UCLA: Injuries Bruin
UCLA scored a win last saturday, jumping out to a 2-0 start after topping BYU 27-17. But the team is feeling pretty lost after scores of players turned up with injuries of every kind this week, ailing with everything from broken teeth to the flu. And with a trip to injury-ridden Utah just days away, Saturday's game against Utah could be the Broken Bowl.
UCLA was hoping for the best after defensive tackle Brigham Harwell hurt his knee in the first half of last week's win over BYU, but the news turned out to be pretty bad - an MRI exam showed a torn ligament in his left knee that will take the senior off the field. There is some good news, though - since he will not need surgery, as the tear is on the minor side, as tears go, the injury will only keep Harwell out for four weeks, pending a successful healing process. And since Harwell played as a true freshman, he can choose to redshirt this season and come back for a final season in 2008. But that's no help to the Bruins, who are suddenly scrambing to fill the shoes of a solid lineman who has started 25 of the Bruins' last 27 games - and just happens to be the team's best interior run stopper.
Harwell is hoping to miss no more than the minimal four games, which would allow him to return Oct. 20 against California. And rest assured, UCLA will need him against California. That would mean having him back on the field for the three most important games of the season - Cal, Oregon and USC.
In the meantime, Jess Ward is the likely starter for Saturday's game. The sophomore got a healthy dose of playing time last week after Harwell came out, and is known for being strong at the point of attack. He appeared in seven games last season and will be joined by sophomore Jerzy Siewiersky and junior Chase Moline in that defensive tackle spot.
By The Skin of His Teeth
That's not all the pain the Bruins are dealing with this week. Wide receiver Brandon Breazell has undergone two days of dental surgery after two of his teeth were knocked out in last Saturday's game. He collided with teammate Logan Paulsen while trying to chase down a BYU player following an interception, knocking out two of his teeth and damaging a third. (Ouch.) The senior had two emergency root canals immediately after the game and two more surgeries on Tuesday before practice, and may need additional surgery. (Again, ouch.)
The 162-pound receiver tops the team in receptions for 2007, pulling in 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. He's having trouble eating and wore a no-hit red jersey in practice on Tuesday, although he is emphatic that he will play on Saturday, regardless of the pain. As long as there's some fuel in that body to run on, this kid will find his way onto the field.
Cowan Crawlin Back
Quarterback Patrick Cowan, who started the final eight games of the 2006 season, participated in individual drills this week, but is still far from regaining his starting spot ahead of Ben Olson. The junior pulled his left hamstring on Aug. 20 and has been out ever since, although he took some drop back drills and rollouts earlier this week. He has yet to practice at full speed, although he says he feels no pain in the leg. He'll need to practice at least a full week before head coach Karl Dorrell will consider giving him any game time.
But Wait, There's More
Defensive end Nikola Dragovic was expected to return to practice late in the week after sitting out due to a sustained concussion, but unable to shake persistent headaches, Dragovic will sit out of Saturday's game after missing all of this week's practices. He must have 24 symptom-free hours before UCLA's medical staff will clear him to play.
Linebacker Aaron Whittington's flu-like symptons kept him out of early-week practices, but cornerback Rodney Van went through much of the workouts as he recovers from a sprained ankle.