Sept. 26, 2001
Anchored by a surprisingly stingy defense, No. 12 UCLA tries to remain unbeaten when it visits 19th-ranked Oregon State on Saturday in the Pac-10 opener for both schools.
After yielding an average of more than 29 points per game from 1998-2000, the Bruins defense appears to have matured into a cohesive unit under new coordinator Phil Snow - UCLA's fourth defensive coach in five seasons.
"He taught us to be better students of the game," Bruins senior linebacker Robert Thomas said. "He taught us to read formations, to be ready. Now, all 11 on the field know exactly what's going on."
Last Saturday, the Bruins (3-0) rode their tenacious defense to a 13-6 victory over then-No. 21 Ohio State. It was the first time since a 66-3 hammering of Texas on Sept. 13, 1997 that UCLA's defense yielded less than seven points.
The Bruins held the Buckeyes to eight first downs and 166 yards of offense to offset four turnovers and draw praise from their coach.
"They've been maligned, they've been ridiculed," UCLA's Bob Toledo said of his defense, which allowed a school-record 368 points last year. "They never gave in to the bad things that happened to us (on Saturday)."
UCLA has surrendered 40 points in three games this season.
"We've been through a lot," said Thomas, who had five tackles for losses last week. "The offense has done it in the past, and it was time to pay them back. It's nice to make plays and celebrate out there."
UCLA also began last season 3-0, a start that included impressive victories over ranked opponents Alabama and Michigan. However, the Bruins were undone by Oregon in their fourth game, suffering a 29-10 loss that marked the beginning of a 3-6 finish.
"We're a different team this year," UCLA senior safety and defensive captain Marques Anderson said. "We've learned from last year."
Due to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, the Beavers (1-1) will be playing their first game in three weeks when they take the field at Reser Stadium on Saturday.
After opening the season with a 44-24 upset loss at Fresno State, Oregon State continued to struggle Sept. 8. The Beavers barely held off lowly New Mexico State for a 27-22 win, as Ken Simonton rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson is 3-0 against UCLA and has led the Beavers past the Bruins in each of the last two seasons.
UCLA leads the all-time series with Oregon State 34-13-4.