Rushing to judgement on UCLA offense

LOS ANGELES -- If Johnathan Franklin and the UCLA Bruins keep up what they are doing on offense, Noel Mazzone may have to change his calling card.

Mazzone, UCLA's offensive coordinator, came to UCLA as a quarterback guru known for his spread passing attack, but so far UCLA is doing much of its damage on the ground.

Franklin leads the nation with 431 yards rushing and UCLA is second among FBS teams with 343.5 yards per game. Only Air Force, a triple-option team that has attempted only 30 passes through two games, is ahead of UCLA in rushing.

Franklin has rushed for 214 and 217 yards in his first two games.

"I told Johnathan that he's ruining my reputation here," Mazzone said. "It used to take me a year and a half to rush for 400 yards. I don't know what’s going on."

What is going on is that the run is working so there is no need to go away from it. UCLA so far has 93 run plays and 70 passing. That doesn't quite jibe with Mazzone's past. He was with Arizona State last season and the Sun Devils had 423 running plays and 527 passing.

UCLA's rushing totals are a bit skewed, however, Mazzone said, because they have had many swing passes that go backward and therefore count as runs on the stat sheet. Franklin had 26 official carries against Nebraska, but Mazzone guessed only 15 of them were run calls.

"Those should be passing yards, by the way," Mazzone joked. "I gotta talk to our stats people."

It's becoming clear that UCLA's offense is no joke. The 653 yards the Bruins had last week marked the second most ever against Nebraska. Quarterback Brett Hundley passed for over 300 yards, making it difficult to key on any one area.

"It's not like it's a one-man show on offense," coach Jim Mora said. "We're spreading the ball around a lot, it's just that Johnathan is doing some special things right now."

Mazzone said it's probably just coincidence that Franklin has had two monster games in a row. He said that the way his offense is designed, anyone on the field could go off at any time.

"We just do what we do every day and it can change," Mazzone said. "All of a sudden one of the wideouts can have a big game or an inside receiver. We just try to be the same team every day, it's just the way things have kind of happened that Johnathan had the big games."