That Other L.A. Unbeaten

Certainly, Los Angelinos have been used to this sort of thing the past three years. End of September, three games, three wins, easy-as-you-please. At least, they have in Inglewood. But in Westwood? While rival USC has kept busy spit-polishing their record 23-week streak atop the AP Poll, the 20th-ranked UCLA Bruins have a little streak going of their own – back-to-back placings in the poll for the first time since 2001. And it's got head coach Karl Dorrell in pretty good spirits these days.

Washington (0-1, 1-3 at #20 UCLA (0-0, 3-1)
The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Saturday, October 1 - 7:15 PM (PST) – FSN TV
Series All-time: UCLA leads, 34-28-2
Last Meeting: September 18, 2004 – UCLA 31, Washington 31
Line: UCLA by 21

"We've been trying to keep the big picture from the very beginning," says Dorrell, now 15-13 in his third season at his alma mater. "We envisioned ourselves being in this position at this point of the season.

"Now we have to take care of business, continue to improve and do the things that got us to the point where we are right now."

Dorrell is understandably wary of early poll respect, however. "We got some recognition in our program which is good to see," said Dorrell on Tuesday. "But it's only recognition at this time ... and there are still so many things that we need to improve upon and continue with the momentum that we are building in our program. All of the games are going to get bigger and bigger, and more intensified as the season progresses.

"The challenge we have is to see if we can build on that momentum."

This will mark the third of four straight games at the venerable old Rose Bowl for the Bruins, who chewed up both Rice and Oklahoma after opening the season just two hours down the road at San Diego State. Favored by three touchdowns, UCLA has beaten Washington four straight, winning the two played in the Rose Bowl by a combined 81-29. Unbeaten California – who hosts Arizona this weekend – pays a potentially HUGE visit next Saturday, while the Huskies have lost nine straight in conference, and are searching for their first road victory in two full years.

Oh, and while Washington was busy picking up a few teeth off the Husky Stadium carpet last week, UCLA was resting – and watching. With continued awareness to the current task at hand, coach Dorrell hopes.

"This Washington team is a talented football team," the former Husky assistant intoned. "You can tell they have improved from week one to week four. (Isaiah Stanback) is playing well. They are well coached. It's going to be another typical Pac-10 game where there is a lot of excitement."

"Even though we will probably have some in this game, we don't want any hiccups."

And there's nothing like a good scare to cure the hiccups.

TEAM STATS:  49.3 points, 441.3 yards (6th PAC-10, 
             175.7 rush, 265.7 pass)
             14-14 in Red Zone offense (12 TD - 1st PAC-10)

RUSHING: Maurice Drew 37-278-4 TD (7.5), long 64
         Chris Markey 30-127-3 TD (4.2), long 51

PASSING: Drew Olson 56-78-0 (.718), 762 yards, 6 TD
RECEIVING: Marcedes Lewis 14-219-1 TD (15.6), long 40
           Brandon Breazell 7-103-1 TD (14.7), long 48
           Marcus Everett 6-66-0 TD (11.0), long 19

After completely blowing out his left knee in last year's Las Vegas bowl, it was suspected that senior Drew Olson would face at the very least a long, uphill battle for his job - if not the end of his Bruin career. So much for that threat. He's only gotten off to the best kind of start, hitting on 72-percent of his passes with nary an interception. Olson has had only modest numbers against Washington – in three starts he has yet to throw for a touchdown and has been picked off twice. Of course, he is also unbeaten against the Huskies, and in each instance he's had a big running game to help get the Bruins home.

Nobody around these parts will forget Maurice Drew's day out on Montlake a year ago. The mercurial junior almost blew that infernal track out on his own, racing for a school-record 322 yards – 253 in the first half alone – and five touchdowns. He's averaging 7.5 yards per carry so far this campaign, and his six TDs trail only USC's Dwayne Jarrett for the conference lead. He and sophomore Chris Markey have combined for over 400 yards in three games, with seven rushing touchdowns. In his 27 career Bruin games, Drew has 25 touchdowns – 13 of them measuring 40 yards or longer.

Olson also has the best tight end around in Marcedes Lewis. The fourth-year senior was a Mackey finalist in 2004, and had his best game in the season opener at San Diego State, where he caught seven for 131 yards. Another fourth-year senior, Junior Taylor, tore his ACL against Oklahoma and figures to redshirt. So off the bench popped sophomore Marcus Everett, who snared six in his first action since injuring a shoulder in fall camp. Joe Cowan and Brandon Breazell have 14 catches between them.

Fifth-year senior center (and Rimington candidate) Mike McCloskey headlines the UCLA front five, bolstered by 350-pound senior guard Ed Blanton. Both are three-year starters. Three sophomores start at the other spots, the most promising being Shannon Tevaga, who started six games in 2004.

GAME OUTLOOK: The numbers look kind of crooked against the guys in Purple. UCLA is a perfect 14-for-14 in Red Zone offense, while Washington has defensively allowed a perfect 13-for-13. The Bruins rank third in third-down at 49-percent; the Huskies allow a second-worst 47-percent. UW has also allowed a league-worst 4.3-yards per rushing attempt. The Uclans have not turned it over in three games, ranking second in the nation. It could be said that the competition (sans Oklahoma) has been a bit suspect with regards to the Bruins' three-game offensive flurry. But alas, these days Washington qualifies among "suspect" lot as well.

