UCLA has, in the last two weeks, put up 31 points against Houston and 34 against Texas, cleansing the bitter taste from consecutive losses that started the season.
The resurgence can be attributed to a run-and … shoot-let's-run-again offense. UCLA had only 27 yards passing in its 34-12 victory over Texas a week after throwing for only 99 yards in a 31-13 victory over Houston.
In four games, Kevin Prince has passed for only 285 yards, which wouldn't raise an eyebrow if he was playing quarterback for Oklahoma in the 1970s, but is unheard of for any recent Pacific 10 Conference passer.
UCLA's success has come because the Bruins are suddenly able to run the ball. With 266 yards rushing against Houston and 264 against Texas, the Bruins are 20th in the nation in rushing, averaging 218.8 yards per game.
"My instincts say, yes, we need to force ourselves to throw the ball a little more," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "But there are lots of weapons. …By the ability to control the clock and control field position, you can cause the other team to be impatient."
Prince, who sat out a considerable amount of practice time because of a back injury, still isn't sure why he struggled to throw in UCLA's first two games.
"Whether it was lack of rhythm or me being rusty, I'm not really sure why it wasn't clicking," he said.
The last two games are easy to explain: The Bruins simply haven't passed very often. But Prince isn't worried about that, either.
"I do feel I can get back on track and when we do need to throw the ball, it will be there," he said.
Saturday against Washington State would seem to be a good starting point. The Cougars rank 116th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams against the pass, giving up 286.2 yards per game.
Prince completed 29 of 45 passes for 314 yards in UCLA's 43-7 victory over Washington State last season.
Selling the moment
Washington State ranks near the bottom of major college football in nearly every statistical category, offense and defense. Neuheisel, though, is preaching the apocalypse to his players, even reading them disparaging e-mails he received from fans after the Bruins' 35-0 loss to Stanford two weeks ago.
"If we think we're good enough to relax and enjoy the backslapping, we're out of our minds,'' Neuheisel said.
The message is sticking.
"If we sleep on these guys, we can get beat just like Texas got beat," defensive tackle David Carter said.
Asked whether a high-level Pac-10 team should handle the Cougars easily, Carter said, "Naturally they do. But history tells us if you're not prepared for a fight, you lose."
Washington State has lost 18 of its last 19 Pac-10 games. … UCLA has lost six consecutive games in October, including five last season. … UCLA's game at California on Oct. 9 will start at 12:30 p.m. and be televised on Fox Sports Net.