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November 15, 2005

Bruins have long wait for Trojans

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LOS ANGELES - The UCLA Bruins have regained some fizz. Now they want to make sure they don't go flat waiting to play top-ranked Southern California.

Coming off a 45-35 victory over Arizona State after being humbled 52-14 by Arizona the previous game, the Bruins must wait until Dec. 3 suit up again.

The No. 12 Bruins are acquainted with a long break before facing their archrival. They also had to wait three weeks last year before meeting the Trojans, and played them tough before losing 29-24.

One obvious positive during the layoff is that any nicked-up Bruins should have a chance to heal. Coach Karl Dorrell said Monday that he believes linebacker Justin London (ankle), center Mike McCloskey (shoulder) and several others who have missed playing time should be ready to go against USC.

Tailback-returner Maurice Drew, slowed by a bruised right knee the past three weeks, also is expected to be 100 percent by then. The explosive Drew had a sprained ankle and carried only twice against the Trojans last year.

"Going into the next two weeks, it's about health, about getting ourselves back to playing our best football, given the momentum that was built from this last game," Dorrell said. "We're just pleased with where we are at this point. We're 9-1, with an opportunity to rest up and get ready to play a great game in a few weeks."

Drew Olson, who threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns in the bounce-back win over Arizona State, considers the Bruins' upcoming break mostly a plus because of the extra time for preparation.

"We were just totally prepared for that game (last year). It's kind of like a bowl game in a way. Guys were just more fired up. The longer you wait, the more antsy you are to play and when it finally comes, guys have a ton of energy," said Olson, who has thrown for a school-record 30 touchdowns this season and leads the nation in passing efficiency at 172.47.

"We played well in that circumstance last year. Going through it last year and seeing how we played, we played pretty well against them. Mentally, I think that helps us, knowing that we can come out of a three-week bye and play some good football. I think guys will remember that."

USC, riding a 32-game winning streak and pursuing an unprecedented third consecutive national championship, plays Fresno State this Saturday, then has a bye week before the UCLA game.

Dorrell is looking forward to some back-to-the-basics time for the Bruins.

"I learned from last year. We did some good things to prepare ourselves for that game, but we probably didn't practice a lot of the individual things that we should have, individual drills," he said. "So we're going to concentrate on fundamentally cleaning up a lot of issues that have plagued us all season long."

While he said the coaching staff would put in "a few wrinkles here and there" for the USC game, there certainly won't be any wholesale changes.

"You really can't change what you are. We are who we are. We're excited about our offense, we're excited about the progress made on our defense," Dorrell said. "We'll tinker here and there with certain things.

"We're young. We can still get better at the fundamental things. We still have a lot of room to improve."

Olson said that in some ways, having to wait three weeks to play isn't a good thing.

"A week is too long. That's why we do it, to play, not to sit around for weeks," he said, grinning.

For more coverage of the UCLA Bruins, check out BruinBlitz.com.

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