UCLA plays Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, and the Bruins are looking to end a string of poor showings in the state. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the story lines:
Bad memory lane
The answer is: receiver Derek Ayers.
The question is: Who was the last player to score a touchdown for UCLA in the state of Utah?
Ayers' 30-yard run on a reverse was the last score in the Bruins' 23-9 victory over Brigham Young in 1995. Since then, the Bruins have lost, 44-6 to Utah in 2007, 59-0 to BYU in 2008, and 31-6 to Utah in 2011.
Responsibility for reaching the end zone falls to UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who is directing one of the nation's top offenses. The Bruins rank second to Baylor in total yards, averaging 614. They are third to Baylor and Oregon in scoring offense with an average of 52.7 points per game.
Utah looked vulnerable against Oregon State, whose quarterback, Sean Mannion, passed for 443 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-48 overtime win.
Hundley was on the bench as a redshirt freshman when the Bruins slipped around on an icy field at Utah in 2011. "I don't think I saw the [turf] once with all the ice," Hundley said.
This time the weather should cooperate. There is no snow or sleet in the forecast. The temperature is expected to be about 48 degrees at game time.
The UCLA secondary has become a weekly topic.
The Bruins, as has been dissected, are young. Their cornerbacks are sophomore Ishmael Adams, who missed most of last season following shoulder surgery, and sophomore Fabian Moreau, who was a receiver when he arrived at UCLA.
Adams intercepted his first pass against New Mexico State and Moreau's experience level is gaining on his skill level.
This will be their stiffest test to date.
Travis Wilson, Utah's sophomore quarterback, has passed for 1,118 yards and run for 251 yards in four games. He is not a top-shelf athlete, but he is 6 feet 6 and runs with a linebacker's attitude.
Wilson has accounted for 14 of Utah's 21 touchdowns — nine passing, five running.
Stop or go
Former Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a first-team All-American, is in the NFL. But the Utes haven't experienced much of a drop-off on the defensive front.
Tenny Palepoi moved into Lotulelei's spot and Utah is No. 29 out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing yards allowed.
UCLA's Jordon James is the nation's fifth-leading rusher, averaging 141.3 yards per game.
The Utes held UCLA's Johnathan Franklin to 79 yards at the Rose Bowl in 2012, but Hundley hurt them by running for 68 yards, including a couple of key third-down scrambles in a 21-14 Bruins' victory.
What to make of the Utes.
Utah lost to Oregon State, which lost to Division I-AA Eastern Washington. So the Utes aren't as good as their 3-1 record might indicate.
Utah beat Brigham Young, which beat Texas. So the Utes are as good as their record.
One thing is certain: The Utes are state champs, having already defeated Utah State, Weber State and BYU.
Down the line
If the No. 12 Bruins clear this hurdle and earn an expected victory over California on Oct. 12, they will probably be in the Associated Press top 10 heading to Palo Alto for a game against No. 5 Stanford. After that comes a trip to No. 2 Oregon.
Looking ahead is not in Coach Jim Mora's DNA, but even he sees where the road leads.
"We worked really hard during the off-season to be a mentally tough team," Mora said. "We have some really great tests coming up to see where we are."