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Football: Opponent analysis

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona fullback Pedro Limon takes a hit from an Oregon defender during the Wildcats' loss to Oregon on Sept. 13.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday October 10, 2003

When Arizona played No. 12 Washington State last weekend, the Cougars were coming off a huge blowout win over a nationally ranked Oregon team.

For the second week in a row the Wildcats must face a team who put up an impressive performance against a top-20 team the week before.

UCLA (3-2, 1-0 Pacific 10 Conference) comes into Saturday's Family Weekend contest in Tucson after beating then-No. 18 Washington, 46-16 at the Rose Bowl last week.

"UCLA obviously is hitting stride," said UA interim head coach Mike Hankwitz. "They are starting to hit their peak. We are catching them at a time when they are playing their best football."

The Bruins broke out of a bit of an offensive slump last Saturday, putting up 46 points including 39 in the second half after being held to under 20 points in three of their first four games.

"We took a big step this past week and were able to get some things going for ourselves," first-year UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell said. "It was just a matter of time before things started clicking for us."

A big reason for the surge on the offensive side of the ball is the play of sophomore quarterback Drew Olson.

Olson started the season as the backup QB to sophomore Matt Moore, but was forced into the lineup in the Bruins' first game of the season after Moore went down with an injury. Moore is expected to be available this weekend, but Olson is still slated to take the snaps for the Bruin offense.

Olson was 16-of-24 for 258 yards last week against Washington in his most productive performance of the season.

"He's our best example of why our offense has gotten better," Dorrell said. "He's gotten better week to week and we are very pleased with where he's at."

Junior wide receiver Craig Bragg has eased the transition for Olson by making some big plays for UCLA.

"He's a very experienced player," Dorrell said. "He's a junior that plays like a senior, and the leadership that he brings to our offense is his play."

Bragg comes into this weekend with 31 receptions for 414 yards and a touchdown on the year. He is trying to duplicate his season from a year ago when he set the Bruins' sophomore receiving record with 55 catches. Bragg also led the Pac-10 by averaging 16 yards per punt return.

The Bruins don't just have experience in their favor on offense. The team brings one of the most seasoned defensive lines in the country to Tucson, with six seniors who will see the field.

Led by senior defensive end Dave Ball, who has recorded 8.5 sacks in just 5 games, the Bruins have 15 sacks and have forced 14 turnovers so far this season.

Ball was awarded the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week award for his performance last week against the Huskies.

Bell had six tackles, including one for a loss, and recorded 3.5 sacks in the UCLA rout.

"He's been very consistent in his performance and we feel very fortunate that he is playing at the level he is supposed to be playing at," Dorrell said.

This will be the sixth straight week the Wildcats will play an opponent that went to a bowl game last season. The Bruins played in the Las Vegas Bowl last December.

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