"We've got as good a shot as anybody"

That is mantra permeating both Washington and UCLA as they enter Saturday's PAC-10 clash in Pasadena. Certainly, it was a head-spinning week in the conference, what with USC's OT crash in Berkeley, ASU's pratfall in Corvallis and Oregon's bill-plant at home to Washington State.

#17 Washington (1-0, 3-1) at UCLA (0-0, 2-2)
Saturday, October 4 - 3:37 PM (PDT) – Fox Sports (National)
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA (capacity 91,500)
Series All-time: UCLA leads, 32-28-2
Last Meeting: November 2, 2002 - UCLA 34, Washington 24
Line: Washington by 1

The Trojans, Sun Devils, and Ducks all were ticketed towards the upper echelon of the league, and now find themselves looking up. This is all good for the 3-1 Huskies, who after holding serve in their own conference home opener, find themselves in a unique position of being tied at the top without the baggage of being targeted as a team to beat.

And UCLA, at 2-2 after a ho-hum win over San Diego State, haven't lost in conference yet, either. Never mind that they also have no wins – it's the loss column that everyone pays attention to.

Karl Dorrell
(Getty Images)
UCLA first-year coach Karl Dorrell certainly sees a window of opportunity for a team that's still trying to find itself. "Washington's playing pretty well right now," says Dorrell, "and getting some things rolling from their (Ohio State) game. Obviously it's going to be a strong test for us in our Pac-10 opener."

"We're improving, but we still have a long way to go," Dorrell continued. "We're still learning things in steps. We're not close to our potential yet."

"But we are 0-0 in the PAC-10. So we've got as good a shot as anybody."

Keith Gilbertson
Husky head man Keith Gilbertson certainly agrees with the ‘strong test' theory. "So far, our coaches have done a great job of seeing what's going on in the game," said Gilbertson on Monday, "and making the adjustments. Our players are buying in to it – so far, so good.

"From here on we're going to be playing some fine teams – like (UCLA) this week. I consider their defense on a par with Ohio State. So we're going to be constantly tested."

Washington has lost seven of the last nine meetings with UCLA in the Rose Bowl, and five of six in the series overall - their worst performance against any PAC-10 team dating back to 1995. If that sounds like a bad omen – considering what happened in the conference last week, plus the Huskies' recent road woes in general - Gilbertson reminds, "One road loss won't take anyone out of contention – look at us in 2000. One loss in conference play doesn't take you out. There's just too much parity in our league."

So we have ourselves another ‘strong test', studying towards the final exam – tentatively scheduled for the very same classroom on January 1.

TEAM STATS:  16.0 points (10th PAC-10),
             260.2 yards (9th, 85.0 rush, 175.2 pass)
             7-10 in Red Zone offense (.700, 7th in PAC-10) 

RUSHING:     Manuel White 53-216-1 TD (4.1), long 22 
             Tyler Ebell 38-126-0 TD (3.3), long 26
PASSING:     Drew Olson 60-116-3 (.517), 660 yards, 4 TD
RECEIVING:   Craig Bragg 23-272-1 TD (11.8), long 54
             Junior Taylor 12-136-1 TD (11.3), long 41
             Marcedes Lewis 9-125-1 TD (13.9), long 38

If ever there was an offensive philosophy Washington can prepare for, it is this one, as Gilbertson worked closely with UCLA offensive coordinator Steve Axman for the past three seasons on the Husky headphones.

But the first order of business for the Bruins is to decide who will open at quarterback. Sophomore Matt Moore, who won the job over Drew Olson during fall camp, suffered a deep leg bruise in the season opener at Colorado and has been out since. However, Moore was cleared to practice this week, begging the question as to his return. When queried at his press conference, Dorrell replied "Drew was our starting quarterback last week. Matt hasn't taken one snap of practice until now. So to say that Matt would be the starter ... that would be a slim chance right now."

QB Drew Olson
(Getty Images)
Olson, also a sophomore, hasn't been that ineffective, though his three lost fumbles in last weeks' 20-10 win over San Diego State didn't endear him to the locals. Olson had a good statistical night otherwise, throwing for 258 yards and two scores in a sloppy, penalty-filled contest. Olson has eight career starts, Moore has two.

Whoever starts will have All-conference wideout Craig Bragg to throw to. The senior caught 55 balls a year ago, with eight touchdowns – at an average of 43 yards a score. Bragg is two receptions away from 8th-place on the Bruin's all-time list, where Karl Dorrell's name currently resides. Sophomore flanker Junior Taylor had a career-high 110 receiving yards against the Aztecs – including a 41-yard TD strike - while senior Ryan Smith accounted for his fourth career score. Tight end Blane Kezirian has been fighting an ankle sprain all month. If he can't go, lanky sophomore Marcedes Lewis will start, though he has a shoulder problem – and tackle Shane Lehmann could provide some backup. Lehmann would have to change his "55" jersey to a legal tight-end number if he shifts over from the line.

