Wednesday, September 22, 2010
UCLA won't beat Texas 66-3 this time
By Ted Miller
UCLA was 0-2. Texas, the defending Big 12 champion, was ranked. When they met in Austin, no one could have predicted the outcome.
"Last time they were here it wasn't good for us," Texas coach Mack Brown said, recalling the historic defeat in 1997 that was the cornerstone of Texas firing John Mackovic and luring Brown away from North Carolina.
Is there a chance of history repeating itself when the 1-2 Bruins visit No. 7 Texas, the defending Big 12 champions, on Saturday?
Rick Neuheisel's Bruins team has to play a mistake-free game if they hope to upend Texas.
The odds are probably close to zero, but Brown is taking the game seriously. He called the matchup "dangerous," particularly with the possibility that some of his players might be looking ahead to the red letter date with Oklahoma on Oct. 2. But the Longhorns profess respect for the Bruins.
"You just say UCLA, and people’s eyes kind of open," Texas safety Blake Gideon said. "So it will be fun, and it will be a challenge. It will be a blast playing against guys like that."
UCLA certainly seems like a different team than it did a week ago when it was coming off a 35-0 drubbing vs. Stanford at home. That change is due to a 31-13 whipping of No. 23 Houston, which included 266 yards rushing from an offense that had been sputtering.
Of course, that newly potent running game will be severely tested by the Longhorns, who rank No. 1 in the nation in run defense (44 yards per game) and second in total defense (206.67).
It's not just the run defense, though. Texas may have the nation's best secondary. It completely bottled up Texas Tech last weekend. Just let Brown list the ways.
"We forced three turnovers and had a fourth down stop," he said. "They were 3-of-14 on third down situations, 8-of-23 on first down situations. We had 14 hits on the quarterback, ten three-and-outs, five sacks and we handled sudden change 100 percent. We only had three missed tackles for 33 yards."
So this is a heck of a unit to test the Bruins newfound confidence.
The biggest boost UCLA got last week was getting a full week of practice from quarterback Kevin Prince, who'd battled injuries all of fall camp and over the first two weeks. That certainly helped the offensive rhythm. Still, the passing game, despite what looks like a deep and talented receiving corps, is sputtering.
"We're getting closer, there's no question," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We're not where we want to be yet, especially with the throwing game, and mixing and matching that to the run."
Speaking of running, that is an interesting matchup on the other side of the ball. Texas has struggled to find its running game for a couple of years and it presently ranks 65th in the nation with 152.33 yards per game. Moreover, its running backs are banged up and the offensive line has been inconsistent.
The Bruins would love to stop the run and force new starting QB Garrett Gilbert to beat them by throwing into a highly skilled secondary led by safety Rahim Moore. The only problem is UCLA ranks 105th in the nation in run defense, yielding 210.67 yards per game. So who wins? The movable object or the resistible force?
UCLA doesn't have a prayer if it continues to be sloppy with the football. See: 10 turnovers in three games, which is twice as many as any other Pac-10 team.
"We can't do anything to help them beat us," Neuheisel said.
UCLA has won two in a row from Texas. The year after the drubbing in Austin, Brown and the Longhorns lost 49-31 in the Rose Bowl, but what Brown most remembers was his fans cheering a tough second-half effort after his team trailed 35-3 at halftime.
That Texas team was rebuilding, as the Bruins presently are, though at a deliberate pace that has some fans grumbling.
Brown, however, took a moment to give Neuheisel a vote of confidence.
"Rick is really bringing UCLA back," he said. "I think you will see them back on the map soon."