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UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

History on UCLA's side despite recent setbacks

Though the Bruins were pummeled by Mountain West teams Utah and Brigham Young the last two seasons, their success rate against San Diego State is considerably better.

September 05, 2009|Chris Foster

UCLA has had a rough time with the Mountain West Conference recently. That is expected to change today, as oddsmakers have installed the Bruins as a 19 1/2 -point favorite over San Diego State.

The Aztecs have a new coaching staff and are coming off a 2-10 season, but UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel leaned heavily on coach-speak throughout the week when asked about playing San Diego State in the opener.

"This is a great coaching challenge," he said, adding, "After last season, we're not in a position to take anyone lightly."

Indeed, UCLA was only two games better than San Diego State last season, finishing 4-8.

Plus, the Bruins were routed by Mountain West teams in each of the last two seasons, 44-6 by Utah in 2007 and 59-0 by Brigham Young last September.

Mostly, though, the Mountain West has been such a doormat for UCLA that "welcome" should be stitched on the uniforms.

The Bruins won 23 consecutive games against Mountain West teams before the Utah loss and are 44-9-2 overall.

San Diego State has underwritten much of that success, going 0-20-1 against UCLA.

The Aztecs have a 13-13 tie in the series, but it came in 1924 -- the year before "The Great Gatsby" was published.

UCLA has scored more than 40 points in seven of the last 12 meetings. Even from 1991 to 1993, when the Aztecs had Marshall Faulk, UCLA won three consecutive games by the combined score of 124-32.

Some around Westwood are not bound by coach diplomacy.

Linebacker Reggie Carter has touted the Bruins as Pacific 10 Conference championship contenders. He was asked, if that were true, how the Bruins should handle San Diego State.

Carter said, "Uh, we should, um . . . how should I put this? . . . win good. We should win good. We should definitely make a statement. We should definitely play hard. This should be a statement game for us to let people know that UCLA football is back."

Back pains

The Aztecs enter the game with tailback concerns.

Atiyyah Henderson is out because of a back injury. Brandon Sullivan, who gained 185 yards last season, has been slowed through training camp with "bumps and bruises."

That could leave some carries for Anthony Miller, a 6-foot, 220-pound first-year freshman.

Miller gained 1,025 yards and scored 17 touchdowns for Dallas Carter High last season, yet Oklahoma State was the only school from a Bowl Championship Series conference to offer him a scholarship.

Sullivan had 66 yards rushing the Aztecs' near upset of Notre Dame last season but had only three carries for four yards in the last five games.

Priorities

First-year Aztecs Coach Brady Hoke, who came over from Ball State, enters the game without a signed contract. He agreed in principle to a five-year deal, but a formal contract has not been signed.

"I'll be honest; I haven't even dealt with any of that stuff," Hoke told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Injury update

UCLA will be without tailback Christian Ramirez (ankle), wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (hamstring), offensive lineman Micah Kia (knee surgery), offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani (sprained knee) and defensive end Reginald Stokes (knee surgery). Defensive tackle Jess Ward (sprained knee) is expected to play.

Beside Henderson, San Diego State will be without safety Romeo Horn (foot), and tight end Tony DeMartinis (retired, knee). Cornerback Davion Maudlin (knee) is expected to play.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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