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UCLA Bowl Roundup: Abbott's Ankle, Bell's Homecoming And The Illini Run Game

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Andrew Abbott is banged up, but able to play on Saturday. But will anyone be around to witness it?
Andrew Abbott is banged up, but able to play on Saturday. But will anyone be around to witness it?

The Bruins are just over 48 hours from kicking off the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, with the team's final bowl practices continuing at Darius Bell's old stomping ground at City College. Wednesday's practice saw Andrew Abbott become the latest Bruin athlete to sprain his ankle. Coach Johnson does expect Andrew and his right ankle to be ready to go on Saturday afternoon. Not much else coming out of yesterday's practice; after Tuesday's session, Coach Johnson told the media that he wanted the team to work more on conditioning after coming back from the holiday break, but little additional work was done in that area.

There really isn't much excitement for this game locally, despite the mass of Bruins in the Bay Are and Northern California. After selling out 4 of the last 5 Fight Hunger/Nut Bowl games in San Francisco, the organizers are expecting about 30,000 fans to attend the 41,000-ticket bowl game on Saturday. The LA Times reminds us yet again that this is is the interim coach bowl, with even the director of the Fight Hunger Bowl noting the oddity of it all, yet not wanting too much of the attention surrounding the game focused on the coaching situation.

"It's a weird year," said Gary Cavalli, executive director of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

... "You wonder whether the kids are going to be motivated or not in these situations," Cavalli said. "You wonder whether the coach is going to have control over the team."

"We understand that both these teams had their ups and downs," Cavalli said. "We point out that the game is not about the coaches, it's about the kids."

The San Francisco Chronicle also noted that a Bruin dad will be taking part in pregame ceremonies - Jerry Rice will be joining Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott on the field before kickoff. A couple of more notes after the jump.

Jon Gold wrote about the paths taken by Darius Bell and Nick Crissman that led to their position as backup QB's at UCLA - Nick and the injuries that have derailed his career since coming to Westwood as a top-10 high school QB, and Darius and his time playing for City College of San Francisco.

"I've been looking forward to this for a while," Bell said. "This is a place that has done so much for me, and so much for other kids across the country. Kids come from everywhere to play here to get another chance. Sometimes all kids need is a second chance."

On the Illinois side of the sideline (remember folks, AT&T Park teams share a sideline), the Illini interim coach discussed the latest blows to his team's struggling running game. With the academic ineligibility of his leading rusher and injury to the starting fullback, Illinois is down to just 2 scholarship running backs. Their likely starter on Saturday, Troy Pollard, is a senior who actually led the Big 10 in yards/carry this year, though with only 62 carries, many of which came against non-conference cream puff opponents. The Illini's other running back is Donovonn Young, a freshman who has scored 6 TD's on 75 carries, but is said by the Chicago Tribune to have some fumbling issues. Per the Tribune, the Illinois offensive strategy is a bit up in the air.

"We're basically seeing who we have left and see who's playing the best and get the ball in the hands of the guys who give us the best chance of winning," Koenning said, describing the team's offensive strategy.

... The Illini ranked seventh in the conference with 171.2 [rushing] yards per game, but totaled just 116.2 through their six-game losing streak that included only 37 rushing yards against Michigan and 82 against Minnesota.

It was part of an entire offensive meltdown.

Ryan wrote a post this morning on the newly-announced Pac-12/Big 10 scheduling alliance. I'll leave it to him to discuss the significance of the agreement, but to say that it is a pretty big deal. And if anyone is still looking at buying bowl tickets, Stubhub has plenty of them available, starting at $18/ticket as of Thursday morning.