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Silicon Blues

The Bruins, who've lost their last six Pac-10 games in the Bay Area, try to change the tune at Palo Alto, where their last win came in '97

October 29, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — The last time UCLA won a football game at Stanford, Kobe Bryant was a rookie reserve for the Lakers, John Elway was a quarterback without a Super Bowl ring and Roger Maris was still baseball's single-season home run king.

The date was Nov. 1, 1997 and the Bruins defeated Stanford, 27-7. Since then, it has been nothing but sour road losses for UCLA, which hopes to end the drought against the Cardinal today at Stanford Stadium.

"As a matter of fact, I've lost every game that we've played in the Bay Area and that needs to change," said senior safety Jarrad Page of the Bruins, who have lost their last six games at Stanford and California. "We have to go out with a win up there."

From the Bruins' only Heisman Trophy winner, Gary Beban (San Mateo County), to the school's all-time leader in receptions, Craig Bragg (San Jose), the Bay Area has a special connection with UCLA football.

There are at least 14 players from the Bay Area on the Bruins' roster, including quarterback Drew Olson, running back Maurice Drew, kicker Justin Medlock and Page.

"There are guys from the Bay Area who want to come down to L.A., and UCLA does a good job of recruiting up there," Page said. "But that's kind of like Cal, which always seems to have a lot of players from L.A. ... Guys like to change it up so they are not in the same place."

With the eighth-ranked Bruins off to a 7-0 start -- 4-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference -- and a No. 6 rating in the bowl championship series rankings, UCLA is expected to be well represented today at Stanford (4-2, 3-1), which has the worst home attendance average in the conference, 30,217.

Page said that he'll have at least 20 family and friends making the trip from his hometown of San Leandro. Olson's family will be on a bus with more than 75 people down from Piedmont, and Medlock will have a group of 50 at the game from San Jose.

"It's always fun to go back in the Bay Area to play," said Medlock, a former two-sport standout at Mission High in San Jose. "You want to play well in front of your family and people you know from back home."

For Olson, who grew up a UCLA and Cal fan, today's date has been marked on the calendar for months. As a sophomore in 2003, he came off the bench to replace starter Matt Moore and completed five of 12 passes in a 21-14 Stanford victory.

"It's a huge deal for us because first, we want to continue winning and stay undefeated," Olson said. "But for the seniors, it's even bigger because we've never won in the Bay Area and this is our last chance."

The Bruins are favorites because of their firepower on offense. Averaging 44.4 points a game, UCLA has the fifth-highest scoring offense in the nation, having been limited to less than 41 points only once.

Conversely, Stanford ranks sixth in the conference in points given up, at 29 a game, and has given up more than 34 points three times. The Bruins have to stop a Cardinal offense that ranks last in the Pac-10 in yards per game but has moved the ball well in recent weeks.

Senior quarterback Trent Edwards has been operating first-year Coach Walt Harris' offense with efficiency in leading Stanford to three consecutive victories.

Edwards has not thrown an interception while completing 66.7% of his passes for 697 yards and eight touchdowns in his last three games. His main target has been junior wideout Mark Bradford, who caught nine passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in Stanford's 45-35 victory over Arizona State last week.

"They've been doing some real good things with their passing game," Page said. "They've been getting the ball to Bradford and he's been making plays for them. They've been clicking like a real good football team, regardless of what happened to them early on in the season."

UCLA defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said Edwards, who passed for a career-high 303 yards against the Sun Devils, is also a threat to run. During the Cardinal winning streak, Edwards has led the team each game in rushing.

"When nothing has been there, he's taken off and ran with the ball," Kerr said. "That's a factor you always have to deal with as a defense."

Although UCLA's defense has two starters, linebacker Justin London and tackle Kenneth Lombard, slowed by injuries, Kerr said the Bruins plan to use an assortment of defenders today, including tackles Nathaniel Skaggs and Brian Ruziecki and linebacker Christian Taylor.

"It's always nice to have experience out there, but at the same time those other guys are good, talented players who bring something of their own too," Kerr said. "I like the fact that I have more than one solution. It works when you have guys who work well in certain situations.

"The more guys you can play not only helps morale, but it also builds your depth and confidence within your football team."

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