Friday, February 28

Slow start hurts Bruins in Oregon game

New positive coach and high hopes keep UCLA optimistic despite weekend loss to Ducks, 31-24

UCLA safety Rahim Moore sat on a bench in the Bruins’ locker room, bruised after the Bruins’ 31-24 loss at Oregon on Saturday.

“I don’t feel like this is a 2-4 team,” he said.

After improvements in recent weeks and a close defeat against Fresno State, it was hard for Moore and other Bruins to come to terms with the ramifications of their latest loss against Oregon. With half of the season completed, the Bruins are 2-4 overall, and in seventh place in the Pac-10.

But players and coaches still found a way to express some form of optimism.

“It’s disappointing to lose,” coach Rick Neuheisel said. “But we’re halfway through our season at 2-4, and I think we’ve improved. Now we just have to take that standard of play and accept nothing less. That goes for players and coaches.”

The Bruins know they need to get their offense started more quickly. UCLA has scored just one offensive touchdown in the first quarter this season, and it did not score in either of the first two quarters against Oregon.

“Slow starts are hurting us,” redshirt junior tight end Ryan Moya said. “We did show a lot of fight tonight; we just need to sustain that for four quarters.”

Part of the trouble, Neuheisel said, is the lack of a consistent running game. The Bruins have tried to establish an effective running attack early in games throughout the season. When that hasn’t worked, the offense has been unable to recover. In the first half Saturday, the Bruin offense converted just four of 11 third downs. They faced so many third downs in the half because of their inability to run, averaging just 1.2 yards per carry .

“We need to find a balance,” Neuheisel said.

Likewise, the Bruin defense struggled to wrap up speedy Oregon players ““ especially quarterback Jeremiah Masoli .

“We fought hard but we had a problem containing the quarterback,” defensive tackle Brian Price said. “We’ve got to learn from it. You have to learn from every loss.”

Even as Oregon padded its lead, coaches and players said the UCLA sideline was as intense as it has been so far this season.

“Our team is improving and I think that’s a part of it. … We’re showing a lot of heart; we just need to keep fighting,” Moya said.

Moore also promised the team would improve.

“We are not the best team in the country, but every team has their flaws, and things to work on,” he said. “Now it’s a new season, a new season starts next week. … We’ve got to get better; we’ve got to move on.”

HOMESICK: UCLA has now lost 12 of its last 15 road games, and it still hasn’t won an away game under Neuheisel.

In those 12 games the Bruins have been outscored by 270 points, or an average margin of over 20 points.

“I guess it’s tough luck,” Price said when asked about the road record. “But I don’t know, I can’t really answer that question.”

MILLER’S BIG DAY: Backup tight end Jeff Miller, who recently switched positions from defensive tackle, delivered the best performance of his career on Saturday in Eugene.

Miller caught four passes for 27 yards and one touchdown against the Ducks. He had never caught a ball before.

“I was comfortable. I moved over to tight end during camp, so it’s been a while,” Miller said. “It wasn’t anything new. I’ve caught a lot of balls in practice, and it was just like practice.”

TOO ROWDY?: After a pass interference call on Oregon led to a UCLA score, Duck fans threw bottles onto the field near the Bruins’ sideline. Oregon fans also gained notoriety at a UCLA-Oregon basketball game last season, when they taunted UCLA’s Kevin Love.

Officials warned the Oregon fans after the bottles were thrown, and the PA announcer issued an announcement.

“OK, fans we don’t need things thrown on the field. That can result in a penalty against the Ducks,” the announcer said.

NOTES: UCLA freshman tailback Derrick Coleman scored the first touchdown of his career. Oregon defensive end Nick Reed had two sacks, and he has now recorded a sack in each of his last six games. UCLA backup quarterback Chris Forcier played for one trick play. Former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon was introduced as an honorary captain before the game. His NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, had a bye Sunday.

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