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UCLA football: Neuheisel concerned about the Bruins dropping the ball

November 10, 2009 | 11:49 am
There is more than a little concern among UCLA coaches about the way the Bruins have handled, or rather mishandled, the football of late.

UCLA-logo UCLA has fumbled 10 times in the last two games, two led to Washington touchdowns that had to be overcome in a 24-23 victory Saturday. The only upside seems to be that the Bruins are apparently adept at pouncing on their own mistakes, recovering seven of the 10 fumbles.

“We definitely need to institute ball security back in practice,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Compared to what took place a year ago, the turnover rate has been good for us. But it has reared its ugly head and we have to go back to making it a huge point of emphasis.”

The biggest culprits are the team’s leading passer and leading rusher. Quarterback Kevin Prince has nine fumbles, losing four. Tailback Johnathan Franklin has five, losing two. The two are also responsible for 10 of the Bruins' 14 offensive touchdowns.

Still, Franklin, who has been nursing a sore ankle, did not return to the game after fumbling at the start of the third quarter against Washington. He has been the most consistent running back this season, with 510 yards rushing and five touchdowns

That leads Neuheisel, when asked if there will be changes in personnel, to say, “I’m not sure we're ready to make that decision.”

“Most of [Franklin’s] fumbles have been when he was close to the ground,” Neuheisel said. “But the last one against Washington, he got the ball yanked out of his hands. We have to make sure he treats that thing like it’s sacred.”

The answer this week will be more drills. Neuheisel said he had eliminated the ball-handling drills earlier in an effort to shorten practice, but he will re-introduce them this week.

“We’ll have guys run the gauntlet machine and other drills,” Neuheisel said. “We’ll also make sure the scout team is involved. They have to try to get the ball out. There will be great concentration on this during the week. We can’t lose the ball. It’s too important.”

Washington State news

How bad is Washington State?

Out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, the Cougars’ offense ranks 115th in rushing, 117th in total offense and 119th in scoring. Their defense ranks 115th against the run, 118th in passing defense, 119th  in total yards, 117th in scoring and 120th in sacks.

Weather was the dominant topic on Tuesday’s Pacific 10 Conference media call. Of the five questions Coach Paul Wulff was asked, two were about whether the weather was an advantage for his team.

“It all depends on how cold it is that day, but it could be,” Wulff said.

As of Tuesday morning, the forecast for Pullman, Wash., was for a high of 36 degrees and a low of 26 with a 20% chance of precipitation.

-- Chris Foster

Chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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