UCLA handled Houston, 31-13, at the Rose Bowl, a victory that made two things clear: The Bruins have better talent than is found wandering around Conference USA, and UCLA will not go winless this season.
The Cougars, though, are the Lone Star state's junior varsity compared to the Texas team UCLA faces in Austin on Saturday.
"There is no question, we're going up the ladder a little bit," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "That is no slight on Houston."
But Neuheisel said that Texas "has everything. Their shelves are stocked. They don't long for anything. I think their recruiting class for 2017 has already committed."
In other words, they're good. Really good. So whether Houston was worthy of its No. 23 ranking or was an impostor, the Bruins defense will need to improve.
"We can enjoy this win for one night, then we got to get back to work," safety Rahim Moore said. "Texas is going to be a handful."
But after being battered around the first two games, the Bruins defense did something different against Houston: tackling.
— Linebacker Patrick Larimore made 10 solo tackles, three for a loss, and forced a fumble.
— Linebacker Akeem Ayers intercepted a pass at the goal line and had five solo tackles, two for a loss.
— Safety Tony Dye saved a touchdown, keeping quarterback Case Keenum out of the end zone at the end of a 45-yard run. Ayers made his interception on the next play.
"We felt our backs were against the wall," Ayers said. "It was either come out swinging or lay down."
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough continues to point to a lack of game experience as the root cause for defensive troubles this season.
"You can show them film, you can coach them in practice, but the reality is it is game speed that makes them better," Bullough said.
The Bruins spent the game in a boutique defense, using five defensive backs. Andrew Abbott, the fifth wheel in the secondary, had seven solo tackles. But seventh-ranked Texas will present a much different look.
"They have a more balanced attack," Neuheisel said of Texas. "They can just pound away at you or they can attack the field with the throwing game."
Larimore was the Bruins' most prominent defensive player against Houston, with a handful of eye-catching hits.
"He sees the field well and has good instincts," Neuheisel said. "He's going to be a bona fide big-time player."
Neuheisel tempered his own hyperbole, saying, "You can't start putting him up for honors yet. He's done it for three games."
Cornerback Anthony Jefferson became the eighth true freshman to play this season, six of whom are on defense. … Defensive end Iuta Tepa (torn muscle) and linebacker Jarad Koster (separated shoulder) will require surgery. … Tackle Micah Kia (ankle injury) was available to play, Neuheisel said, but Mike Harris started in his place.