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September 2, 2007

UCLA passes first test

The UCLA Bruins wanted to make a statement against Stanford that this Bruin football team will be a more rounded group who will be able to plays on the ball. Those who have been watching UCLA football have been frustrated at the unbalanced nature of the team. It seemed when the Bruins had potent offense that they would have to win a track meet because the defense was so porous.

Then DeWayne Walker was hired and the Bruins had a new attitude on defense. Under Walker UCLA's defense made a remarkable change and changed from being one of the worst defenses to one of the best.

The only problem was something strange happened on the way to the Rose Bowl in 2006. The electrifying offense that thrilled Bruin fans in 2005 became lifeless and if the Bruins were going to win the contest the defense would have to do the heavy lifting.

It was bothersome for many Bruin fans that the team in 2006 was the polar opposite from 2005.

The offense went through wholesale changes after the season. The only returning offensive coach was running back coach Dino Babers.

Once again UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell went on coaching search for a new offensive coordinator.

Enter Jay Norvell who like Walker the year before was going to tweak the attitude and coach the players up to play fast.

So with much anticipation the Bruins entered the season with the thought that they could be the complete team. Meaning solid play on both sides of the ball and special teams.

Stanford was the first test for a team who looks to be on a mission.

On the very series Stanford started on their own 38 yard line and the Bruin defense forced a turnover when Trey Brown on corner blitz stripped Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander from the football.

Bruce Davis scooped up the ball and off to the races he went finally getting tackled on the Stanford 12 yard line.

The Bruin offense would have their first test of the season as the defense set the table nicely for them. UCLA struggled in red zone a year ago and more times than the coaching staff would have liked they settled for a field goal attempt.

Out of the box, UCLA's offense resembled last year's squad with conservative play calling that squelched the momentum the defense gave to them. To make matters worse freshman placekicker Kai Forbath missed his first field goal attempt as a collegiate.

No one could blame UCLA fans if they felt they have seen this movie before, but just when you thought it was time the Bruins started to make some plays on offense.

Ben Olson lofted one and Brandon Breazell came up with a sensational catch for UCLA's first, first-down of the game. Then a Chris Markey run for another first down and before you know Joe Cowan makes an outstanding catch for a touchdown.

While Olson's passes weren't pretty, he did something that shows he is maturing as a quarterback and that is let your guys make plays. The tall southpaw got the football out there and let his athlete's do their thing.

After the sluggish start everything about the offense spelled improvement. Is it a finished product? The answer is no, but the potential for being a very good offense is obvious.

At every position on the offensive side of the ball there was improvement. The running back ran the ball well and Kahlil Bell showed the entire Bruin nation the hard work he has put in since returning to the team after his suspension.

The wide receivers looked great catching the ball and making blocks downfield. When Cowan took that short pass 77 yards to pay dirt, it was a Breazell block that sealed the deal.

In total the Bruins racked up 624 yards. They rushed for 338 and Olson passed for 286 yards and five touchdown throws. Better yet, Olson took care of the football and didn't the ball over.

When you consider what the Bruins did offensively in their first game with basically a new coaching staff against a team they couldn't scout sufficiently because of Stanford's new coaching staff then it was even a more impressive outing.

Now with the first game in the books, the Bruins will have their home opener against BYU next Saturday. BYU beat Arizona 20-7 and are sporting an 11 game winning streak so they come into the game with momentum.

The Bruins passed the first test, but face a tougher exam against Olson's former teammates, the BYU Cougars.

Until then class will be back in session with professor's Dorrell, Norvell and Walker.


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