Aztecs Giving a Fresh Face a Tough Task : Football: With Gutierrez at quarterback, SDSU tries to beat UCLA for first time.


The portable grills are packed. The tickets are in hand--between 50 and 55 of them. The itinerary is set.

This morning, Tim Gutierrez's parents, three brothers, one sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends will leave home about 8 and caravan to the Rose Bowl. They have been so excited that they have hardly been able to make it through the week.

It isn't every day a family member family gets to start at quarterback in a game between two ranked teams, on network television, at the Rose Bowl, in front of 50,000.

But when No. 21 San Diego State (1-0-1) takes the field against No. 11 UCLA (2-0) at 12:30 p.m. today, previously invisible Tim Gutierrez, a redshirt sophomore whose college career consists of two handoffs, will take center stage while David Lowery remains on the sideline with a bad back.

"We're so proud of Tim," said Yolanda Gutierrez, Tim's mother. "We're very excited. Tim said he's as ready as he'll ever be.

"He's very nervous, but he's been looking forward to this for a long time."

Frank and Yolanda Gutierrez, who live in Oxnard, have attended every SDSU home game for two seasons. They came two years ago while their son was redshirting. They were there last year when he was on the third team. No matter how hopeless their son's chances of playing looked, they made the drive anyway.

So they are going to savor this day as much as possible. They have programmed their videocassette recorder so they can watch the game again when they get home. They have planned the postgame barbecue in one of the Rose Bowl parking areas.

Unless something disastrous happens, they figure, they will have reason to celebrate.

"I think he will be able to handle it," Yolanda Gutierrez said. "He played a lot of tough games in high school and he was able to pull out of them pretty good."

This, though, will be a little different. The Aztecs are 0-14-1 against UCLA--the tie coming in 1927. Counting his years as an assistant at Arizona State and a head coach at SDSU, Al Luginbill is 0-7-1 against the Bruins.

Overall, SDSU is winless in its past 19 non-Western Athletic or Big West Conference games and is 0-13-1 in its last 14 games against Pac-10 schools.

And Lowery, the Aztecs' starting quarterback, came down with back spasms Sept. 18 and missed nearly a week's worth of practices. Barring a miraculous recovery--or SDSU desperation--Lowery will spend the afternoon on the sidelines.

"I've just got to try to be diverse," said Gutierrez, whose biggest football highlight to date was when his Santa Clara High team defeated Santa Ynez his senior year for the Frontier League championship. "I have to try and go in there and do the best I have with what I have to work with. I just want to go in there and be a leader and take charge."

He has been in the Rose Bowl exactly once--with SDSU as a redshirt freshman two years ago. The Aztecs were walloped that night, 45-31.

"I just remember it being an awesome feeling," Gutierrez said. "As a freshman, you're just in awe. I've seen UCLA play my whole life."

According to his coaches, Gutierrez has a strong arm and an extremely quick release. He is not as mobile as Lowery.

He will be facing what Luginbill says is the toughest defense SDSU will oppose until its game Nov. 28 with Miami, currently ranked No. 1. But the UCLA offense is in a similar predicament to SDSU's: Quarterback Rob Walker made his first start last week after Wayne Cook was injured in the season opener. Walker, though, completed 14 of 16 passes in the first half for 160 yards and finished with 18 completions in 26 attempts for 198 yards.

Luginbill listed three things necessary for SDSU to win: Ball protection on offense, sound tackling on defense and an "absolute minimum of mental penalties."

Of course, as is always the case with SDSU this season, there is one other key: Marshall Faulk.

Faulk, the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy this fall, has rushed for 519 yards in two games. He is averaging 8.4 yards per carry. He also has a career rushing average of 177.1 yards per game, surpassing, for now, Ed Marinaro's NCAA record of 174.6 yards rushing per game.

Last year, Faulk gained 79 yards on 15 carries against UCLA. He has not been held under 100 yards since, and he has rushed for 150 yards or more in seven of eight games since then.

"He wants to take the cornerback and bounce outside," said UCLA defensive tackle Matt Werner. "If we can keep him contained, we shouldn't have too much of a problem.

"But with Marshall Faulk, too much of a problem is an understatement.

"It is something I'm looking forward to. I've seen him play twice on television and it was kind of scary watching how he was running through people."

Brigham Young Coach LaVell Edwards, whose team has lost to both SDSU and UCLA this month, says the teams match up well. Comparative scores seem to bear him out: SDSU and UCLA each defeated the Cougars by seven points. The Aztecs won a high-scoring battle, 45-38, and the Bruins won a defensive struggle, 17-10.

"It certainly has all the makings of a great football game," Edwards said. "I think they match up extremely well. The difference, as is going to be the case a lot of times, could be Marshall Faulk."

Edwards singled out UCLA's secondary and linebacking corps for praise and said the area to watch will be Faulk vs. the UCLA defense.

"That obviously will be the matchup," Edwards said. "I think if San Diego State can run the ball and keep getting first downs, Faulk is going to break one at some point in time."

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