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UCLA football: Pass protection remains a topic for discussion

UCLA football: Pass protection remains a topic for discussion
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley can't find an open receiver as the Utah defense gets past Bruins fullback Nate Iese (32) during the third quarter Saturday at the Rose Bowl. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Day Three of UCLA's question-and-answer session on pass protection:

Quarterback Brett Hundley talked Monday about getting rid of the ball more quickly. Tackle Malcolm Bunche spoke Tuesday about the need to communicate better along the line. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm weighed in on Wednesday.

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UCLA's pass-protection woes against Utah may not be worth three days of discussion, but the coaches weren't available for questions until Wednesday and it is a hefty issue heading into the Bruins' game Saturday against Oregon at the Rose Bowl.

Hundley was sacked 10 times by the Utes, which is believed to be the most sacks the Bruins have allowed since Fresno State sacked Troy Aikman and Brendan McCracken 10 times during a 1987 game.

The difference is that UCLA won that game, 17-0. The Bruins lost to Utah, 30-28.

Asked what he might do differently, Mazzone joked, "I call some good plays on Sunday, after watching the game tape. It's amazing."

Shtick done, he added, "I would have had more quick series, with Brett getting the ball out of his hands. I didn't think we needed it. I'm not saying anything bad about our guys. Utah played a heck of a game."

Mazzone said he made some adjustments during the game, but "you can't scrap the whole game plan."

The plan had been to get the ball deep to UCLA playmakers. It worked at times. Devin Fuller caught a 93-yard touchdown pass and Eldridge Massington a 40-yard touchdown pass. Devin Lucien made an acrobatic catch at the one-yard line to set up another touchdown.

But, more often, the Utes overwhelmed the Bruins.

"It's human nature," Mazzone said. "I want to score right now. So Brett had to hold the ball so they could get down the field. I have to find that happy medium. Before, people said I didn't throw the ball deep often enough. Now I don't throw the quick passes enough."

Klemm said the line needed to play better.

"We can't have individual breakdowns," Klemm said. "It wasn't always one guy, but everyone has to be on the same page at the same time all the time. You can't be individuals and think everything is going to fine."

Next up?

Running back Craig Lee, a redshirt freshman, appears to be preparing for game action. He was not wearing a scout-team number during practice this week for the first time this season.

The Bruins have been searching for a third running back to rotate with Paul Perkins and Jordon James ever since Steven Manfro suffered a season-ending knee injury.

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Freshman Nate Starks has gained 30 yards in 11 carries and opponents seem to have caught on to linebacker Myles Jack's cameos in the backfield. He has 23 yards in 10 carries.

More Mariota

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said that preparing for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a chore.

"What doesn't worry you about Mariota?" Ulbrich said. "He's a great passer, but his true strength lies in his ability to extend plays. They have skill-position players who do a really nice job as far as getting open late in plays. He has knack for finding guys who are open."

Mariota's passing wasn't what hurt the Bruins in a 42-14 Oregon victory last season. The Ducks rushed for 345 yards and five touchdowns.

Quick hits

Offensive linemen Alex Redmond (ankle) and Simon Goines (knee) are unlikely to play against Oregon. Both were limited to individual training Wednesday before leaving practice to receive treatment. … Linebacker Jayon Brown left practice, escorted by a trainer, with an undisclosed injury.

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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