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Griffith, UCLA set for title run

by Charles Whisnand

Imagine this scenario: Douglas High graduate Chris Griffith jogs onto the field of the Rose Bowl for UCLA to attempt a game-winning field goal for the Bruins in their home stadium this January in the national championship game.

“That gives me the chills,” Griffith said. “That would be awesome. I would love to be in that situation.”

An experienced Bruin squad that features 24 seniors has set a goal to be playing in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.

“That just gives us a little more motivation,” said Griffith about the national title game being played at UCLA’s home stadium.

But Griffith said the Bruins know how difficult the Pac 10 will be again this year.

While UCLA is ranked in the top 15 in most polls, most polls also have the Bruins ranked behind three Pac 10 teams – Oregon, Oregon State and Washington. “It’s a strong league, there’s no doubt about that,” Griffith said.

But Griffith said this year’s team could return to the level of the 1997 and 1998 teams which won 10 games each season.

“I have more confidence in this team than I’ve ever had in any team,” Griffith said. “Every position, we’ve got a lot of depth.

“We have the talent and the team chemistry to do it. We’ve sweat and bled together.”

But Griffith said he also knows the Bruins still have to perform on the field when they open the season on Saturday at Alabama.

Griffith has had only one chance to win a game with a field goal, but it was a big one. His game-winning kick in overtime in 1999 against Washington at the Rose Bowl knocked the Huskies out of the Rose Bowl. “That was an unbelievable feeling,” Griffith said.

Griffith, a redshirt junior, was named to the All-Pac 10 second team last year after connecting on 11 of 14 field goals.

Griffith came into last season at 198 pounds and said he’s come in at a more solid 200 pounds this year.

“I’ve had a good camp,” Griffith said. “I’m healthy. I’m bigger and stronger. I’m a lot more fit this year. I’ve learned the ropes.”

Griffith said he can kick much more this year without becoming sore.

Griffith has a strong leg with the potential to kick more than 50 yards, although his career high at UCLA is 48 yards. He said right now he’s not too concerned with the distance of his kicks.

“Distance isn’t really a problem, I don’t think,” he said. “Accuracy is what I focus on.”