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BYU, UCLA meet for third time in year

BYU, UCLA meet for third time in year

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Just when BYU was getting familiar with UCLA, the Bruins changed coaches.

No. 18 BYU hosts UCLA on Saturday in the third game between the two teams in the last year, but BYU can't base much on last year's regular season meeting and rematch in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Former Bruins quarterback Rick Neuheisel is coaching his alma mater and after just one game has already restored some hope for a program that lost 13 games over the last two seasons.

UCLA's 27-24 overtime win over then-No. 18 Tennessee on Sept. 1 was a grand return for Neuheisel and gave the Cougars (2-0) some new worries as they prepared for the Bruins (1-0).

"I think they're a whole different team this year," BYU linebacker David Nixon said.

The Cougars are just 2-7 all-time against UCLA. BYU won the first meeting in 1983 and the most recent, blocking a field goal attempt on the final play for a 17-16 win in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22. UCLA won everything in between, including a 27-17 victory over the Cougars at the Rose Bowl just over a year ago.

Neuheisel joked that Saturday is the rubber match, but there have been some significant changes in the short time since he was hired to replace Karl Dorrell.

"There is a renewed enthusiasm and excitement for their program," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "As I watch the players play, they're playing hard. They're playing excited and their confidence is gaining."

Mendenhall can only base his assessment on one game because that is all the Bruins have played under Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow, an assistant at BYU for 27 years.

UCLA's defense hasn't changed. Neuheisel kept defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who was the interim coach for the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bruins held BYU to 265 yards -- 200 fewer than average -- and shut out the Cougars in the second half while rallying to set up Kai Forbath's 28-yard field goal attempt to win it.

Ethyn Manumaleuna saved the Cougars by blocking the kick, much like BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen did last week in a 28-27 win at Washington when he blocked a long extra-point attempt after a disputed touchdown celebration penalty on the Huskies.

"I thought DeWayne's defense did a great job keeping them in the game," Neuheisel said. "But as BYU did just this last week, they blocked a kick when they absolutely had to."

Kevin Craft, the third-string quarterback who became the starter because of injuries, will be making his second start for the Bruins. His debut was against Tennessee and started with four interceptions in the first half, but Neuheisel stuck with Craft and it paid off the rest of the game.

Craft originally played for San Diego State and made his first college start two years ago at LaVell Edwards Stadium, where the Cougars have won 13 straight.

BYU hasn't lost a home game in almost three years and has a 12-game winning streak overall, the longest in the nation.

The close call at Washington dropped BYU three spots in the AP poll last week, and that was after a rare nonconference road win.

"The polls I guess don't have any type of motivation for us to do better. It's neat, but it doesn't have anything to do with us," Cougars offensive lineman Bright said.

UCLA is making its first trip to the state since being routed by Utah 44-6 last year, one week after the Bruins' win over BYU ended the Cougars' 11-game winning streak.

The Bruins were ranked No. 11 after beating the Cougars at the Rose Bowl, but fell hard in Salt Lake City. Utah forced five turnovers and didn't allow a touchdown in a game that started a long unraveling process that ended with a 6-7 record.

Although he was an assistant with the Baltimore Ravens at the time, Neuheisel knows well what happened last Sept. 15 and what it led to.

"I have mentioned that I've been asked whether this team will lay an egg, as a reminder that there are people who still don't believe," Neuheisel said. "And there's only one way to change their mind."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-09-12-08 1527MDT

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DOUG ALDEN Sports Writer


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