UCLA has lost three consecutive games, two at the Rose Bowl. Yet the Bruins enter tonight's Pacific 10 Conference game against Washington State as a heavy favorite. Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at the issues and matchups when the Bruins play the Cougars:
Big O or little d?
UCLA showed it could run the ball against Fresno State, a team giving up 186 rushing yards a game. The Bruins churned out 234 yards last week, 44 on a direct-snap run by Derrick Coleman and 34 more on scrambles by quarterback Kevin Craft. Kahlil Bell returned from an ankle injury to run for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Washington State players have been red and silver pylons on defense. Out of 119 major-college teams, the Cougars rank 118th against the run (269 yards a game), 106th in total defense (436 yards) and 117th in scoring defense (44.4 points). Toss in a minus-13 turnover margin, ranking 117th, and a feel-good moment for the Bruins seems at hand.
Quite a spread
UCLA is anywhere from a 16- to a 20-point favorite, depending on who's taking the action.
Only once in 39 seasons have the Bruins lost to the team that finished last in conference play -- 46-38 in overtime against California in 2000.
Washington State has been outscored 129-17 in two conference games and seems headed to a showdown against winless and Jake Locker-less Washington for the (Rotten) Apple Cup.
The Cougars will need to manage the game and manage the score (where have Bruins fans heard that one before?).
A year ago, Washington State did just that in a 27-7 victory in Pullman. The Cougars rushed for 274 yards -- 214 by tailback Dwight Tardy -- and held on to the ball for 38 minutes.
UCLA's defense didn't seem much better at getting off the field against Fresno State, which held the ball for the last 8:55 of the game. Third-down efficiency for the Bruins' defense is a woeful 48.4%.
UCLA's Craft, who had four passes intercepted in his first game, is the cagey veteran in this one. He managed the offense with bookkeeper-like flash throughout the Fresno State game. That suits offensive coordinator Norm Chow just fine.
Washington State's Marshall Lobbestael, a redshirt freshman, is getting on-the-job-training after Gary Rodgers and Kevin Lopina were injured. Lobbestael had two passes intercepted and lost a fumble in his first start.
Washington State's only victory is over Portland State. The Cougars' best chance may be an act of God. Rain is forecast for tonight. A Palouse-like downpour could swamp -- and level -- the playing field.
Washington State has beaten UCLA in 10 of the last 14 games, including five of the last six. The Cougars have won three in a row at the Rose Bowl.
By the numbers
*--* UCLA CATEGORY WSU 17.0 Scoring 19.0 37.5 Scoring defense 44.4 180.0 Passing offense 201.6 96.9 Rushing offense 120.8 276.8 Total offense 322.4 246.0 Passing defense 167.0 169.8 Rushing defense 269.0 415.8 Total defense 436.0 *--*
UCLA (1-3, 0-1) VS.
WASHINGTON ST. (1-4, 0-2)
Tonight at the Rose Bowl, 7:15, FSN