MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The UCLA passing attack took some lumps during Saturday's 31-22 loss at Kansas State and the primary culprit--dropped passes -- took took almost everyone by surprise.
The receiving corps was responsible for stalled drive after stalled drive against the Wildcats because of at least a half dozen dropped passes by a receiving corps that has experience and loads of talent throughout the depth chart and was considered one of UCLA's strong suits this season.
"That wasn’t one of the concerns we had going in," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We thought we’d catch the ball well, but we did not answer the call with respect to that."
Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario, the team's top two leading receivers last year, are both back. Colorado transfer Josh Smith, an established playmaker, would be joining the unit. Sophomore Morrell Presley has a year of experience under his belt. Redshirt freshman Ricky Marvray has been a camp standout.
Yet dropped passes by many of those players contributed to a passing game that put up a paltry 48 yards through three quarters and cracked triple digits only after a two-play, desperation scoring drive against a prevent defense late in the game.
"We are one of the big strengths of the team," Presley said. "I think we just came into the game with a little lack of focus."
The Bruins first drive provided a glimpse of what was to come. Presley dropped passes on consecutive plays to start the game, setting the tone for an air attack that pretty much stayed grounded.
Quarterback Kevin Prince finished with 120 yards passing on 9 of 26 attempts, but a 35-yard completion to tight end Cory Harkey and a 29-yard touchdown to Marvray on successive plays inside the two-minute mark accounted for more than half of the yardage.
Prince, whose misfires on several pass attempts contributed to the lackluster air attack, said there was more to blame than dropped passes.
"I wasn’t putting the ball on the money necessarily the whole game either so it goes both ways, you know," he said. "First game of the year, things are bound to go wrong. We just weren’t connecting on the pass game at all."
Embree, who had only one catch for eight yards, dropped a ball inside the Kansas State five yard line with the Bruins trailing, 14-10, in the third quarter. UCLA had to settle for a field goal.
"We were shocked," Embree said. "We made some mistakes that were uncharacteristic of us. I think it’s the first game of the season. Everyone was just a little excited, a little anxious, but we know it’s just the first game."
Marvray, who hauled in the 29-yard touchdown reception with 1:19 to play, said the receivers were taking the preformance pretty hard.
"We were in the spots to make the plays, we just weren’t finishing them," he said. "We needed to be better than we were."