Asked what makes San Diego State tailback Marshall Faulk an extraordinary talent, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue put his hand over his heart.
"He really plays with a huge heart," Donahue said. "His style I would liken very much to Barry Sanders'. At times you think you've just flat got him stopped, and all of a sudden he breaks a tackle."
Faulk broke some tackles against UCLA last season, running for 79 yards and a touchdown in 15 carries as the Bruins defeated San Diego State, 37-12. That is the last time he has been held under 100 yards in a game.
UCLA's defense will try to neutralize Faulk again when the No. 11 Bruins (2-0) play the No. 21 Aztecs (1-0-1) today at 12:30 at the Rose Bowl.
Faulk said he didn't get enough carries against UCLA last season.
"Last year was kind of a mixed-up game for us because we came off of a short week, and we had a couple people hurt," Faulk said. "I must have had 11 or 12 carries because I was sharing time with T.C. Wright, and I can't do too much with 11 or 12 carries. You just don't get a feel for the game like that. You have to be in there every play to see what's going on."
How did UCLA contain Faulk last year?
"We just ran our basic defense against him last year," Bruin defensive tackle Matt Werner said. "We were aware of what he wants to do. He wants to take the corner and bounce outside. 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."
UCLA, which had the nation's eighth-best run defense last season, has given up an average of 146 yards per game rushing this season. The Bruins have given up one rushing touchdown.
Werner said it will be a challenge to contain Faulk.
"It's something I'm looking forward to," Werner said. "I've seen him play twice on TV and it was kind of scary, watching how he was running through people, so it should be a good challenge for us."
The nation's leading rusher, Faulk has averaged 259.5 yards rushing in his first two games and is on a pace to surpass Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 2,628 yards.
Brigham Young safety Derwin Gray was impressed after Faulk had run for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the Aztecs' 45-38 victory over the Cougars two weeks ago.
"He's incredible," Gray said. "I've never had anyone just flat out run away from me like he did. The only way to stop him is to lock him in a room and not let him play."
The game also matches quarterbacks who began the season as backups.
Tim Gutierrez, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound redshirt sophomore who has taken two snaps in a college game, is expected to start for San Diego State in place of David Lowery, sidelined because of a severely sprained back.
Lowery, who has passed for 298 yards and three touchdowns, said he was injured three weeks ago in the Aztecs' 31-31 season-opening tie against USC. Although he played five days later at BYU, he has missed almost an entire week of practice.
Coach Al Luginbill said he would decide on a starter after watching Lowery and Gutierrez warm up before the game, but Gutierrez was told Wednesday night that he would be starting.
Rob Walker, a redshirt freshman who completed 18 of 26 passes for 198 yards in UCLA's 17-10 victory at BYU last week, will start his second college game. He completed 14 of 16 passes for 160 yards in the first half, as UCLA opened a 17-0 lead, but faltered in the second.
San Diego State's pass defense has given up nine touchdowns in two games, and opponents are averaging 329 yards passing against the Aztecs.
UCLA tailback Kevin Williams, who suffered a bruised chest muscle last week, is expected to start, but guard James Christensen (pinched neck nerve) and linebacker Rod Smalley (sprained knee) won't play. Wide receiver Bryan Adams, sidelined because of a sprained ankle, will be in uniform after missing the first two games but is listed as questionable.
UCLA is 14-0-1 against San Diego State and is 8-0 since the series resumed in 1984. . . . The Aztecs are winless in their last 19 games against teams from outside the Western Athletic Conference and the Big West. They are 0-13-1 in their last 14 games against Pacific 10 teams. . . . A crowd of 50,000 is expected.