Nov. 9, 2001
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer
PASADENA, Calif. - UCLA was talking national championship two weeks ago after moving up to third in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
Now, the reeling Bruins are faced with trying to avoid a third consecutive loss without their best player against perhaps the finest team they'll meet all season.
"It's better to have had your hopes raised than never to have had them," said coach Bob Toledo, whose team won't have running back DeShaun Foster in the lineup Saturday against Oregon at the Rose Bowl. "I'm proud of the things we've accomplished, I'm disappointed in the things we haven't accomplished.
"There are a lot of teams that would have been happy to be where we were and where we're at."
Racked with injuries recently, the Bruins received another blow Wednesday when it was announced Foster, a senior who leads the Pac-10 in rushing and touchdowns, wouldn't play against Oregon for violating the NCAA's "extra benefits" rule.
Foster, the nation's third-leading rusher with 1,109 yards on 216 carries (138.6-yard average) and tied for 10th in scoring with 13 touchdowns for 78 points (9.8-point average), will be ineligible for at least one game.
Sophomore Akil Harris, who has gained 144 yards on 19 carries, will start in Foster's place, and redshirt freshman Manuel White, who has gained 153 yards on 30 carries, will also play.
Toledo expressed disappointment over the situation, and so did Oregon coach Mike Bellotti.
"I think it's too bad," Bellotti said. "Obviously, you hate to see those things happen. There's a certain part of me that says we want to play and take on their best. It takes something away from the game."
A crowd of over 80,000 is expected as No. 7 Oregon tries to remain in the national championship picture and No. 17 UCLA attempts to win for the first time since beating California 56-17 on Oct. 20.
Oregon is also shooting for its second unbeaten season on the road since 1963. The Ducks, 4-0 in away games, went 5-0 on the road six years ago.
The game had the earmarks of one of the season's best before No. 16 Stanford came along, beating the Ducks 49-42 on Oct. 20 and the Bruins 38-28 the following weekend.
Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) has bounced back with a 24-17 win at No. 11 Washington State and a 42-24 triumph over Arizona State, while UCLA (6-2, 3-2) lost its second straight last Saturday, a 20-14 setback at Washington State.
Led by quarterback Joey Harrington, the explosive Ducks have one of the country's most potent offenses, averaging 37.3 points per game.
And with linebacker Robert Thomas leading the way, the Bruins possess one of the top defenses, allowing an average of 16.9 points.
"They have a couple good running backs, a great receiver, good quarterback," Thomas said. "They're very balanced, we can't just focus on the pass. We have to stay after them, be aggressive."
Of Harrington, Thomas said: "He has a lot of confidence, he's going good. He's going to come out and give us his `A' game. We've got to get after him, show him different coverages, mix it up on them."
Harrington passed for 319 yards and a school record-tying six touchdowns against ASU. Overall this season, he's completed 162 of 277 for 2,115 yards and 22 touchdowns with only five interceptions.
Onterrio Smith, who gained a school-record 285 yards at Washington State, has rushed for 933 yards on 138 carries, and Maurice Morris, expected to play after missing the ASU game with a strained hamstring, has picked up 729 yards on 140 carries.
Thomas made 18 tackles at Washington State in a game where the Bruins allowed only 276 yards of total offense to a team averaging a conference-leading 480.1 yards beforehand.
"If there is a team that's built to play us, it's probably UCLA," Harrington said. "As a collective group, it's the most talented defense we've seen."