Last trip to Tucson was painful
Memory Lanes do not always make for pleasant strolls.
The last time UCLA played at Arizona was in 2005, when the Bruins were 8-0 and ranked seventh in the nation.
And they brought home a 52-14 loss that still stings.
So, returning for today’s game reopens some doors they’d rather see boarded up.
“It was a horrible feeling,” UCLA guard Shannon Tevaga said. “Watching the score go up, up, up, up. It was embarrassing, especially when their fans came jumping on the field [after the game].
“Of course I remember it. We were undefeated and trying to get to the national championship game that year.”
Arizona finished with a 3-8 record in 2005. The Bruins were 10-2.
UCLA goals have been downsized this season, but once again the Bruins are in the running for the Pacific 10 Conference title. Victories in their four remaining games would give them the conference championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl.
So what the Bruins don’t need is deja vu against an Arizona team that is 3-6, especially since they close the season against three ranked teams -- Arizona State, Oregon and USC.
“That was an ugly feeling that sticks with you,” cornerback Trey Brown said of the 2005 rout. “It sticks in the back of the mind, especially after [Arizona fans] stormed the field the last time. But this is two different teams.”
Besides, the Bruins don’t need to look that far back to draw inspiration. UCLA is coming off a 27-7 loss to lowly Washington State.
“Just playing again is enough motivation after getting blasted last week,” Tevaga said.
Quarterback Patrick Cowan, whose mobility adds to the Bruins’ offense, appeared stiff in the loss at Washington State last week. But Cowan seemed more nimble during practice this week.
“I think he’s getting in better shape,” Coach Karl Dorrell said. “The more he’s practicing, the more comfortable he is wearing that brace” on his right knee.
The Bruins are without five players who were projected starters in August: quarterback Ben Olson (knee), fullback Michael Pitre (knee), wide receiver Marcus Everett (ankle), defensive end Nikola Dragovic (hernia) and defensive tackle Brigham Harwell (knee).
On top of that, leading rusher Kahlil Bell is out for the season because of a knee injury and Harwell’s replacements, Jess Ward (knee) and Chase Moline (neck and back), are no longer available.
“It put us in kind of a tough spot,” defensive end Bruce Davis said. “When it comes down to it, players have to play, coaches have to coach.”
Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama ranks seventh nationally in passing yards per game at 311.6. He threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-41 victory over Washington last week. . . . Wildcats wide receiver Mike Thomas leads the Pac-10 in receptions with 63 for 711 yards.
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KEYS TO THE GAME
UCLA (5-3, 4-1) at Arizona (3-6, 2-4) Today, 12:30 p.m., Tucson TV: Channel 7. Radio: 570
1 Good “PR” work. Arizona must “protect” quarterback Willie Tuitama, whereas UCLA must “pressure” him. UCLA was scorched by Washington State quarterback Alex Brink last week. Tuitama is less mobile. If the Bruins get in Tuitama’s face, the Arizona offense wobbles. If not, he will show them how he threw for 510 yards last week.
2 Gotta run. Kahlil Bell, UCLA’s leading rusher, is out for the season because of a knee injury, but the Bruins should be OK provided Chris Markey has fully recovered from a toe injury. Arizona has produced only 77 yards rushing a game this season, but then an iffy Washington State running attack rolled over the Bruins.
3 Control the tempo. The Wildcats’ spread offense can score in a hurry, so a shootout would be to their advantage. The Bruins would prefer to hang on to the ball longer and keep Tuitama cooling his heels.
-- Chris Foster