Dorrell returns to OU with nation's worst offense

Friday, September 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Back when Karl Dorrell was a senior receiver at UCLA, the Bruins made a trip to Norman for a showdown against No. 1 Oklahoma.

Those Sooners, coached by Barry Switzer and led by the Boz, put the clamps on the Bruins throughout in a 38-3 win on Sept. 6, 1986. It was the last time UCLA played against a top-ranked team.

Dorrell, who had two catches for 21 yards in that loss, can only hope Saturday's return to Norman against another No. 1-ranked Oklahoma team turns out much better.

Now as a first-year coach at UCLA, Dorrell brings the nation's worst offense into a game against one of the country's best defenses. Think Dorrell doesn't wish he had Gaston Green in the backfield for this one?

``Offensively, we have some issues,'' Dorrell said. ``But we believe at some point in time they'll start to make plays and things will click.''

The Bruins have picked a bad game to try to solve their offensive woes.

Oklahoma (3-0) is coming off a 52-28 win over Fresno State, in which the Sooners held the Bulldogs to 43 yards of offense and two first downs en route to a 38-0 halftime lead. The performance upped Oklahoma's defense to ninth in the nation overall (241 yards a game).

The Sooners lost middle linebacker Lance Mitchell to a season-ending knee injury last week, but Oklahoma has plenty of able replacements and still boasts three of 36 players on a preseason defender of the year award list.

``That's the best defense I've ever seen,'' UCLA quarterback Drew Olson said. ``They're so talented in every spot. Sometimes you can find weaknesses, but there are not too many in this defense.''

That makes for what appears to be a decisive mismatch for the Bruins.

UCLA (1-1) has generated only 20 points, 25 first downs and 447 yards in two games. The Bruins' offense starts only one senior _ receiver Ryan Smith _ and has struggled to move the ball under Dorrell's West Coast offensive system.

Olson, a sophomore who made his first career start in last week's 6-3 win over Illinois, had a rough debut. He was sacked five times against the Illini and had seven passes dropped.

Still, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops considers the baby Bruins a threat, noting that two of the dropped passes against Illinois would have gone for long touchdowns.

``They've had opportunities, the stats just don't show it,'' Stoops said. ``They've had a few drops, but they have people that are capable of making big plays.''

Most of those people are on UCLA's defense.

The Bruins have the nation's 16th-ranked unit overall (264 yards a game) and are 10th in scoring (9.5 points), quickly taking to a more aggressive scheme by new defensive coordinator Larry Kerr.

They'll face quite a challenge in slowing down Oklahoma's spread offense led by quarterback Jason White, who's now being mentioned in some Heisman Trophy discussions after a sparkling three-game stretch that includes nine touchdown passes and only one interception.

``I think we're going to have to play mistake-free football, play hard, play fast,'' said UCLA linebacker Brandon Chillar, named Pac-10 defensive player of the week after making 13 tackles and an interception in the Illinois win. ``If we do what we do right, we're supposed to stop people.''

Not many people think they can do it _ the Bruins are 19-point underdogs.

``There shouldn't be any pressure,'' Olson said. ``No one expects us to win, I'm sure.''