TEAM STATS:  22.0 points, 351.7 yards (4th PAC-10, 
             168.3 rush, 183.3 pass)
             7-9 in Red Zone defense (6 TD, T-3rd PAC-10)  

TACKLES/TFL: Spencer Havner 23/4.0
             Justin London 22/3.0
             Dennis Keyes 18/1.0 

PASSES DEF/INT: Spencer Havner 2/1
                Dennis Keyes 2/0 
                Marcus Cassel 2/0

SACKS: Ten different players with 1.0 each

In Wesley Walker, Spencer Havner, and Justin London, the Bruins have a senior linebacker triumvirate that rivals most anyone – certainly in the conference. Walker has yet to make his 2005 debut as he recovers from a knee ding, but looks to make the field against the Huskies. Havner, meanwhile, might be the best pure tackler in the conference. The All-American opened his final collegiate season with 13 tackles at SDSU, and picked off his ninth career pass. He also had nine stops against the Sooners, and scored on a fumble return. London, like Havner, also had nine tackles against Oklahoma, and is also a Butkus Award nominee. He injured his ankle against the Huskies last year, playing only three snaps.

With DT Kevin Brown's surgically-repaired ankle still keeping him out, UCLA doesn't have a ton on size up front. Third-year junior Justin Hickman has been nicked up pretty much his entire career, though he and DE Kyle Morgan represent the most experienced Bruins. Sophomore Brigham Harwell recorded his first career sack against the Sooners, as did DE Nikola Dragovic.

Four-year starter Jarrad Page rules the roost in the UCLA secondary. The strong safety has eight career interceptions – his lone score was against Washington in 2003 - and with nine tackles will break 200 for his career. Sophomore Dennis Keyes was one of five different Bruins to record a sack against Oklahoma, and caused the fumble that Havner would score on. Keyes has stepped up for Chris Horton, who has missed the first month of a season with a wrist injury. Senior corner Marcus Cassel is in his second starting campaign, as is sophomore Trey Brown.

GAME OUTLOOK: Second in pass efficiency defense, UCLA figures to get tested by Stanback and co. UCLA does rank eighth in the PAC-10 in rushing defense – and has allowed more rushing touchdowns than anyone in the PAC-10, being prone to the quick hitter. But they did stop Adrian Peterson in his tracks after giving up an early home run on a reverse. Will Rankin/James be able to get off?

PLACEKICKING:  Justin Medlock 5-8 FG 
               (long 51), 19-19 XP
PUNTING:       Aaron Perez 8-40.6 (long 52), 
               .375 inside the 20 

KICK RETURNS:  Chris Markey 5-28.2 (long 71), 0 TD

PUNT RETURNS:  Maurice Drew 5-30.2 (long 72), 2 TD

Huge advantage for UCLA here. Maurice Drew has been challenging Reggie Bush as the top punt return man in Los Angeles – along with all of College Football. Drew has two punt returns for scores, ranking third in the nation; while Chris Markey ranks third in the PAC-10 in kick returns - including a 71-yarder against the Aztecs.

Justin Medlock is as solid a place-kicker as there is in the PAC-10. He has hit 34-for-47 three-pointers lifetime, with a career best of 52 yards. The junior has missed just one extra point in three years. RS-freshman Aaron Perez ranks fifth in the conference with a 40.6-yard punting average.

Including 2005, the Bruins have blocked eleven kicks in three years, and have not had a single kick blocked of any kind.

GAME OUTLOOK: Evan Knudson continues to shine, and Douglas rates a slight nod over the freshman Perez. But goodness, there's a huge UCLA advantage in the return game. And that means field position. Not that Washington has enough problems already.


UCLA's Westwood campus formally opens for classes on Thursday ... So far in 2005, the PAC-10 is proving itself to be Quarterback Conference. Three of the top seven (pass efficiency) rated throwers are resident – Matt Leinart (2nd), Drew Olson (6th) and Arizona State's Sam Keller (7th). Washington State's Alex Brink is ranked 11th. Keller tops all throwers in the country in yardage (1443) and touchdown passes (16). And besides Olson, two other PAC-10 starters haven't been picked off yet (Kellen Clemens in 155 attempts, Trent Edwards in 32) ... Craig Chambers leads the PAC-10 in yards-per-catch (min. 10 receptions), averaging 25.6 per grab ... Oregon State has allowed a numbing 19 sacks in four games ... Washington has four of the top eight tacklers in the conference. Whether or not that is a good thing is debatable, as the Huskies are also near the bottom in time-of-possession (meaning the defense is staying on the field a LOT) ... Half the PAC-10 is averaging more than 40 points per game, led by USC's unearthly 59.5. The Trojans visit Arizona State, averaging 47 per contest. Wonder if Las Vegas might have a wager on the higher number – total USC/ASU points or the Tempe temperature at kickoff (which is at 12:30)...

Rick Samek can be reached at RSAMEK1@COMCAST.NET Top Stories