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Bruins have had tough times in Tucson

UCLA faces another key matchup against Arizona Wildcats, who have won four in a row against UCLA at home.

November 08, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA Coach Jim Mora will be looking to end a dismal trend for the Bruins in Tucson when his team lines up against Arizona on Saturday.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora will be looking to end a dismal trend for the Bruins in… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)

Tucson has been anything but friendly to UCLA's football team.

The Bruins have lost four consecutive games at Arizona Stadium, and all came with an abnormal amount of suffering and turmoil.

Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel had their fates as coaches sealed in 2007 and 2011. UCLA had a perfect season soiled in 2005. The Bruins walked away embarrassed after the Tucson Tussle, an ugly brawl in 2011.

Once more into the breach go the No. 16 Bruins, who travel to Tucson for a game Saturday with no margin for error. Another loss probably will keep UCLA (6-2 overall, 3-2 in Pac-12) out of the conference championship game. Arizona (6-2, 3-2) is in the same situation.

"It's a tough environment to play in," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "They are going to do their best to get in our heads. That is what happens when you go on the road."

A summary of the Bruins' last four nightmarish trips to play the Wildcats:


UCLA entered the game ranked seventh with a three-pronged offensive attack: quarterback Drew Olson, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis.

"We came home with our tails between our legs," Olson said.

Arizona, which finished with a record of 3-8, rolled to a 52-14 victory.

"We were coming off an emotional comeback win at Stanford and just got smoked," Olson said. "We were not focused and they were hyped."

Tucson remains a head-scratcher to Olson.

"Arizona always has a lot of L.A. kids," Olson said. "It's a big deal when UCLA or USC comes to town."


After UCLA lost, 34-27, to an Arizona team that finished 5-7, Bruins linebacker Christian Taylor made a pointed postgame comment: "It's just about finding some players in here to play football with."

Looking back, Taylor said it was more who the Bruins were than who they were playing.

"I never felt we put it together on a week-by-week basis," Taylor said. "You never knew which version of us would show up."

Dorrell was fired and Rick Neuheisel was in charge the following season.

"That was the story of my whole time at UCLA," Taylor said. "It was frustrating."


The "Zona Zoo," Arizona's student section, and other Wildcats fans made things uncomfortable during a 27-13 UCLA loss.

"Fans used language that other Pac-12 fans don't use," said Kevin Prince, UCLA's quarterback in that game. "As a young player, it kind of rattled your psyche a little bit. It was the first time I had been cussed at by fans."

Fans weren't the only ones causing discomfort. Before the game, UCLA receiver Randall Carroll ripped offensive coordinator Norm Chow on Twitter.

Carroll used a racial slur that Prince heard fans shout at UCLA's African American players during the game.

"My dad's best friend came to the game," Prince said. "He said he would never go back to Tucson."


It wasn't only the 48-12 loss that damaged UCLA. The game included a bizarre moment that escalated into a dangerous one.

A fan dressed as a referee ran onto the field and tried to take the football after a play. He then stripped and streaked.

As the teams waited, a punch was thrown that started a brawl. Players from both sidelines stormed the field.

"The fact it was on national TV had people talking about it for days," receiver Shaquelle Evans said. "We put Coach Neuheisel out on a limb."

The limb was sawed off after a 50-0 loss to USC and the Bruins finished 6-8 despite reaching the first Pac-12 title game.

"All the bigwigs said that he couldn't control the team, but that was a hard team to control," linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said. "We had a lot of loose cannons."

It was a turning point, Zumwalt said.

"We had to realize what road we were going down," Zumwalt said. "Were we going to be the team that loses the game, gets [angry] and fights? Or were we going to be the team that fights between the whistles and wins big games?"


Things will be different, UCLA players and coaches say.

Arizona still has Los Angeles kids, but "they have a new coach and I don't think they have the same players who were rowdy," receiver Devin Lucien said.

The Zona Zoo is something to joke about. "I think they dip into the Tequila a little bit," Noel Mazzone, UCLA's offensive coordinator, joked.

The Bruins say they are ready to answer any consistency question.

"Our goal is to play for a Rose Bowl," Evans said. "Every one of our games is a playoff game."

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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