SAN DIEGO — Remember Oklahoma? Well, forget it.
While UCLA's first victory of the season may have lacked in artistry or tension or even competition, the Bruins' 45-14 mashing of San Diego State Saturday night ranked high in the redemption category, so it seemed to have served its purpose.
This one was a complete wipeout, which is just what the Bruins needed after having their helmets handed to them two weeks ago at Norman, Okla. Now, they're 1-1 and feeling much better about themselves.
"All we wanted to do was redeem ourselves for that embarrassment in Oklahoma," said tailback Gaston Green, who nearly achieved that goal single-handedly by scoring touchdowns on runs of 63, 2 and 2 yards.
A crowd of 50,338, the third-largest in San Diego State history, watched at Jack Murphy Stadium as UCLA wrecked the Aztecs with a numbingly efficient display on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Worried about the Bruin offense and absolutely petrified by Matt Stevens? Do not be concerned, at least for now.
Green rushed for 131 yards in just 16 carries and led an offense that exhibited an entirely new dimension--a passing attack, or something close to one.
"I didn't have a great or even good game," Stevens said. "It was just par. I'm just glad we won the game and the monkey's off my back now."
Stevens finished the game throwing for 119 yards and a touchdown. He completed only four passes, none in the second half when he tried just one, but why bother counting anything except the final score?
"He didn't complete many passes, but the ones that he hit were gamebreakers," Coach Terry Donahue said.
Stevens used his completions well. One went 50 yards to set up a score and another went 40 yards and was worth a touchdown. Both catches were made by Flipper Anderson.
"I should have completed a lot more passes than I did," Stevens said. "I'm going to have to do a whole lot better job."
And what of the job turned in by that itty-bitty UCLA defense we've heard so much about, the one that allowed all those points to Oklahoma in a 38-3 rout? The Bruin defenders, who the entire game had a clear shot at Todd Santos, the Aztecs' record-setting quarterback, finished with five sacks and five other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
After gaining just 34 yards on the ground against Oklahoma, the Bruins rolled for 247. And after giving up 470 yards to the Sooners, the Bruins held the Aztecs to 3.
UCLA nose guard Mike Lodish, who had two sacks, as did linebacker Eric Smith, said the Bruins' quickness helped them on defense. And believe it or not, so did getting crushed by Oklahoma.
"It was totally demoralizing, what happened to us at OU," Lodish said.
Even though the Bruins had trouble scoring points at Oklahoma, they found out, sooner rather than later, that the Aztecs are not on quite the same level as the Sooners.
Once the Bruins got the ball for the first time and the offense got the Green light, it took exactly two plays and 43 seconds for them to score.
Green scored the first of his two touchdowns in the first half on a leisurely 63-yard run down the left sideline after taking a quick pitch. After Mel Farr Jr. sprung him with the only block he needed, Green had an easy run.
"The only thing that I was worried about was that I was going to fall down," Green said.
He didn't, so Green returned later to score again on a two-yard run that pumped the UCLA lead to 17-7 early in the second quarter. That touchdown was set up by Stevens' 50-yard pass down the left side to Anderson, whose foot just dragged the sideline at the two-yard line.
By halftime, the Aztecs were just about extinct. The Bruins led, 31-7, and looked like an entirely different team than the one that had been mauled in their only other game.
At Oklahoma, the UCLA defense played well until it ran out of gas after being forced to spend too much time on the field because the offense was so terrible.
Once again, there was little wrong with the UCLA defense. Santos wound up with 15 completions in 29 attempts worth 151 yards, a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the school record for career passing yardage.
The Aztecs, who gave up 154 yards on the ground to the Bruins in the first half, were held to a minus-17 yards rushing at the same time. That statistic reflected the four sacks of Santos, who experienced only limited success under a pressure Bruin defense.
It got so bad that the Bruins forced San Diego State into a shotgun offense to try and take the pressure off Santos.
That didn't work either. Santos had 10 completions of 21 passes in the first half, but they went for only 118 yards and no touchdowns.
That explains the San Diego State offense, but there was something else to consider: Going into the third quarter, Stevens had passed for more yards than Santos.
What in the world got into Matt Stevens?
Sure, Stevens completed only four passes in the first half, but at least they were all to his teammates this time.