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College Football | UCLA REVIEW

Season Simply Blew Away

November 19, 2001|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Snap to whistle.

Phil Snow introduced the motto when he became UCLA defensive coordinator this season, emphasizing that his unit goes hard at the snap of the ball and does not let up until the referee blows the whistle.

The defense took it to heart, becoming the best in the Pacific 10 Conference.

The entire team is a different story. Consider the season a single play and it is clear the Bruins were strong at the snap. But their energy is spent, their discipline gone, their focus elsewhere, and the whistle has not yet sounded.

Four consecutive defeats have followed six consecutive victories. And the 27-0 pasting at the hands of arch-rival USC on Saturday was the most embarrassing Bruin performance in years.

The Trojans said they could see it in the Bruins' eyes. They could smell and taste it as well. USC was on sensory alert; UCLA was in the throes of sensory deprivation.

"We had our hearts and minds in the right place," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "This game was about beating UCLA. We got everything we could out of this game."

And the Bruins got nothing but an empty feeling. The ineligibility of tailback DeShaun Foster and the legal problems of quarterback Cory Paus took a toll. But this was a total breakdown.

There were five sacks and four turnovers--three interceptions and one fumble. Actually the Bruins fumbled four times, but managed to recover three.

They converted only two of 11 third downs. They couldn't run or pass. They made USC look like a bowl championship series contender.

"We've got to be the best 6-5 team in the nation," an exultant Carroll said.

And at the moment UCLA might be the worst 6-4 team.

The Bruins have two weeks to recover before finishing the regular season at home against Arizona State. Injuries to receiver Ryan Smith and defensive backs Marques Anderson, Jason Stephens and Matt Ware will have time to heal.

A bowl game is still very much a possibility and an 8-4 record a legitimate goal.

"The outcome wasn't what we wanted, but we stuck together as a team," Paus said.

That's a good sign. Another would be for defensive leaders such as Kenyon Coleman, Robert Thomas and Ryan Nece to remind their teammates of Snow's motto.

The whistle hasn't blown yet.

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