Midterm Exam: Stanford's Next Test Is Mighty UCLA
Oct 26, 2001
Stanford, Calif. (AP) - Tyrone Willingham enjoyed one of the biggestvictories of his career for perhaps five hours.
That's how long it took No. 20 Stanford to get home from Eugene, OR, afterthe Cardinal's 49-42 victory over Oregon last Saturday. By the time the planelanded in the San Francisco Bay area, Willingham's mind already was on the nexttest on Stanford's schedule.
'It was very satisfying last Saturday night,' Willingham said.'Unfortunately, Saturday night doesn't last very long.'
After a loss to Washington State and a surprising win over the Ducks,Stanford (4-1, 3-1 Pac-10) meets UCLA (6-0, 3-0) - its second straight opponentwith a top-5 ranking - in yet another clash between two of the conference's topteams.
By the time Stanford travels to Washington next week, the Cardinal will havefaced four straight outstanding opponents - and their chances for a conferencetitle and a good bowl game will be much more clear.
'We saw this coming on our schedule, and we knew it was going to be a toughstretch,' safety Tank Williams said. 'We just want to survive it.'
Beating the fourth-ranked Bruins would be tough enough under idealcircumstances. Stanford must try to do it with a backup quarterback, abanged-up offensive line - and a home crowd that's likely to be filled withBruins backers.
Though Stanford needs a victory to stay in the conference title race, thestakes are even higher for UCLA, currently third in the Bowl ChampionshipSeries rankings. A victory likely would move the Bruins to second in therankings that determine the national championship game's participants.
'We don't need that for motivation,' star linebacker Robert Thomas said.'All that stuff - the BCS, the polls - is going to come at the end of theseason. All we know is that you lose one game, and you're out. We're 6-0, andwe want to be 7-0. We want to be flying home with another smile on our face.'
UCLA has stayed undefeated with a stingy defense that Willingham calls oneof the two or three best he's seen in his seven seasons at Stanford. The Bruinshave held all six of their opponents this season under 20 points - the firsttime that's happened since 1966.
'They're very impressive in the way they attack the ball and the way theycome after you with everything they've got,' Stanford quarterback Chris Lewissaid. 'Thomas is a great player. You don't see guys like that every weekend.'
Lewis was thrust into Stanford's victory over Oregon when starter RandyFasani was hurt early in the second quarter. Lewis rallied the Cardinal tovictory, and with Fasani out 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained knee, Lewis will gethis fourth career start against the Bruins.
'I think he's one of the up-and-coming star quarterbacks in thisconference, (but) we are going to come after him,' UCLA coach Bob Toledo said.'I think part of the game is hitting quarterbacks. We are going to try torattle him, but he can run well, so you have to be careful and pick yourspots.'
The Bruins also have injury problems. Brian Poli-Dixon, the fifth-leadingreceiver in school history, is doubtful with a dislocated shoulder, whilestarting guard Shane Lehmann, who didn't play against Cal with a sprainedankle, is doubtful.
UCLA cornerback Matt Ware, who sprained his ankle against Cal last weekend,went full speed during practice Wednesday and declared himself fit to play.
At 6-foot-3, Ware is the best-equipped defensive back to match up with 6-7Stanford receiver Teyo Johnson, who had five catches for 95 yards, a TD andtwo-point conversion at Oregon.
'It definitely will be a challenge,' Ware said. 'The key is getting goodbody position on jump balls.'
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer