Maybe, if they are really lucky, the Washington Huskies won't find out that the back of UCLA running back Maurice Drew's jersey looks different...
Maybe, if they are really lucky, the Washington Huskies won’t find out that the back of UCLA running back Maurice Drew’s jersey looks different this season.
After his grandfather, Maurice Jones, died of a heart attack suffered while watching UCLA’s game against Rice on Sept. 10, Drew decided to have “Jones-Drew” emblazoned on his jersey as a tribute.
Drew, a junior, explained that he lived more than half of his life with his grandfather. Drew said that when he scored a touchdown against Oklahoma on Sept. 17, he immediately thought of his grandfather.
The Huskies, unquestionably, saw way too much of “Drew” running away from them a year ago in Seattle when he rushed for 322 yards on 26 carries in a 37-31 UCLA win, the third-best rushing performance in Pac-10 history.
“That was painful,” said UW linebacker Scott White of watching Drew do it the first time, then having to watch it again this week as the Huskies prepared for Saturday’s rematch with the Bruins at the Rose Bowl.
Drew had a different description of last year’s game in a phone interview this week.
Washington at UCLA, 7:15 p.m., FSN
“That was one of the more tiring days of my career from all the running,” he said.
White, though, doesn’t think it should have been all that taxing.
“He was going untouched on a lot of those runs,” White said. “He’s a great back, but I could have made some of those runs.”
Indeed, Drew’s day included five touchdown runs from 47, 62, 58, 15 and 37 yards — the first three coming in a wild first quarter that ended with UW ahead 24-20 after leading 24-7.
On most of the long runs, he broke through the line of scrimmage to find nobody there. In fact, the five TD runs accounted for 219 yards.
Washington coaches and players say that for as much as Drew did, the Huskies were also at fault, often overrunning plays or simply not being in the right spot.
“A lot of the big plays came on third down and in blitz situations,” said UW linebackers coach Chris Tormey. “We have to make sure that when we blitz, we are still gap-sound.”
The Huskies, though, aren’t alone in being victimized by Drew. He was a second-team All-Pac-10 pick last year after rushing for 1,007 yards and 6.3 yards per carry, and is off to a fast start this season with 278 yards on just 37 carries — 7.5 yards per carry.
Drew stands just 5 feet 8 but weighs a sturdy 205 pounds, which makes him hard to find behind the line and hard to knock down once he is located.
“Honestly, I’m going to be hard-pressed to believe there is a much better running back [in the Pac-10], and I know Reggie Bush is in the conference,” said UW coach Tyrone Willingham.
“He just does great things all the time and he is a very powerful runner, which may catch some people by surprise because of his height. But this young man plays football like very few play football.”
If Drew suffers in any way, Willingham says, it’s merely in publicity.
“You read so much about the other guy [USC's Bush] across town from him that he almost becomes kind of a forgotten back,” Willingham said.
For now, that’s OK with Drew, a graduate of powerhouse De La Salle High in Concord, Calif.
Drew and Bush have known each other for years, becoming friends while competing in high school track, usually in the 100 meters.
“I beat him the last time, but he beat me like the seven times before that,” Drew said.
Since then, he said the two have had, “A little rivalry there. … I’ve been trying to compare my stats to his. But he’s one of the best backs in the country on the best team in the country. But until we beat them and I outperform him, only then can I say we are better and I might say I am a better running back than him.”
As for Saturday, Drew — who has also returned two punts for touchdowns this season and is averaging 30.2 yards on five returns — isn’t expecting a repeat of a year ago. And not just because he obviously has UW’s attention.
After his big day last year against UW, in UCLA’s third game, opponents started ganging up on him and forcing the Bruins to throw. That worked at times as quarterback Drew Olson struggled a bit. But now Olson is a senior and off to a hot start, with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Last year we were kind of one-dimensional, but we’re not like that this year,” Drew said. “If you stack the box, we will put up 60 on you regardless.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com