Moore prepares to renew acquaintances with UCLA

The following is a nonstory. It's a glorified gossip column. Mostly fiction. After all, the media just like to stir things up.

There are no hard feelings between Oregon State quarterback Matt Moore and his former school, UCLA. Moore and current UCLA quarterback Drew Olson battled hard for the Bruins starting job in 2002 and 2003, and when Olson prevailed, Moore opted to transfer.

No big deal.

And Bill Clinton and Rush Limbaugh will be sharing a bag of Double-Doubles at the In-N-Out Burger in Pasadena before the game Saturday at the Rose Bowl. See ya there.

Moore and his resurgent Beavers are preparing to visit eighth-ranked UCLA, and the scripted talking point being hammered home in Corvallis and Westwood is there is no story concerning Moore and his old team, which, of course, means there is a story.

"It's the media trying to create a fresh story for the game,"said Oregon State linebacker Keith Ellison, who appeared simultaneously amused and bored with the issue.

Ellison, the best player in the Pac-10 no one has heard of, leads the conference with 9½ tackles for loss and probably would be a good story himself if it wasn't so much more fun to stir things up.

Here's the story that --nudge, nudge -- really isn't a story.

Moore and Olson were both hotshot recruits in 2002. Moore was brash. Olson was mellow. They were roommates on the road. Both saw action as freshmen while senior Cory Paus struggled with injuries, with Olson starting five games and Moore starting one.

Then-coach Bob Toledo was fired. Moore was talked out of transferring by incoming coach Karl Dorrell.

Moore won the job during 2003 preseason camp; then he got hurt. Olson replaced him. From then on, the starting spot bounced back and forth. The pair stopped rooming together, and the Bruins spun into the toilet with five consecutive defeats to end the regular season.

Moore got into a verbal spat with a teammate on the sidelines while committing four turnovers in a loss to Washington State. Dorrell gave Moore a vote of confidence immediately after that game, then decided to go with Olson a day later.

At the time, Dorrell admitted that Moore "was not in agreement" with the move. "No one takes news that you are getting demoted very well," Dorrell said after making the decision two years ago.

Moore, a Southern California native who grew up dreaming about playing for the Bruins, abruptly left the team before the Silicon Valley Classic. He told The Oregonian this week that, after his final benching, he overheard Dorrell tell an assistant coach to get the No. 3 quarterback to warm up when Olson was struggling instead of Moore. Moore felt like he was being buried on the depth chart.

"That was like, definitely, the nail in the coffin," he told the newspaper. "I just heard it right out of his mouth, so it was, 'I'll see you guys later.'"

Out-of-town reporters were unable to ask Moore about these events in detail because Moore cut off a Tuesday teleconference after just a few minutes when he became annoyed with the questions, which, in fairness, were a bit needling.

But before he stomped off, though, Moore said rumors that he and Olson want to scratch each others' eyes out are exaggerated.

"That got blown out of the water," he said. "We're friends. … We didn't hate each other."

He also admitted they haven't spoken since he departed.

Said Olson: "We were good friends. We didn't have anything against each other. The whole Matt Moore thing is not a big deal to this team."

And the Oscar for the best adaptation of an unoriginal, coach-mandated, game-week script goes to…

This situation needed an Oprah intervention. Nobody wanted to talk about their real feelings. Dorrell, for one, essentially refused to even consider questions about Moore, claiming it's a complete nonissue.

"We're a young football team," he said. "A lot of these guys don't even know who Matt Moore is."

Added Oregon State coach Mike Riley: "It was a good thing for the Beavers and Matt that he ended up here. And UCLA is obviously doing well, so let's just play the game. I don't see it being a major issue in this ball game."

That's far less intriguing than the soap opera the dastardly media are creating, but this probably will be a heck of a ball game.

While Oregon State looked awful in dropping consecutive decisions to Louisville and Arizona State by a combined count of 105-51, back-to-back victories over Washington State and nationally ranked California have the Beavers back in the conference hunt, particularly with no USC on the schedule.

The Bruins, meanwhile, needed gritty fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Washington, California and Washington State the past three games. When is the last time anyone called UCLA gritty without smirking?

Olson, while not garnering attention comparable to tailback and Heisman Trophy candidate Maurice Drew, has made a more significant contribution to his team than Moore. Olson, a senior, is 11th in the nation and third in the conference in passing efficiency and has thrown 15 touchdown passes with just three interceptions.

Moore, a junior, has a stronger arm and is more athletic than Olson, but he has struggled of late, throwing nine interceptions with just two touchdowns in his last four games. He ranks ninth in the conference in pass efficiency.

UCLA fifth-year senior linebacker Spencer Havner sighed (it may have been a yawn) when asked about Moore, and he's really not the sort to sigh much. He thinks a player deciding to transfer hardly qualifies as an earth-shattering kaboom.

He admitted, however, that he was looking forward to hitting his former teammate.

"It will be more fun because I could talk to him afterwards, because I know him," Havner said. "It's not personal."

It's just business.

Of course, that's typically what they say before they fit you for cement loafers.

Ted Miller covers the Pac-10 for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.