Pac-12: Tom Craft
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
I love links. Linky, link, link. Here it goes down, down into my belly.
- Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood doesn't seem to be pointing a finger at coach Mike Stoops, but he admits it's troubling how often the Wildcats lose close games.
- Arizona State's Paul Fanaika is a walk-on who made good.
- California coach Jeff Tedford is reminding his team that, as bad as Washington is, the Huskies rushed for 360 yards in a 2007 victory over the Bears.
- A challenge for Oregon to step up against the rising Beavers. This Civil War, however, the Ducks' offense is set, though running back LeGarrette Blount is ill.
- What will Oregon State do without running back Jacquizz Rodgers?
- Tom Craft, former San Diego State coach and father of UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft, defends his son. But it's possible backup Chris Forcier could see action at Arizona State.
- USC safety Kevin Ellison has been cleared to play against Notre Dame. The Trojans have a different plan for the tailback-by-committee approach.
- Critical blown coverage in Apple Cup still hurting Washington safety.
- It's a Hawaii homecoming for this Cougar.
- Jon Wilner's BCS bowl projections.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has been captured blistering quarterback Kevin Craft on the sideline more than a few times. He's thought about yanking Craft a couple of times, too.
Craft's spotty play has driven Neuheisel to distraction.
|Harry How/Getty Images|
|Kevin Craft rallied the Bruins to a comeback win against Tennessee.|
Case in point: The first half against Stanford.
First, Craft was intercepted on a second-and-9 pass from the Stanford 12-yard line, killing a scoring opportunity. Then Craft fumbled on a sack on the Bruins 29, which set up Stanford's second TD.
"I was concerned that Kevin was having trouble focusing on everything that needed to be focused on," Neuheisel explained. "Early in the game, there were some mistakes that I didn't quite understand."
But then... poof. Craft led the Bruins on a 77-yard drive for a field goal as time expired in the first half.
Craft has been feast or famine this year, but he's also been clutch.
Recall the comeback win over Tennessee in which Craft bounced back from four -- FOUR! -- first-half interceptions to play brilliantly after the break, particularly while leading two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
He did the same against Stanford. He put his first-half foibles aside and led the Bruins on a 10-play, 87-yard drive for the winning TD. On the drive, he went 6-for-8 for 60 yards and tossed the winning pass from 7 yards out with 10 seconds to play.
"I don't know why there is a period of struggle early in games, but for whatever reason he does calm down when it seems like it should be the most difficult to be calm," Neuheisel said. "You just got to believe those last-minute heroics are going to add to his confidence and hopefully we'll get that confident quarterback for 60 minutes this week."
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
At some point, the odds surely will swing in a positive direction and a UCLA quarterback won't get hurt. But who knows if that karmic transformation has arrived?
That's why the return of Ben Olson from a foot injury in time for the beginning of preseason practices doesn't guarantee much of anything, particularly considering his injury-plagued past.
That's also why most Bruins fans are already aware of Kevin Craft, even though he only arrived in Westwood at the beginning of spring practices. More than a few figure he'll at some point be running the UCLA offense.
"That's a really exciting thought," Craft said. "I don't think that's a scary thought because that's not the way I've been raised to play the game."
|AP Photo/The Daily Bruin, Leigh Alvarez|
|With Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson on crutches, QB Kevin Craft started the Bruins' spring game.|
Of course, things were pretty scary on Black Thursday, when Olson and Patrick Cowan, who'd just days before been designated the starter, both went down with serious injuries within moments of each other at the tail end of spring drills. Cowan was lost for all of 2008 with a knee injury, and Olson has only returned to full speed this month.
Craft, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, chose UCLA over Hawaii and SMU, and with two years of eligibility remaining and two experienced seniors ahead of him, most figured he'd redshirt.
That impression didn't change much when he was mostly inconsistent and overwhelmed during spring practices.
The overwhelmed part may change when preseason practices begin. Craft said he's found a comfort level with both Norm Chow's offense and his teammates.
"The first day I got to school here was one of our first spring practices -- I didn't know anyone on the team and I had no idea what was going on with the offense," he said. "So I'm just a little bit more comfortable with the offense and terminology, but more importantly I'm a lot more comfortable with all the guys on the team."
Craft should pick things up quicker than most. For one, he's seen action at the Division I-A level, having started his career at San Diego State, where he was forced onto the field because of injuries as a redshirt freshman in 2006.
Also, he's a coach's son. He played for his father, Tom Craft, at San Diego State and then Mt. SAC.
"I think it really does help because of all the time I've spent around the game," he said. "All the times he's been coaching and I've been on the sidelines watching. Or we're driving home in the car and we'd always talk about football. All the time he spent framing things, especially the quarterback position for me. We'd work on throwing when I was a little kid. I definitely think it helped me and gave me a really strong foundation for when I decided to play quarterback."
There are downsides to being a college coach's son, though, such as playing for your father when he gets fired. The younger Craft remained at San Diego State for a year under new coach Chuck Long but ultimately decided he needed to get away.
"It was difficult," he said. "That's my family, so (the firing) was different for me than it was for the other guys on the team. I wanted things to work out down there. But there's also just a small window of opportunity in college."
Craft, who threw 44 touchdown passes for Mt. SAC last season, completed 11 of 24 passes for 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Bruins spring game.
That's not good enough, particularly for a perfectionist offensive coordinator like Chow.
Craft, just a twist, strain or tear away from the starting job, believes he'll find his rhythm in the coming weeks and earn his coaches and teammates confidence.
"If you have any doubt, you shouldn't be out there," he said.
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
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