We have talked a lot about BYU’s current 12 game winning streak, which is the longest in the nation. Today in the Press Enterprise, Kevin Pearson brings up another streak that I think is far more significant relevant to this game. UCLA hasn’t beaten a ranked team on the road since 2001, losing 14 in a row:
UCLA has lost 14 in a row to ranked teams on the road since September 2001. That stretch covers the entire Karl Dorrell era, a statistic that certainly helped lead to his firing and the hiring of Rick Neuhesiel as the head coach.
Since the start of the Bob Toledo era in 1996, the Bruins are 4-19 against ranked teams while on the road.
"That's embarrassing," safety Aaron Ware said. "At UCLA that shouldn't happen. It's pretty pathetic."
To put the streak in perspective, UCLA's freshman class was in sixth grade the last time the Bruins beat a Top 25 team away from the Rose Bowl. But even that Sept. 29, 2001 victory over Oregon State came with a slight caveat.
UCLA was No. 12 in the nation at the time and Oregon State was No. 19. Since 1996, UCLA has won just two road games over higher-ranked teams. One was a victory over No. 3 Texas that started a school-record 20-game win streak. The other was a victory over No. 24 Arizona in 2000, the last time UCLA pulled an upset on the road.
Add to this back drop our pattern of letdowns, following huge emotional wins. Players have been hearing about it from coaches not just during last two weeks, but the entire off season:
"(Strength) coach (Mike) Linn has been hammering it into our heads since the offseason that our mission this year is to change the story," UCLA offensive guard Scott Glicksberg said.
"Anybody who knows UCLA football knows we're up for one game, and then the next game we lay an egg. All of our coaches continue to say they didn't hand out the prizes last week. We really didn't win anything."
Well, one factor that could help this time around is that Bruins have had time to get their head out of clouds. From the same article:
The Bruins had time to relish their triumph, and accept kudos with it, and still regroup for the veteran Cougars. Neuheisel even said a few of UCLA's practices in the aftermath of Tennessee were not good enough.
And Neuheisel, the "relentlessly positive" coach, chose a different manner in which to address the situation with his team. Rather than revisit sore spots, the master spinner came up with a unique spin to let the Bruins know about their history.
He simply told his team, on multiple occasions, he was constantly asked about the UCLA's penchant for not being emotionally ready to play on a regular basis.
Especially after emotional wins.
"If you keep wanting to go back to last year, than we're more likely to repeat it," Neuheisel said. "I have mentioned that I've been asked whether or not this team will lay an egg, as a reminder to them that there are still people that don't believe. There's only one way to cause them to change their minds."
CRN and his coaches are going to stick to the Rick Ball script, that worked in our first game:
The fundamental UCLA plan hasn't changed, and likely won't the entire season. Play with the cards close to the vest on offense and hope the defense and special teams keep things close.
"Hopefully, we'll take a page out of what we did against Tennessee and take the game to the fourth quarter," Neuheisel said.
More on the coaches’ thoughts on this game from Mark Saxon in the OC Register:
"I think we've got the makings of a nice plan," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We've just got to go execute it. It's a very tall hill to climb, because this is a team that is very, very consistent and very, very methodical."
It could help that virtually every coach on Neuheisel's staff is deep in NFL experience. Pro teams face opponents from their conference twice per season. The adjustments and counter-adjustments often dictate who wins.
"I just look at it as, 'Hey, we played them, they know us a little bit, we know them a little bit and we've got to find out who plays best Saturday,' " Walker said. "I think it's going to be a chess match."
Walker might have a stiffer task than offensive coordinator Norm Chow. While Hall and the Cougars' offense have been difficult to derail, the BYU defense has looked shaky. Both Northern Iowa and Washington were able to move the ball.
How UCLA competes might come down once again to quarterback Kevin Craft, who made his college debut at BYU when he was with San Diego State two years ago. Will the Bruins see first-half Craft – four interceptions vs. Tennessee – or second-half Craft: 18-of-25 passing?
"They say you make your biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 and now, it's actually Week 3," Chow said. "Whether we get better, who knows? It's hard to figure all those things out."
It will be very interesting to see how the Bruins start this game. If they can hang in there during first half of this game, I think we will have a shot.
Elsewhere on this game day, Brian Dohn’s game day notes lead off with a look BYU’s Dennis Pitta, a So Cal native who is leading the nation in receiving. Dohn also reports that Moore will get the start over Ware at FS, and Savage over Glicksburg at LG. Also more on the game from the OC Register and the LA Times.
Our game thread will go up about half an hour before the kickoff, around 12:00 pm PST. See you there. Hopefully Rick Ball will give us a shot at busting all those streaks.