TB Manuel White Jr.
(Getty Images)
Junior bruiser Manuel White has supplanted Tyler Ebell as the main ground threat. The 236-pounder ran for a grind-em-out 102 yards against Illinois, then followed that with a 67-yard, one TD effort against Oklahoma. When UCLA goes one-back, it will most likely be White getting the call. Though Ebell had a sensational debut season a year ago rushing for 1,052 yards, the sophomore is seeing more of his playing time usurped by freshman Maurice Drew, who scored twice against the Sooners and carried the ball seven times against the Aztecs. And Ebell's not happy about it. "We threw more last week," commented Dorrell on Ebell's diminished time, while vowing that he'd get more work this week. "We felt from a protection standpoint that we needed bigger guys in there. But Tyler should have had more reps – that's my fault."

Three juniors and two sophomores start up front, but all have plenty of game experience. Junior Steve Vieira moved to left tackle after starting at guard all last year, while junior guard Eyoseph Efseaff makes his 28th career start. Sophomore center Mike McCloskey is ticketed for big things, having been named a second-team freshman All-American a year ago. Big Ed Blanton (6-9, 334) may be the largest tackle Washington faces this year.

GAME OUTLOOK: Former Washington QB coach Steve Axman vs. former UCLA defensive coordinator Phil Snow. This should be an interesting row. Washington's penchant for slow starts could serve better here, as UCLA has also been slow to engage. If present M.O. serves, it might not be worth watching until the second quarter, as it night not surprise seeing both teams trying to run early.

TEAM STATS:     22.0 points (6th PAC-10),
                278.0 yards (1st, 96.5 rush, 181.5 pass)
                8-9 in Red Zone defense (.889, 9th in PAC-10) 

TACKLES/TFL:    Brandon Chillar 50/4.5
                Ben Emanuel 33/0.0
                Justin London 29/2.0    

PASSES DEF/INT: Spencer Havner 3/2
                Matt Ware 3/1 
                Brandon Chillar 3/1
SACKS:          Dave Ball 5.0
                Rodney Leisle 2.0
                Mat Ball 1.5 

Well, if defense wins championships, then this game could go a long way towards determining the conference Rose Bowl representative. UCLA's defense – who manhandled the Huskies in Pasadena two years ago – sits atop of the PAC-10 after last week's games. They've only allowed 2.8 yards per rush, and a league-low 5.4 yards per passing attempt.

They're all seniors on the front wall, and it's a line that has given Washington trouble over the years. Co-captain Dave Ball is tied with Terry Johnson for second in the conference with five sacks, and planted Cody Pickett three times in Husky Stadium a year ago. Twin brother Mat starts on the other side, and he has a pair of sacks as well. Rodney Leisle broke his foot last year against Oregon State, missing half the season, but has come back stronger to lead the interior. Leisle will have to sit out the first half, however - the result of a late-game retaliation punch he threw. "I wish he had thrown two," joked Gilby of Leisle, who has dominated Washington in the past. Kevin Brown will start in the senior co-captain's stead. Tackle Ryan Boschetti has been solid in his two years since heading south to Westwood from San Mateo CC.

OLB Spencer Havner
(Getty Images)
Sophomore OLB Spencer Havner broke Washington's back with a 42-yard TD interception return late in last year's Bruin win at Husky Stadium. He also had one of UCLA's two picks on consecutive plays against the Aztecs, returning it 50 yards, and brought back another INT 72 yards against Oklahoma. Brandon Chillar has been in double-figures in tackles in every game this year, and leads the PAC-10 overall with 50 stops. Chillar had 74 tackles and five sacks a year ago, and the senior has also blocked a FG attempt. True sophomore Justin London had over 100 tackles in three straight prep seasons, and ranks third in team tackles with 29.

OLB Brandon Chillar
(Getty Images)
Junior cornerback Matt Ware already has seven career interceptions, and is making his 28th straight start. The All-conference Ware was an outfielder in the Mariners organization for two years, and will most likely draw the assignment on Reggie Williams. Junior Matt Clark hasn't made anyone forget Ricky Manning, but he does have 14 solo tackles. Safety Ben Emanuel's 33 stops ranks second on the team. The Bruins have picked off seven passes overall – four by their linebackers – and all in the last three games.

