Olson said. “We’ve played in some high-scoring affairs. The Pac-10 has some pretty potent offenses that can throw the ball and score points at will.... This is nothing new to us.”

Sutton said he could not help but be excited about Friday’s game after watching tape of UCLA play defense.

“We’re going to be the first true spread offense that they will see all season,” said Sutton, who led all freshmen nationally in rushing yardage (126.4 a game), scoring (108 points) and touchdowns (18).

“You can’t help but notice that other teams have been able to put up points on them. Then to know how our offense has been able to put up points by spreading people out and having teams not know what we’re going to do, it favors us. But we still have to go out and execute.”

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The status of UCLA junior Robert Chai for Friday’s game remains unclear after the center did not practice Monday because of a knee injury. Chai, who started the last four games of the regular season in place of injured senior starter Mike McCloskey, did some light jogging and rode a stationary bike Monday.

“It’s getting better and hopefully I’ll be ready for Friday,” Chai said. “But in some ways [a knee injury] is worse when you’re down in the trenches, you’re doing a lot of hitting and putting a lot of pressure on your knees.”

If Chai is unable to play, UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said, redshirt freshman Nathaniel Skaggs probably would start ahead of Aaron Meyer. Skaggs, who started the opener against San Diego State at defensive tackle, continued to practice with the first unit Monday.

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Dorrell has not made a decision on who will handle placekicking duties. Non-scholarship freshmen Brian Malette and Jimmy Rotstein have been competing for the job left open by the suspension of Justin Medlock. “They both know that it’s neck and neck,” Dorrell said. “It was good to have them kick in windy conditions today.” ... Defensive tackle Chase Moline, linebacker/safety Eric McNeal, wide receiver Gavin Ketchum and offensive tackle Brian Abraham practiced Monday after being sidelined last week because of injuries.... Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue has been named to the Legends of the Sun Bowl. Donahue coached the Bruins to a 6-3 victory over Illinois in the 1991 Sun Bowl and also was a television analyst for the 1995 and 1998 games.


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