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UCLA running game tries to pick up steam in Memphis

By in Press Enterprise on September 14, 2017

By Thuc Nhi Nguyen

LOS ANGELES >> Right tackle Andre James cut down two would-be rushers and right guard Michael Alves cleared out another as running back Nate Starks saw a rushing lane larger than almost anything the UCLA offense had produced in more than a year. The senior running back galloped through, untouched for 25 yards.

With quarterback Josh Rosen and the receivers surging, UCLA’s running game is hoping to catch up after showing a faint heartbeat last week, thanks a stronger camaraderie between the offensive linemen and running backs.

“We built our relationship with the O-Line over the offseason,” Starks said. “It’s important to do that because you want to play for your brother; and the guy over the line (on the defensive line) is not going to mess with my brother.”

The Bruins average 3.8 yards per carry entering Saturday’s 9 a.m. game at Memphis and haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in a game since Nov. 14, 2015.

First-year running backs coach DeShaun Foster said he preferred to have a featured running back, but after two games UCLA has yet to find its leading man.

Junior Soso Jamabo led the team with seven carries for 46 yards against Texas A&M but was held out last week due to a minor injury. With Jamabo sidelined, Starks got the start and had seven carries for 42 yards. Junior Bolu Olorunfunmi is the only running back with significant playing time in both games with 16 combined carries for 63 yards.

Six players carried the ball on 23 combined called runs against Hawaii. Without its three quarterback sacks, UCLA averaged 6.7 yards per carry, including wide receiver Demetric Felton’s 12.3 yard-per-carry clip.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound redshirt freshman receiver rushed for 1,347 yards on 166 carries as a senior in high school, but is likely too small to carry the […]    

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