For all the big numbers UCLA’s offense has posted in three games -- averages of 49.3 points and 441.3 yards -- its most impressive might be the smallest: zero.
That’s how many turnovers the Bruins have made during their 3-0 start.
The last time that happened might be never. School officials sifted through game reports dating to the start of the 1958 season -- as far back as complete play-by-play records were available -- without finding a similar three-game stretch.
The No. 20 Bruins, who play host to Washington (1-3) in their Pacific 10 Conference opener Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, haven’t been infallible. They have five fumbles -- but recovered each of them. One of quarterback Drew Olson’s passes slipped through Marcus Everett’s hands and into the arms of Oklahoma linebacker Demarrio Pleasant, but a holding call against the Sooners negated the interception.
“My heart sunk when I saw that go through Marcus’ hands and the guy was standing right there,” Olson said. “I was really thankful for that one.”
Olson’s accuracy has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise this season. The senior began the season with nearly as many interceptions (26) as touchdown passes (33) and was coming off major surgery on his left knee.
Then came a battle for the starting job in training camp. Olson’s status as the No. 1 quarterback was assured only after redshirt freshman Ben Olson -- no relation -- suffered a small fracture in his throwing hand.
Uncertainty that might have rattled other players seemed to only strengthen Drew Olson’s resolve.
“Now there’s pressure to perform, and to perform at a high level, not just, ‘Hey, I’m the guy,’ ” offensive coordinator Tom Cable said.
Said Olson: “I needed to get back and prove to myself and my teammates and coaches that I could still play and raise my game to a better level.”
Olson has completed 71.8% of his passes, 56 of 78, for 762 yards and six touchdowns, and the Bruins’ scoring average is the third-highest in the nation.
“It seems like we’ve jelled,” said running back Maurice Drew, who has caught four passes for 33 yards and has 298 yards rushing. “We know where we’re going to be, we know when he’s going to throw it and what he’s going to do.”
Olson has also shown the intangibles his coaches were looking for.
“He’s really taken over the huddle and is showing a great deal of leadership and commanding presence,” Bruin Coach Karl Dorrell said, “and that’s the thing you want your quarterback to do.”
Olson attributes his success to confidence that has increased with victories over San Diego State, Rice and Oklahoma.
“I don’t care what you’re doing, in any profession -- especially with sports, I think -- if you have confidence, you’re going to play well,” he said.
Olson was at his best two weeks ago against then-No. 21 Oklahoma, completing 28 of 38 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns.
He completed passes to 10 receivers and guided UCLA on touchdown drives after both of the Sooners’ scores in the second half.
Olson’s play has solidified his once-tenuous hold on the starting position and probably relegated Ben Olson to mop-up duty in blowouts.
“Right now, Drew Olson is playing outstanding football,” Cable said, “and I don’t think there is any issue in terms of who our quarterback is.”
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Division I-A leaders
UCLA’s offense ranks third in the nation in scoring, and quarterback Drew Olson is in the top 10 in completion percentage and average yards per completion (minimum three games played):
*--* TEAM SCORING TEAM GAMES AVG Texas Tech 3 66.3 USC 3 59.3 UCLA 3 49.3 Michigan State 4 49.0 Arizona State 4 47.0 Washington State 3 47.0 Minnesota 4 46.3 Texas 3 45.3 Texas A&M; 3 44.7 Fresno State 3 44.3
*--* COMPLETION PERCENTAGE PLAYER, SCHOOL PCT Cody Hodges, Texas Tech 75.5 Drew Stanton, Michigan State 73.1 Colt Brennan, Hawaii 72.9 Paul Pinegar, Fresno State 72.7 Quinton Porter, Boston College 72.1 DREW OLSON, UCLA 71.8 Chris Leak, Florida 71.1 Kevin O’Connell, San Diego State 70.3 Phil Horvath, Northern Illinois 70.0 Brian Brohm, Louisville 68.8
*--* YARDS PER COMPLETION PLAYER, SCHOOL AVG Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M; 12.1 MATT LEINART, USC 11.8 Drew Stanton, Michigan State 11.0 Cody Hodges, Texas Tech 10.5 Lamar Owens, Navy 10.0 D.J. Shockley, Georgia 9.9 Sam Keller, Arizona State 9.8 DREW OLSON, UCLA 9.8 Brian Brohm, Louisville 9.8 Marcus Vick, Virginia Tech 9.5