UCLA had just won, 59-6. The Bruins had amassed 538 yards and used five quarterbacks, including a walk-on who wasn’t even listed on the depth chart. Denny Stolz, then San Diego State’s coach, was asked whether the Bruins belonged on the Aztecs’ schedule.
“No,” Stolz conceded after that 1988 game at the Rose Bowl. “They’re just too good.”
Stolz was talking about one season, but he might as well have been talking about the series. UCLA and San Diego State have played 20 times. The Bruins have won 19 of those games. The Aztecs cling to the memory of a 13-13 tie in 1924.
The Bruins have beaten the Aztecs in five decades, beginning with a 25-6 victory in 1922. There have been victories by margins large (43-7 in 2002) and small (a 28-25 squeaker in 1989 wasn’t secure until quarterback Bret Johnson scored a late touchdown).
Altogether, the Bruins have outscored San Diego State, 628-206 -- an average score of 31-10. There have been four shutouts.
Current Aztec players say they can’t be held accountable for what happened during the Coolidge administration, but they have had their own troubles with UCLA in recent years.
“All I know is that we haven’t won a game yet,” San Diego State senior defensive back Marcus Demps said. “That’s pretty much all that needs to be said.”
San Diego State gets another chance to make history Saturday night when the Aztecs play host to UCLA at Qualcomm Stadium, though fourth-year Aztec Coach Tom Craft says he’s not using the Bruins’ 19-0-1 record in the series as motivation.
“It’s a one-sided series, there’s no question about it,” Craft said. “But we don’t dwell on the history or what’s been going on in the past.”
That’s probably a good idea, considering the sordid details.
Not even Marshall Faulk, San Diego State’s all-time leading rusher, could help sway the momentum in the Aztecs’ favor. Faulk was averaging 259.5 yards when the then-No. 21 Aztecs, who had already tied USC in their opener, 31-31, marched into the Rose Bowl in 1992.
In a sign of things to come, Faulk fumbled twice in his first three carries. He finished with 118 yards in 23 carries, but UCLA won, 35-7.
“It shows you that one or two superstars can’t really take down a team with fairly strong talent across the field,” said San Diego State receiver coach Ray Peterson, who played for the Aztecs from 1992 to ’95.
Peterson said that despite UCLA’s domination, he had never been intimidated by the Bruins, as a player or coach.
“You’re aware of the tradition that’s there and the quality of athletes, but it’s no different than going up against USC or Miami,” he said. “If you harp on the tradition too much, it can creep into someone’s head where they say, ‘Man, why haven’t we beaten these guys?’ ”
Depth often has been a difference-maker in a series matching teams from major and middling conferences, currently the Pacific 10 and Mountain West. Manpower appeared to be an issue as far back as 1924, when UCLA rallied with two third-quarter touchdowns to forge a 13-13 tie after falling behind 13-0.
“State College’s heretofore impregnable line seemed to wither in the third period, owing partly to substitutions,” read an account of the game in The Times.
Former UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, whose teams went 10-0 against San Diego State from 1984 to ’93, also noted that his Bruins benefited from superior depth.
“I didn’t necessarily feel going in that our team was deeper,” Donahue said, “but I think as the games unfolded I felt like our team was a little deeper and therefore we could play more players and had a chance to win.”
The Aztecs have made some gains in depth recently. Last year’s starting quarterback, Matt Dlugolecki, is now the team’s third-stringer, behind sophomore Kevin O’Connell and redshirt freshman Darren Mougey.
Donahue said there were other causes for concern for the Bruins, one being the fearlessness with which San Diego State can play as the underdog in an opener.
“You have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” Donahue said. “You can gamble, go for onside kicks and go for it on fourth and one when you otherwise might have not.”
With the teams not on each other’s future schedules, now may be San Diego State’s last chance for a while to end the skid.
“I’d love to be the team,” said Aztec senior defensive end Kurt Kahui. “We’re always looking for something to leave a legacy.”
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UCLA has dominated San Diego State, winning 19 times and tying in 1924:
*--* Year Result 1922 UCLA 25, San Diego State 6 1923 UCLA 12, San Diego State 0 1924 San Diego State 13, UCLA 13 1925 UCLA 7, San Diego State 0 1926 UCLA 42, San Diego State 7 1933 UCLA 13, San Diego State 0 1934 UCLA 20, San Diego State 0 1984 UCLA 18, San Diego State 15 1985 UCLA 34, San Diego State 16 1986 UCLA 45, San Diego State 14 1987 UCLA 47, San Diego State 14 1988 UCLA 59, San Diego State 6 1989 UCLA 28, San Diego State 25 1990 UCLA 45, San Diego State 31 1991 UCLA 37, San Diego State 12 1992 UCLA 35, San Diego State 7 1993 UCLA 52, San Diego State 13 2002 UCLA 43, San Diego State 7 2003 UCLA 20, San Diego State 10 2004 UCLA 33, San Diego State 10