Westwood Has Some New Wizards
Monday, October 10, 2005
Will that undefeated team in Los Angeles ever lose? It routinely scores more than 40 points a game, roaring back from double-digit deficits. It possesses a signature victory over Oklahoma and a running back who can't be kept out of the end zone.
No. It's UCLA, 5-0 and ranked 12th in the country after rallying from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat then-No. 10 California, 47-40, on Saturday. Aside from lacking the 58 first-place votes USC has in the Associated Press poll, the Bruins are beginning to mirror the Trojans.
Los Angeles, now home to two of the nine remaining unbeaten programs, is this year's college football hotbed. No one should pencil in UCLA to play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4, but it is feasible that the Bruins could remain undefeated until they meet the Trojans on Dec. 3. The last time UCLA won five straight games to start the season was in 2001, when it started 6-0 and climbed as high as No. 4.
"We may be young, we may be undersized, but it doesn't mean we can't play football, or that we can't play with heart," UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said after snapping the Golden Bears' 12-game regular season winning streak.
"Are we perfect? No. We have a lot to improve on, but we're perfect with our attitude," Dorrell said.
The fast start is more than welcome in Westwood after Dorrell failed to post winning records in his first two seasons as head coach. Losses to non-BCS schools -- Fresno State in the 2003 Silicon Valley Football Classic and Wyoming in last year's Las Vegas Bowl -- placed the Bruins completely in the shadow of USC, which has won consecutive national championships.
While UCLA does not have a Reggie Bush -- USC's Heisman finalist -- at running back, the Bruins could do a lot worse than Maurice Drew. The 5-foot-8 junior had 299 all-purpose yards and tied his own school record with five touchdowns Saturday.
"Every week he is a key factor," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said. "He is a good receiver out of the backfield, he's a great kick returner. In the open space, with people spread out, the guy is very, very difficult to tackle."
While Drew electrified the home crowd of 84,811 Saturday, Dorrell's decision to go for it on fourth and two at the UCLA 42-yard line while trailing 40-28 ignited the crowd. He called for a fake punt, and safety Jarrad Page ran for 38 yards, setting up a critical UCLA touchdown.
It was the second week in a row UCLA needed fourth-quarter heroics to squeeze out a victory. A 73-yard, touchdown-scoring drive in the final minutes gave the Bruins a 21-17 victory over Washington on Oct. 1.
It is too early to tell if UCLA will be capable of beating USC for the first time since 1998. But at the least, the Bruins hope to avoid the late-season swoon that occurred in 2003, when they lost their final five games.