Injuries force Utah to patch up lineup
What UCLA’s football team has waiting for it in Salt Lake City on Saturday is a lot of pain. Not in the game, but up and down the Utah roster.
The Utes in two weeks have lost quarterback Brian Johnson, top running back Matt Asiata, wide receivers Brent Casteel and A.J. Reilly, and offensive tackle Jason Boone to injuries. All were starters. Add to that backup tight end Colt Sampson, as well as defensive tackle Gabe Long and linebacker Matt Martinez, both starters.
It would seem to leave the Bruins in a situation where they would have to work at it to lose, despite Coach Karl Dorrell’s concerns about a Utes team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2000.
“I think they are a dangerous team,” Dorrell said. “Sure, they have had injuries, but I know they want to win pretty bad. They are not familiar with being 0-2, and here’s a team, UCLA, that’s ranked [11th] coming into their home.”
Still, the odds seem long for Utah, which lost, 31-10, to UCLA last year.
Utah lost Johnson in the first half of its first game, leaving the team’s spread offense in the hands of Tommy Grady, a fifth-year senior from Huntington Beach Edison High who transferred from Oklahoma in 2005. In his first college start, Grady completed 20 of 39 passes for 240 yards and had two passes intercepted in a 20-12 loss to Air Force last week. Dorrell went this route a year ago, when starting quarterback Ben Olson was injured in the fifth game. Patrick Cowan took over and lost his first four starts.
“It’s different depending on the program,” Dorrell said about losing a starting quarterback during the season. “If the starter has taken most of the reps, then a guy has to catch up. We didn’t have that. Ben and Pat split the reps a year ago.
“I know they wanted Johnson to be the starter, but I don’t know the situation regarding reps. This year, that’s their problem, not mine. That’s all I’ll say about it.”
As for Grady, who played sparingly last season, Dorrell said, “We have some tape on him. He’s a streaky thrower, but he can make plays.”
Defensive tackle Brigham Harwell had an MRI exam on his injured left knee Monday, but Dorrell said, “We don’t know how many weeks it will be in terms of his recovery, but we don’t anticipate it being too long. We don’t anticipate it being a surgical issue as well, but we’ll wait for the MRI.”
Harwell won’t play Saturday. Jess Ward is expected to start in his place, though Jerzy Siewierski and Chase Moline should get plenty of playing time. Bret Lockett, the team’s No. 2 strong safety, will also probably sit out the game, Dorrell said.
Bruin receivers were manhandled a bit too much, Dorrell said, in UCLA’s 27-17 victory over Brigham Young on Saturday.
Particularly noticeable was a third-quarter play in which receiver Joe Cowan appeared to be grabbed and held, resulting in an interception that led to a BYU touchdown. Dorrell sent the tape of the play to the Pacific 10 Conference.
“There were a couple calls there where they just grabbed us,” Dorrell said. “They pulled jerseys out of our pants and there was no call. One of them was an interception that was as obvious as can be. I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this in my press conference.”
Quarterback Patrick Cowan, out a month because of a partially torn hamstring, will resume practice this week. As for whether Cowan would be the backup at Utah, Dorrell said, “We have to take it a step at a time and see where he’s at.”. . . The Bruins’ game against Washington on Sept. 22 will begin at 7:15 p.m. to accommodate television.