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September 14, 2005

Drew proving himself as one of nation's best

Talk about starting things out on the right foot - UCLA's Maurice Drew took the Bruins first snap from scrimmage this season, raced 64 yards for the touchdown, and hasn't looked back since.

With five total touchdowns in only 28 touches, Drew has landed in the Rivals.com National Spotlight.

Besides being an explosive running back, Drew is proving to be a force on special teams. He has returned two punts of 72 and 66 yards for touchdowns in only four chances this season.

But Drew is a tailback first for the Bruins and a kick returner second. He has fared just as well carrying the ball for UCLA, having scored three touchdowns on 22 carries. And though his 209 total rushing yards on the season are only good for 19th in the nation, Drew has yet to play an entire game. Leg cramps kept him out of the second half of the season opener against San Diego State, and coach Karl Dorrell pulled several of his starters - including Drew - after the first series of the second half against Rice.

All together, Drew is averaging a prolific 9.5 yards per carry. For the season, Drew has found the end zone every 5.6 times he touches the ball. That's an impressive statistic, even in the offensive-minded Pac-10 Conference.

The 5-foot-8, 198-pound junior running back has been quick to give his teammates credit for the success he has enjoyed thus far.

"The offensive line has done a great job giving me gaping holes to run through," Drew said after the SDSU game. "When the O-line does a great job like they did in this game, then holes open up and it's only a matter of time before we're able to do that again."

After the 72-yard punt return, Drew again pointed to his teammates.

"After I made the first guy miss, everyone got on their blocks like they're supposed to, and they did their job," Drew said. "I wasn't touched after that, so it was cool."

The diminutive running back has largely been lost in the shuffle of big-name running backs. With Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Marshawn Lynch and Terrence Whitehead taking most of the West Coast running back headlines, it's easy to see how college football fans have overlooked Drew.

Still, after logging 1,007 yards at 6.3 yards per carry last season - not to mention his stellar start this year - Drew is on the cusp of landing amongst college football's elite.

This weekend's matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners could go a long way towards propelling Drew's name recognition. With another pretty good running back on the opposite sideline, Drew and his UCLA Bruins will face a taller task in coming away with their third win. Oklahoma has surrendered only 156 rushing yards in two games thus far, so Drew will have his work cut out for him.

Should Drew put up big numbers and UCLA take down the struggling Sooners (and it wouldn't hurt if the Bruins' back outrushes Adrian Peterson), Drew's name will begin to be thrown about more frequently as one of the nation's elite players.

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