Bruins need to finish stronger

Wharton is a Times staff writer.

The UCLA defensive players gathered in a bunch after practice Tuesday, bouncing off the field, yelling, displaying emotion you might not expect from a unit hit by big scores the last two games.

“Just people who love football,” safety Rahim Moore said. “We’re just showing that things aren’t over.”

Earlier in the day, defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker had gathered his players for a closed-door meeting.


“Let’s just say the bowl situation, when you start seeing that drift away, you can feel like you’re running out of time,” he said. “I was explaining to them that there are personal goals that can keep you motivated and goals as a group.”

Walker was upset about the final touchdown in a 34-6 loss to Oregon State, a UCLA linebacker missing his gap, allowing a 35-yard run. He challenged starters to keep improving and backups to work toward breaking into the lineup.

He also told the defense that “we’ve managed to play well for three quarters and change. We need to do it for four quarters.”

Back in business

Micah Reed worked at center Tuesday, a switch from the past few weeks when he played guard. It was also a change from last week, when the senior was suspended.

He was among three players who sources said failed a drug test.

“I made a mistake and last week I paid for it by having to sit on the sidelines,” he said. “The only thing I can really do is come back and play my tail off.”

Reed didn’t say much more about the incident, explaining that teammates had been supportive. As for the position change, he has switched back and forth this season.

“It’s just different assignments,” he said. “Mentally, you have to prepare for it before practice.”

Coaches said they were experimenting with line combinations. Starting center Jake Dean was still listed atop the depth chart.

Driving coach

Defensive line coach Todd Howard spent practice in a golf cart after surgery to reattach the Achilles’ tendon he injured while running with players.

Howard said he would have the cast replaced with a boot so he can travel to Washington, where he planned to coach from either the bench or booth.


Coach Rick Neuheisel was not pleased with practice, saying: “Way too many mistakes, especially on the offensive side. . . . I mean, you put new things into a plan and you try to get yourself off to a good start, you’d just like a little more focus.” . . .

Quarterback Ben Olson continued to take snaps, trying to return from a broken foot. Neuheisel said he still looked rusty but has not ruled out his playing in the next few weeks.

Receiver Nelson Rosario did not finish practice, saying his injured ankle began to hurt. He still hoped to play this weekend.