Hey L.A., we're here too.
That was the message the UCLA Bruins delivered early Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl, where they upset Miami, 31-8, disposing of the 12th-ranked Hurricanes in surprisingly easy fashion before a crowd of 60,091.
All summer long, the Bruins have had to read and hear about the chances of a national championship for cross-town rival USC while biting their own tongues.
After all, UCLA had question marks all over the place, from quarterback to the defense to the kicking game.
But the 15th-ranked Bruins answered a lot of those questions Saturday, at least for one night, in what Coach Terry Donahue called "as perfect an opener as I've ever had."
And he has had 20 of them.
Any account of this game has to start with tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
As the UCLA team bus made its way through Pasadena on the way to the Rose Bowl, Donahue looked out the window and then at Abdul-Jabbar.
"You might have to carry the ball 30 times today," Donahue said. "Can you do it?"
Abdul-Jabbar laughed in response.
Six hours later, Adbul-Jabbar was still laughing.
And why not?
He had just carried the ball 29 times in heat that was 102 degrees at kickoff, carried it over, around and through the heart of the Miami defense for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
But there were laughs and smiles all over the Bruin locker room after the game from:
--Quarterback Ryan Fien. Having waited three years to get the starting job, he wasn't about to let a few things like a lacerated chin and a concussion stop him.
He came back from both injuries to complete 10 of 17 passes for 74 yards and avoided turnovers all night in an impressive debut.
--The offensive line. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden, left guard James Christensen, center Mike Flanagan, right guard Matt Soenksen and right tackle Chad Overhauser combined to dominate Miami's defense and open holes big enough for the basketball Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to run through.
--The defense. The team had switched to a 4-3 alignment from a 3-4 in the off-season and moved Abdul McCullough from safety to linebacker.
The results were so spectacular on opening night that the Hurricanes didn't score until the fourth quarter.
--The special teams. A UCLA punt fumbled by Miami's Earl Little resulted in a touchdown for the Bruins, UCLA punt returner Paul Guidry had two long returns to set up touchdowns, freshman Chris Sailer had a successful debut as the Bruin punter and Bjorn Merten kicked a 24-yard field goal.
However, the Bruins only had Merten's field goal to show for the first half.
As a matter of fact, the restless crowd even booed the Bruins when Donahue stayed on the ground at the end of the half, content to sit on the 3-0 lead.
The UCLA coach had said all along that he was going to bring Fien along cautiously in his first game in his new role.
What the crowd didn't know was that Fien had another problem--a vision problem caused by the hit he took at the start of the second quarter from defensive lineman Kenard Lang.
Fien left for the remainder of that offensive series. He wound up with four stitches for a gash in his chin and a new jersey, his old one splattered by blood.
Fien also had a minor concussion.
Freshman Cade McNown filled in admirably, completing both the passes he attempted before Fien returned.
"I had trouble focusing," Fien said, "but no way was I going to miss this game."
The boos weren't heard from the UCLA rooting section again and the game turned dramatically in the Bruins' favor at the start of the third quarter.
Facing a fourth and four at the Miami 42, UCLA punted, Sailer sailing a ball that bounced at about the Hurricane five.
Bearing down on Little, the punt returner, were Akil Davis, Donnie Edwards and McCullough.
"I was surprised that he would try to catch it," McCullough said, "I thought he would let it bounce into the end zone."
Instead, Little swiped at the ball only to have Davis hit him, Edwards swat the ball loose and McCullough control it in the Hurricane end zone.
"I did the easy part," McCullough said.
That gave UCLA a 10-0 lead, and then the Bruins really put the heat on with touchdown runs of nine and six yards by Abdul-Jabbar.
Both were set up with Guidry punt returns, the first for 32 yards, the second for 43.
Abdul-Jabbar, characteristically modest, pointed to his offensive line as the primary reason for his yardage total, which equaled the second-best of his career.
"They opened gaping holes for me," he said. "Anyone could have run behind these guys tonight."
Ogden, who had to leave the game with a concussion, didn't necessarily agree with Abdul-Jabbar. "He reads his blocks," Ogden said, "and that makes the line that much better."
Miami finally made it into the end zone with just over eight minutes to play on a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Collins to tight end Syii Tucker. Collins then hit Jammi German for a two-point conversion.
Collins completed 17 of 33 passes for 188 yards, but Miami managed only 95 yards on the ground.
UCLA backup tailback James Milliner closed out the scoring with a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. But according to Ogden, the game was over long before that. He saw it in the eyes of the Hurricanes at the end of the third quarter.
"You could tell they were whipped," he said. "They were getting down and they didn't seem to care anymore. They didn't want to be out there."