There is an eagerness that UCLA linemen — both defense and offense — have for Friday's game against Stanford in the Rose Bowl. This is the type of bump-and-grind moment they live for.
Stanford comes in with a reputation for toughness, forged the last six seasons behind behemoth linemen. This isn't a game to the Bruins, this is a challenge.
"Whenever you go up against a good front like Stanford, it's always a good time for us to showcase our skills," UCLA center Jake Brendel said. "They have that Big Ten style. This is going to be fun on Friday."
A lineman's kind of fun.
"This is old-school football," Brendel said.
The Cardinal may not have the same stop-us-if-you-can running game as it had in recent seasons. But the defense remains formidable.
Stanford ranks sixth nationally among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense, seventh in scoring defense and 14th in rushing defense. The Cardinal is 10th in fewest passing yards allowed, 17th in passing efficiency defense and 10th in sacks.
But, Brendel said, it's the Bruins who could dictate terms.
"The defense has to mold to what we do," Brendel said. "It is not so much their style. They have physical ability. They have big guys. But if they don't adapt to what we're doing, then they are not going to be successful."
On the other side of the ball, the Cardinal will not have a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time 2007, unless Remound Wright can roll up 512 yards in the last two games. The Cardinal average 150.5 yards rushing per game, down from 207.1 last season.
Still, the song remains the same for Stanford: power football.
"That's what Stanford hangs its hat on," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "It's … 'We're going have a power running game. We're going to put big bodies out there. We're going to push you around and bully you.' "
Ulbrich said there will be a response.
"Our guys relish the opportunity to prove they are not going to be pushed around," Ulbrich said. "We're becoming tough to deal with."
Just ask Bruins defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes.
"We know the spotlight is on the front seven this week," Vanderdoes said. "Those spread offenses attack the outside and try to make you tired. Stanford comes at you every single play. It's the kind of football we want."
Linebacker Eric Kendricks will play his last regular season game for UCLA on Friday and stands a good chance of leaving the game as the Bruins' all-time leader in tackles.
Kendricks is second on UCLA's all-time list with 460 tackles, just eight behind former UCLA linebacker Jerry Robinson. Kendricks has 128 tackles this season and has reached double-digits in eight of 11 games.
"It's not just what he means to the defense, but what he means to the team," Coach Jim Mora said. "The heart that he plays with, the consistency he plays with, he's just an inspirational guy to everybody. He comes out here every day and works his butt off. He's a machine out there."
UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte, who left practice Tuesday with an injured left leg, returned Wednesday and is expected to play Friday.
Duarte has battled sore hamstrings this season, which forced him to miss two games. He has 23 receptions, averaging 19.9 yards per catch, and three touchdowns this season.
The Bruins are also expected to have defensive back Ishmael Adams (ankle), defensive back Priest Willis (head trauma) and receiver Devin Fuller (leg) available. All practiced Wednesday.