A mere days removed from a scare against unranked Virginia to start their 2014 college football season, the No. 11 UCLA Bruins lost a critical rotational player when running back Steven Manfro went down with a knee injury in practice.
According to Jack Wang of the L.A. Daily News, the redshirt junior's injury is of the "serious" variety upon first analysis by head coach Jim Mora:
UCLA RB Steve Manfro suffered a bad knee injury today. Jim Mora said it looked serious. Changed the mood of practice.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) September 2, 2014
Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times eventually reported that Manfro would miss the entire season:
UCLA running back Steven Manfro suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee Tuesday on the last play of practice, according to a person close to the program.
Manfro, a junior, was taken off the field on a cart and had an MRI exam, which determined the extent of the injury. He is done for the season.
Manfro was set to see an uptick in usage this year for the Bruins, having only recorded 32 total carries over the course of his first two years with the team.
Last year he took 24 of those and looked promising as they translated to 107 yards and a touchdown. Two of his eight attempts in 2012 went for touchdowns.
In the aforementioned scare against the Cavaliers, Manfro dropped a pass and took just two carries for negative yardage, although that sort of output was to be expected against a school that annually touts a defensive powerhouse.
Mora had big plans for Manfro in a committee approach, as one can glean from his response to being asked who he wants to see lead the team in rushing, as captured by Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times:
"'Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Steven Manfro,' Mora said. He even mentions, with a smirk, linebacker Myles Jack, a part-timer on offense."
Notice the lack of quarterback Brett Hundley there, which is surely Mora's goal with the committee approach. With Manfro out an unknown amount of time, the offense will lean on the other two names for production.
Senior Jordon James took five carries for three yards against Virginia, while sophomore Paul Perkins led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 80 yards. The latter figures to see an uptick in usage one season removed from taking 134 carries for 573 yards and six touchdowns.
Manfro is a major loss for the time being that restricts the former strategy Mora sought to employ, but the good news is that the Bruins will not encounter the Cavaliers again on their hunt to make the College Football Playoff.