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UCLA NOTEBOOK: FEW ATTRACTIVE OPTIONS FOR UCLA'S DEFENSE : STRUGGLING UNIT TO FACE WASHINGTON'S TUIASOSOPO.

Byline: Jon Wilner Staff Writer

UCLA returns from its three-day weekend today to prepare for Washington's three-pronged attack: junior quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo running left, Tuiasosopo running right and Tuiasosopo through the air.

``He's perfect for what they're doing,'' Bruins defensive coordinator Bob Field said. ``He's got speed and he's so big and physical that he can break arm tackles. He's like a big back running with the ball, not a quick little quarterback.''

Washington coach Rick Neuheisel installed the option in training camp, and Tuiasosopo - a junior whose father, Manu, played for UCLA from 1975-78 - has used it to become the Pac-10's most dynamic player.

Two weeks ago, he accounted for 509 total yards against Stanford, making him the first player in NCAA history to run for 200 yards and throw for 300.

Saturday, he'll face a UCLA defense that's statistically similar to Stanford's. More, the Bruins have not seen an option-oriented attack this season. The best they can do is reserve quarterback Drew Bennett on the scout team: He's UCLA's best athlete, but he can't match Tuiasosopo's strength or instincts.

Then again, if the Bruins base their defense solely on Tuiasosopo, Washington's running backs and receivers will run free.

``If you're not ready for the option, it can be devastating,'' Field said. ``You have to be disciplined to stop it. You have to have somebody on all three phases, the (fullback) dive, the pitch man and the quarterback. It forces (the defense) to make plays in the open field.''

And that's something the Bruins haven't done well in two years.

Need for speed: Sophomore receiver Freddie Mitchell leads UCLA with 29 receptions and 529 all-purpose yards. But he hasn't scored a touchdown, he's averaging just 12.5 yards per catch and he hasn't made the big plays many UCLA fans expected.

Why? Combine the broken leg he suffered last season with an aching knee that's lingered since training camp, and Mitchell doesn't have his fifth gear.

``It's his knee more than anything else,'' Bruins coach Bob Toledo said. ``He's obviously not as fast or quick as he was prior to the injury. He can't run away from people. He can't separate from them like he was before.''

Look ahead: Will Toledo and offensive coordinator Al Borges let reserve quarterback Ryan McCann compete for Cory Paus' starting job in spring practice? They'll know in two weeks.

``It depends on how we finish and what progress the position makes,'' Borges said.

Red flag: The Bruins are the least-penalized team in the Pac-10 (five per game), and that might not be such a good thing.

``Maybe we need more penalties,'' Toledo said. ``We need to be more aggressive.''

By the numbers: The Bruins have been outscored 84-31 in the fourth quarter.

UCLA is averaging 48,649 fans per home game, 25,000 fewer than last year.

Defensive end Kenyon Coleman leads the Bruins with 3.5 sacks. Last year, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo led the team with nine.

The Bruins are converting 37 percent of their third downs; opponents are converting 46 percent.

Who would have guessed: During its three-game losing streak, UCLA has a turnover ratio of plus-one.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Daily News
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 8, 1999
Words:526
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