Aug 30, 2001
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writers
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Last season, UCLA shredded Alabama's national title hopes, physically dominated a proud defense and left the Crimson Tide's confidence in tatters.
In other words, quarterback Andrew Zow said, they "really put the spoil on our season."
The 25th-ranked Tide have been spoiling for a rematch ever since. They'll get it when No. 17 UCLA pays its first visit to the state Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
"We were a little bit overconfident and a little bit full of ourselves and we didn't really want to hear it when everybody said we weren't as good as we thought we were," Alabama linebacker Saleem Rasheed said. "Right now, we're going to approach the game with a more humble attitude.
"I believe that's going to be the difference."
Last season, Deshaun Foster and the Bruins pounded a Tide team riding the wave of a preseason No. 3 ranking and title talk.
"They were going to come in and run all over us," UCLA linebacker Robert Thomas said. "We just kept our mouths shut and when they came to town, we just handed it to them.
"Now, we're going to Alabama, and we can't wait."
Tide fans can't wait to see who will start at quarterback, Zow or Tyler Watts. Coach Dennis Franchione isn't saying and has instructed his players to keep it quiet.
Watts has been taking most of the snaps with the first team in practice and is expected to get the nod. Center Alonzo Ephraim said it doesn't matter who starts.
"I think our whole offense is confident with both of them, and both of them can get the job done," said Ephraim, one of three new offensive line starters. "We trust both our quarterbacks. We trust our coaches more than anything."
The Bruins won last year's game 35-24 behind Foster's relentless, 42-carry performance. He had 216 all-purpose yards, not far shy of Alabama's 265 total yards.
The performance definitely has stuck with the Tide defense.
"We're going to hit him and hit him until he doesn't want to run the ball anymore," defensive tackle David Daniels said.
"You've got to send a message early, because if he gets his confidence up, it's going to be hard to stop him," Rasheed added. "He's such a tremendous athlete, such speed and strength. You rarely see that mix in a running back."
Foster refuses to gloat over that performance.
"We're not saying it was an easy game," he said. "Our game plan was working and everything was working for us.
"Alabama had an off year last year, their whole season, not just our game."
Watts said the key will be avoiding the three turnovers and costly penalties of last season's meeting. The two quarterbacks combined to go 11-of-30 for 119 yards.
"We don't need any turnovers," Watts said. "And if we take care of our business, we'll put ourselves in position to win in the fourth quarter, and that's all you can ask."
He said last year's team went into this game with the wrong mindset.
"We thought this was going to be a cakewalk and UCLA was much better than we had anticipated," Watts said. "We were definitely overconfident."
Win or lose, Franchione doesn't want the game to cause the dramatic mood swing of last season.
"I know our guys would say last year's game sent them going in the wrong direction, and we can't let that happen," he said.
Linebacker Victor Ellis echoed that sentiment.
"It's not an SEC game," he said. "It can't make or break us."