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Washington State receiver Gabe Marks finds fault with UCLA's pregame routine

Washington State receiver Gabe Marks finds fault with UCLA's pregame routine
Washington State wide receiver Gabe Marks (9) runs with the ball while pursued by UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown (12) during the first half Saturday. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)

UCLA's warmups before Saturday's game at Washington State left Cougars receiver Gabe Marks in need of a cooldown two days later.

Marks chastised the Bruins on Monday, saying they "kind of come off like bad guys" because they warmed up on the wrong side of the field at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash., before their 27-21 defeat.

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"I don't know if they do that to everybody," Marks told reporters. "It's kind of [lame]."

Marks then glanced at a Washington State staffer, seeking approval for his word choice.

"Don't cut that," Marks said. "Let's be honest."

Marks, a former Venice High standout who is 28 catches short of breaking Nelson Spruce's Pac-12 Conference record for receptions, wasn't finished with his critique.

"It makes you look like you're trying to be tough because everyone thinks that because you live in Westwood and you wear baby blue you're not tough," Marks said. "It makes you look less tough because you're trying too hard. It's just weird, you know? You don't have to do that."

UCLA Coach Jim Mora has developed a reputation for toughening the Bruins in his five years on the job. He has held training camp in the desert heat of San Bernardino and dispensed with an over-the-wall tradition in which players ditched practice.

What happened Saturday, however, appears to have been nothing more than a simple misunderstanding.

A person close to the situation not authorized to comment publicly said that UCLA's return specialists were instructed to warm up in the wrong spot about 75 minutes before the game and immediately moved upon realizing the mistake.

"I guess it was their side of the field," Bruins safety Randall Goforth, who returns kickoffs and punts, said Tuesday. "We were just warming up."

Mora said that Marks was "obviously misinformed. There's a certain protocol that's in place for pregame warmups and we follow it every week. Players don't know that kind of stuff. He's just misinformed and that's not his fault he's misinformed. There's no way he would know that."

Bruins offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu said that Washington State players ran through a part of the field where UCLA players were stretching, though Mora contended "there were no issues in pregame."

Any lingering tensions will have to wait. Marks, a senior, will be long gone when UCLA and Washington State next meet in 2019 because of the Pac-12's rotating schedule among teams from different divisions.

Made to order?

UCLA has increasingly run its offense out of the shotgun formation in recent weeks. Polamalu said the switch was partly designed to help with blocking and seemed to acknowledge a spread approach might be the best fit for the Bruins' personnel.

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"What we have right now was recruited for tempo, so we're in that fast tempo body instead of the large mass body," Polamalu said, "but we're always going to recruit to what we are doing."

The Bruins initially changed to a more pro-style offense this season, only to produce a running game that's been a major drag on their productivity. Polamalu said those struggles weren't a result of players not matching the scheme.

"This game is still about down-blocking, double teams, blocking, catching and running and tackling," he said, "and we've just got to do a better job of getting it out of them."

Polamalu said that freshman tailbacks Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks could be among UCLA's options in the running game against Utah on Saturday at the Rose Bowl because the players ahead of them "are a bit banged up."

Neither Stephens nor Starks has carried the ball since the Bruins played Brigham Young on Sept. 17. Nate Starks, Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi have split the carries at tailback the last four games.

"It's not that they're not running hard," Polamalu said of the primary tailbacks. "It's just scheme and technique and those things are what we're trying to improve on."

Quick hits

Quarterback Josh Rosen, who sat out against Washington State because of injuries to his lower body and the area around his throwing shoulder, did not appear to be on the field during the warmup portion of practice the media was allowed to observe Tuesday. Mora would not say whether Rosen participated in the closed part of practice. … Asked about playing-time decisions for players such as sparingly used freshman receiver Theo Howard, Polamalu said they originate with a position coach and feed through the offensive or defensive coordinator before going to Mora, who has the ultimate say. "He's always got the trump card," Polamalu said. "But he's counting on us. He's got a hundred and so many kids and he's counting on us to help him with that decision."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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