Oct. 26, 2001
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. - Tyrone Willingham enjoyed one of the biggest victories of his career for perhaps five hours.
That's how long it took No. 20 Stanford to get home from Eugene, Ore., after the Cardinal's 49-42 victory over Oregon last Saturday. By the time the plane landed in the San Francisco Bay area, Willingham's mind already was on the next test 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 opponent with a top-5 ranking - in yet another clash between two of the conference's top teams.
By the time Stanford travels to Washington next week, the Cardinal will have faced four straight outstanding opponents - and their chances for a conference title 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 tough stretch," safety Tank Williams said. "We just want to survive it."
Beating the fourth-ranked Bruins would be tough enough under ideal circumstances. Stanford must try to do it with a backup quarterback, a banged-up offensive line - and a home crowd that's likely to be filled with Bruins backers.
Though Stanford needs a victory to stay in the conference title race, the stakes are even higher for UCLA, currently third in the Bowl Championship Series rankings. A victory likely would move the Bruins to second in the rankings 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 the season. All we know is that you lose one game, and you're out. We're 6-0, and we 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 one of the two or three best he's seen in his seven seasons at Stanford. The Bruins have held all six of their opponents this season under 20 points - the first time that's happened since 1966.
"They're very impressive in the way they attack the ball and the way they come after you with everything they've got," Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis said. "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 Randy Fasani was hurt early in the second quarter. Lewis rallied the Cardinal to victory, and with Fasani out 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained knee, Lewis will get his fourth career start against the Bruins.
"I think he's one of the up-and-coming star quarterbacks in this conference, (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 to rattle him, but he can run well, so you have to be careful and pick your spots."
The Bruins also have injury problems. Brian Poli-Dixon, the fifth-leading receiver in school history, is doubtful with a dislocated shoulder, while starting guard Shane Lehmann, who didn't play against Cal with a sprained ankle, 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 6-7 Stanford receiver Teyo Johnson, who had five catches for 95 yards, a TD and two-point conversion at Oregon.
"It definitely will be a challenge," Ware said. "The key is getting good body position on jump balls."