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By KEN RITTER Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- UCLA interim head coach DeWayne Walker handled the run-up to his Las Vegas Bowl debut much like a two-minute drill Thursday.
The Bruins defensive coordinator said his team was flattered to be invited to the game, aired his ties and respect for the Brigham Young Cougars and quickly handed off to senior strong safety, Chris Horton.
"Bronco's bringing a great football team," Walker said of BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall, whose Cougars finished 10-2 overall and 8-0 in winning the Mountain West Conference. BYU ranked 17th in final BCS standings, and 19th in The Associated Press poll.
"I had a chance to watch them on film and I was like, 'Wow, here we go again,"' Walker said before leaving the podium. "We're going to have our hands full."
One of BYU's two losses this season was to UCLA, 27-17, when the teams met Sept. 8 in Pasadena, Calif. The Bruins, who were ranked as high as 11th, fell to 6-6 overall, and 5-4 to tie for fourth place in the Pac-10.
"We know what kind of team BYU is," Horton said. "I can assure you that it's a game you're not going to want to miss. If you watched this game earlier you saw two teams get after each other from start to finish."
Of course, the news conference touting the Dec. 22 bowl game featured a pair of Vegas showgirls -- standing regally to one side in fancy blue and gold headdresses and white boas that shed feathers while team and bowl representatives spoke.
"In just two weeks, we're going to open our doors and turn on the lights and welcome two of the biggest names in college football," said Tina Kunzer-Murphy, executive director of the bowl, which is sponsored by Pioneer Electronics and will be telecast by ESPN.
Bowl officials call the 16th annual game a sellout at 40,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium, with both teams buying their allotted 12,000 tickets.
Both teams will be returning to the Las Vegas Bowl for a third time. Each has won one and lost one. UCLA defeated New Mexico in 2002 and lost to Wyoming in 2004. The Cougars defeated Oregon, 38-8 last year, and lost 35-28 to California in 2005.
"This is our third year in a row and we're very excited to be back," said Tom Holmoe, BYU athletic director. "We know as champions this is a game that we earned, to be in Las Vegas."
Holmoe and Walker noted that they coached together at California in 1996-97. Walker also coached at Utah State, BYU and Oklahoma State before defensive coaching stints with the New England Patriots, New York Giants and Washington Redskins.
He will end his second year at UCLA by replacing Karl Dorrell, who declined to coach the bowl game after being fired Dec. 3. Dorrell finished with a 35-27 record during five years in the job.
"You can never predict how things will end," Walker said in a brief interview amid the media lunch at the ESPN Zone sports bar at the New York New York hotel-casino.
"The thing about this season is we played well enough to get to a bowl game, to play against a very good team, and to give our guys a chance to play one more game."
---- On the Net: Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl: http://www.lvbowl.com
Mountain West Conference: http://themwc.collegesports.com
Pacific 10 Conference: http://www.pac-10.org
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)