The last two times UCLA started a season 2-0, the Bruins lost -- at Utah, 44-6, in 2007 and at Washington, 29-19, in 2006. So what awaits the 2-0 Bruins against Kansas State today at the Rose Bowl? Times staff writer Chris Foster takes a look at the game's key matchups and issues.
Follow the leader
Whomever that is . . .
Richard Brehaut? Kevin Craft?
Coach Rick Neuheisel won't say which of Kevin Prince's backups will start, mainly because, as of Thursday, he didn't know.
Early in the week, Brehaut, a freshman from Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos High, seemed a lock to get his first start. But the scales seemed to be tipping in Craft's favor by the end of the week.
UCLA has gone 12 games without a running back going over 100 yards, and only one has topped that mark in the last 18 games -- Chris Markey's 117 yards in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl.
Considering Brehaut's inexperience and Craft's struggles last season, this would seem an opportune time for a Bruins back to gain a chunk of yards.
The strength of Kansas State's defense is said to be up front, though Tony Nelson of Massachusetts gained 107 yards in the opener.
State of K State
Neuheisel says he expects a tough game because Kansas State is coached by Bill Snyder.
Oddsmakers expect otherwise, making UCLA a 13-point favorite because of who Snyder has playing for him.
The Wildcats are 1-1, having squeaked by Massachusetts, 21-17, before being edged last week by Louisiana Lafayette, 17-15 -- the Ragin' Cajuns' first victory over a team from a Bowl Championship Series conference since they defeated Texas A&M in 1996.
Snyder, 69, was Kansas State's coach in 1989-2005, and came out of retirement to take the position last November.
He has his work cut out for him -- but he's used to that.
Before Snyder took over the first time, Kansas State had back-to-back winless seasons. He went 1-10 his first season, then 136-58-1 over the next 16 -- including 109 victories from 1993 to 2003, which included 11 consecutive trips to bowl games.
Snyder started his coaching career in 1964, as an assistant at Indio High. He was a graduate assistant at USC in 1966, then returned to Indio as head coach in 1967-68 before moving over to Santa Ana Foothill High in the same capacity in 1969-73.
No doubting Thomas
A silver lining for the Wildcats so far has been Daniel Thomas, the first Kansas State running back to begin his career with consecutive 100-yard rushing performances since Cornelius Davis in 1966.
Thomas, a junior college transfer, has rushed for 240 yards, but he'll be a marked man for the likes of UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price and linebacker Reggie Carter.
Neuheisel says he sees the Wildcats' running game as a chore to contain.
"They love to run their quarterback, and that creates more gaps," Neuheisel said. "It gives them an extra weapon. So our guys have to stay at home and be conscious of their assignments."
It's not a snap
Neuheisel said Kansas State ran its quarterback. He didn't say the Wildcats did it well.
Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman has 62 yards rushing and is averaging 2.8 yards a carry.
And Coffman has similarly modest numbers passing, having completed 27 of 52 for 360 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"Right now, it's obvious that we need to have substantial improvement at that position," Snyder said.
"We have to make better decisions."
Coffman's job seems safe, though. His backup, Grant Gregory, was 0 for 4 off the bench against Louisiana Lafayette.
"Well, I think we have what we have," Snyder said this week.
Translation: Whomever UCLA doesn't use this week, Craft or Brehaut? The Wildcats will take him.
By the numbers
*--* UCLA CATEGORY KSU 26.5 Scoring 18.0 14.4 Points given up 17.0 158.0 Passing offense 181.5 114.5 Rushing offense 210.5 272.5 Total offense 392.0 165.5 Passing defense 143.5 77.0 Rushing defense 106.0 242.5 Total defense 249.5 *--*