No Time to Look Down : College football: The Bruins are supposed to beat San Diego State, but Coach Terry Donahue says they can’t snub anybody.
From a psychological standpoint, San Diego State may be the most difficult opponent on UCLA’s football schedule.
“The public perception is that UCLA is playing down and San Diego State is playing up,” Bruin Coach Terry Donahue said. “It’s a difficult game psychologically to prepare for.”
The Bruins have never lost to San Diego State in a series that began in 1922, yet there have been some harrowing moments for Donahue’s teams, such as winning, 18-15, in 1984 and by the same margin, 28-25, in 1989 at Jack Murphy Stadium, site of today’s game, which begins at 5 p.m.
In a sense, it’s a no-win situation for UCLA. The Bruins are expected to win, while the Aztecs, of the Western Athletic Conference, are perceived to be a notch below UCLA in overall talent.
“Who are we to snub our noses at anybody?” said Donahue, referring to the Bruins’ last two losing seasons.
“In our current situation, I can’t imagine that we would be arrogant about anybody we’d play. I think our team is hungry, and that would prevent what otherwise might be a no-win situation. Our own set of circumstances will deter that.”
UCLA is 1-1 after beating Brigham Young, 27-23, then losing to Tennessee, 30-16. San Diego is 2-1 after routing Cal State Long Beach, 49-13; and Pacific, 55-34; then losing to Air Force, 21-20, on a missed extra point.
In the Pacific game, freshman tailback Marshall Faulk achieved unexpected national prominence.
Replacing T.C. Wright in the first quarter, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Faulk set an NCAA single-game rushing record with 386 yards. He also scored seven touchdowns, two on runs of 61 and 47 yards.
Against Air Force, a more formidable opponent, Faulk gained 114 yards and scored two touchdowns.
He leads the nation in scoring, with an average of 20.6 points a game, and is second in rushing, averaging 180 yards through three games.
Faulk, 18, grew up in New Orleans and took recruiting trips to Miami and Nebraska before choosing San Diego State.
“He’s a great running back,” San Diego State Coach Al Luginbill said. “I marvel at what he has been able to do. Over and above that, he’s a neat kid. He came back against Air Force and played well for us after a week (of publicity) that a lot of young people couldn’t handle.
“He’s special, and the great ones are special. He can run over you, around you, beat you to the corner and take it all the way. He has all the attributes you look for. He doesn’t have a weakness except for the factor of his age. He’s not experienced.”
Faulk, who reportedly ran a 10.3-second 100 meters at Carver High in New Orleans, is not scheduled to start tonight, but for sure, he will make an early appearance.
Faulk will be challenged by a UCLA unit ranked sixth nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of 72 yards a game. That average was helped, though, by playing BYU, a passing-oriented team.
San Diego State has been known for its passing offense, most recently behind graduated Dan McGwire, a 6-foot-8 quarterback.
The Aztecs have a 6-7 quarterback, sophomore Cree Morris, who hasn’t been as proficient as McGwire, completing only 44.3% of his passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns and throwing one interception.
San Diego State had only 94 passing yards against Air Force, its lowest total since 1984.
“We may not be as good offensively this year, but we’ve improved defensively,” Luginbill said.
Luginbill wouldn’t fault Morris completely, saying that the Aztecs’ wide receivers are inexperienced, with the exception of Patrick Rowe, who is playing with bruised shoulders.
Rowe caught 11 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown against UCLA last year at the Rose Bowl, when the Bruins won, 45-31.
Tonight’s game is an important one for San Diego State, especially from an image standpoint.
The Aztecs, who had 6-5-1 and 6-5 records, respectively, the past two seasons, are striving for respectability--and an invitation to a bowl game.
“We need to win a ‘hump’ game,” said Luginbill, referring to the Bruins, “and this (program) will flip around for us.
“When? I’m as frustrated as (the players) are.”