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Another Case of Late-Season Powder Blues

November has been UCLA's saddest month over the last four years, with Bruins going 3-9.

November 16, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

Memo to the Rose Bowl grounds crew: Immediately after Halloween, replace that pretty blue and gold UCLA signature script at midfield with a garish question mark.

What better way to attempt to explain the Bruins' troubles once the calendar turns to November?

In their last 12 games played in November, dating to the 2000 season and including Saturday's lackluster 31-13 loss to Oregon, the Bruins are 3-9 and have been outscored, 276-158.

"I really can't explain that. I don't know," senior defensive tackle Rodney Leisle said.

"Maybe guys just start getting hurt. Maybe they start getting tired of the season. People have all kinds of different things. I can't vouch for everybody."

But he can for himself.

"I play my [behind] off every game and I don't worry about where it is in the season," Leisle said. "I'm just trying to win games. I'm trying to get to the next level. I'm trying to get paid, so, for me, it's a different story. I'm playing every game to the fullest."

If only the rest of the Bruins did the same.

Already this month UCLA has been beaten by Stanford, Washington State and Oregon by an average score of 27.7-13.3 and still has a date at the Coliseum Saturday with second-ranked USC.

Last year the Bruins won two of three November games, beating Washington and Arizona before getting thumped by USC, 52-21.

UCLA was 0-3 in November 2001 with losses to Washington State, Oregon and USC and lost two of three in November 2000, upending Stanford before dropping consecutive games to Washington and USC.

"I don't think it has anything to do with November," junior receiver Craig Bragg said. "It's the schedule -- we're playing tougher teams."

And losing.

It wasn't like that, though, for the Bruin seniors at the genesis of their playing careers. UCLA opened the 2000 season with victories over Alabama, Fresno State and Michigan and visions of national title runs danced about their collective heads, not three-going-on-four-game losing streaks.

"I look back and try to think about the older times," Leisle said. "It's just frustrating. Especially [my] last game in the Rose Bowl. I can't explain it. It's not a good feeling in my stomach."

First-year Bruin Coach Karl Dorrell acknowledged that his team has regressed.

"It's a shame that we're playing this way at the end of the year," he said. "And that's on us. That's on me.

"For some reason we haven't been putting our best efforts out there on the field. So that's something that we need to take a long look at and try to get ourselves ready for another week to play."

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Freshman center Robert Chai suffered a sprained left knee and sophomore tight end Marcedes Lewis had a concussion.... Senior defensive end Dave Ball had two sacks to extend his school sack records of single season (15.5) and career (29.5).... Senior linebacker Brandon Chillar's 14 tackles give him 121 on the season, the most at UCLA since 1989.

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Times staff writer Robyn Norwood contributed to this report.

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