GAME OUTLOOK: For some reason, the Bruins' defense has been a nightmare for Washington to handle the past two years. In Pasadena it was Taylor Barton getting bounced around like a pinball, and last year Pickett was picked four times in the Dawg house. The 59 Oklahoma put up on them was an aberration – the Sooners had three punt return TDs and an interception for another score. Washington can probably ill-afford to start slow this time, especially with Leisle on the shelf for a half. But the Huskies are getting versatile enough to where defensive coordinator Larry Kerr can't just throw caution to the wind and load up for single-cell attack.

PLACEKICKING:  Justin Medlock 5-6 FG (long 48), 7-7 XP

PUNTING:       Chris Kluwe 30-43.1 (long 6), .267 inside the 20

KICK RETURNS:  Maurice Drew 9-28.1 (long 91), 1 TD
               Matthew Clark 1-9.0 (long 9), 0 TD

PUNT RETURNS:  Craig Bragg 14-7.9 (long 30), 0 TD

K Justin Medlock
(Getty Images)
Replacing both kickers from a year ago looked like a Bruin question mark, but the unit has been solid with place-kicker Justin Medlock and punter Chris Kluwe. Medlock, a redshirt-freshman, missed his first-ever FG attempt, but has hit five straight since. Medlock's two three-pointers against Illinois earned him PAC-10 POW honors. Kluwe toiled in the shadows of Nate Fikse the past two years, but has come out like gangbusters in his first opportunity, averaging 43 yards per punt.

PR Craig Bragg
(AP/Mark J. Terrill)
Maurice Drew returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against Oklahoma, though it was swept under Antoni Perkins' three punt return scores for the Sooners. Last week, Craig Bragg had a 53-yard punt return wiped out by penalty. The Bruins have blocked two kicks, while they haven't allowed any.

GAME OUTLOOK: It was good to see Charles Frederick break one last week – one hopes there's more to come. But Bragg has been a Husky killer, and the Bruins are adept at kick-blocking, something Washington hasn't even come close to so far. The Huskies' kick return team has been extraordinarily weak, so advantage UCLA here.

How do we match-up against the UCLA Bruins ?
Category UCLA Bruins UW HuskiesNational LeaderPac-10 Leader
85 110 10 149.5 64 3 NAVY 311.75 OSU 174.6
175.25 88 8 263 34 5 TEXTECH 494.75 OSU 294.6
260.25 113 9 412.5 39 4 TEXTECH 571.75 OSU 469.2
16 104 10 30 39 5 TEXAS 51.25 USC 37.5
96.5 24 6 119 37 8 OHIOST 43.4 STAN 56.33
Pass Eff.
103.64 30 5 96.32 13 1 USF 79.67 UW 96.32
278 14 1 280.75 15 2 NEB 235.75 UCLA 278
22 52 6 18 34 4 FSU 7.4 OSU 16
33.67 91 10 37 45 6 AFA 45.12 USC 44.71
7.93 73 6 10.29 41 4 MIAMI 22 CAL 14.79
26.2 15 3 16.9 108 10 TAMU 33.8 WSU 26.58
0.25 50 4 0 61 5 WSU 2.8 WSU 2.8
181.5 30 2 161.75 18 1 PENNST 115.2 UW 161.75
105.73 91 8 131.85 50 4 TEXAS 177.16 CAL 149.47
Source: NCAA.org

KIBBLES AND BITS: - The game features the worst two teams in the PAC-10 in terms of Red Zone defense (UCLA 9th, Washington 10th) ... In their four fourth quarters, the Husky defense has allowed a paltry 99 total yards ... Typifying an ugly 3-3 first-half tie against San Diego State, UCLA faced a rather rare 1st-and-40 from their own 19, after having two 15-yard penalties marched off against them on the same play. They didn't convert. The Bruins would commit five penalties for 58 yards in the first quarter ... Here it is, only a third of a season gone, and the PAC-10 doesn't have a single unbeaten team left. Add another to the list of consecutive PAC-10 years without BCS National Title hopes ... It's only at a modest four games, but Washington now owns the longest current Conference-game winning streak in the PAC-10 ... A lot of Rose Bowl dreams will be destroyed in Tempe over the next two weeks, where ASU hosts USC and Oregon back-to-back ... Maybe there's something to this two-headed QB thing after all. True, Oregon's Fife-Clemens did complete seven passes to WSU receivers last week. But California's Robertson-Rodgers rank 1-2 in PAC-10 completion percentage ... Reggie Williams and OSU's James Newsom are both riding 29-game reception streaks ... While Washington has outscored its opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter, Washington State has out-pointed its adversaries 55-8 in the first. The Cougars have blocked six kicks so far this year – two punts, two field goals, and two extra points ...

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