Offense lags behind in scrimmage
Offense 14, Defense 9.
It may not be the 13-9 score still talked about around Westwood -- UCLA’s 2006 victory over USC -- but it did allow the Bruins’ first and second offenses to claim victory in a scrimmage Saturday. Still, it also confirmed some suppositions about the 2008 Bruins’ strengths and weaknesses.
The glass-half-full view was that the Bruins’ defense can put points on the scoreboard. The glass-half-empty view was the offense seemed just as capable of keeping points off the scoreboard.
Coach Rick Neuheisel said he “saw enough good things from the offense,” though he also saw other things that were disturbing.
“Defensively I thought we did a great job against the run early,” Neuheisel said. “Offensively, that raises nervousness in terms of being able to run. Obviously, given where we are with the offensive line and an inexperienced quarterback, you like to not put all the pressure on the throwing game. It was a huge deal for us to find a way to run the ball with some consistency going into the Tennessee game,” the season opener Sept. 1.
Aundre Dean gained 15 yards in five carries. Raymond Carter had one yard in six carries. Kahlil Bell, who played only the first series, lost two yards on his only carry.
Asked what he thought about the running game, Neuheisel said, “Not much. It was not what it needs to be. We’re not necessarily game planning out there [in a scrimmage]. Sometimes when the defense was stacked [in the] box, we’d throw the ball.”
Of course, Neuheisel added, “If we’re going to do that, we have to be competent enough to catch the pass and not turn it over.”
Twice receivers had passes bounce off their hands for interceptions. One, a quick pass to Ryan Graves, wound up in the hands of linebacker Kyle Bosworth, who went 24 yards for a touchdown.
That gave the defense a 9-0 lead. The offense finally scored, after being given the ball on the opposing 24-yard line. Quarterback Kevin Craft ran 14 yards through a defense that was not allowed to hit the quarterbacks.
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow noted that the offense was without a few key players and that he didn’t allow his quarterbacks to call audibles.
Still, the Bruins-by-the-numbers seemed to add up to concern: eight sacks, four interceptions, two blocked field goals, one safety, one fumble.
“This is not a game that you evaluate personnel, this is a game where we make sure we get plays run and make sure we get ready to go,” Chow said. “We don’t play UCLA, you’ve got to keep that in mind. UCLA is not on our schedule. We wanted to run plays and get out of that thing.”
Crafting a quarterback
Craft did nothing to lose his hold on the No. 1 quarterback spot. But consistency remains an issue.
Craft threw six consecutive incomplete passes at one point, followed by seven consecutive completions. That included going four for four while directing a 68-yard touchdown drive against the second-string defensive line. Craft threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Everett.
“Kevin had a couple things go south on him,” Neuheisel said. “But sometimes it’s important in scrimmage situations to see how guys respond to that. So I thought he passed the test of not going in the tank because it wasn’t going well.”
Craft was eight for 18 for 93 yards, but he also had three passes intercepted. Chris Forcier, meanwhile, was seven for 13 for 71 yards, but Neuheisel said the redshirt freshman still lacks a grasp of the offense.
“It’s just like you wouldn’t let your son drive until he knew all the rules, but you know he can drive someday,” Neuheisel said.
Bell, eight months removed from knee surgery, was held out after the first series. Neuheisel said he would limit Bell’s carries the next two weeks. . . . Wide receiver Dominique Johnson sat out the scrimmage because of a sore hip. . . . Defensive end Korey Bosworth suffered a sprained ankle during the scrimmage, but Neuheisel said it was not serious.