Sun, Oct 30, 2005 - Page 24 News List

UCLA Bruins seem ready to face their next nemesis

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback, left, is tackled by UCLA's Justin London, top right, and Dennis Keyes in Pasadena, California, on Oct. 1. The surging Bruins, ranked No. 8 in the most recent AP poll, face Stanford today.

PHOTO: AP

There is no long flight followed by a longer bus ride to the middle of nowhere. The weather isn't cold, and fans aren't screaming everything imaginable during the walk from the locker room to the field.

Yet, beyond the obvious discrepancies, UCLA knows a very painful similarity exists between a trip to out-of-the-way Pullman, Washington, and a quick flight and bus ride to play at Stanford.

History says both places create big headaches.

The Bruins already exorcised their Washington State demons during a trip to Martin Stadium earlier this month, and next on the list is the surprising Cardinal today at Stanford Stadium.

Before an overtime win at Wazzu two weeks ago, the eighth-ranked Bruins (7-0, 4-0 Pacific-10 Conference) last won on the Palousse in 1993. When it comes to cavernous Stanford Stadium, success has been fleeting for the Bruins, who lost their past three games on the Farm, including a painful 10-point loss in 2001 when UCLA was ranked fourth in the nation.

"I don't know what makes it [so difficult]," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "People ask that, but it is not like Pullman. It's not like any other loud place. It is not the crowd noise. It's just the experience, I guess. The crowd is not right on you, and you've got the track [circling the field], the stands are so far away. It is just a different feel."

It creates, in fact, an uncomfortable, very non-college feel, and the apathy toward the program these days doesn't help.

Stanford Stadium holds 85,000, but the Cardinal is averaging a league-low 30,217 per game.

"I remember you could hear a needle drop," senior linebacker Justin London said about UCLA's visit two years ago. "We've gotten the team prepared for that environment. We understand that's the opposite of the environment we've been in.

"It's really mental. You know it's going to be quiet and we're going to have to bring our own noise, and we're a team tight enough to do that. It's going to be fun to go up there and win this game and celebrate amongst each other."

Stanford administration acknowledged the problems of the Stadium, which was built in 1921, when it decided to spend US$85 million to US$90 million to renovate the building after the season. The track will be eliminated, allowing the stands to be brought closer to the field, and capacity will be reduced to 50,000.

However, that does little to change the current ambiance, which Bruins tailback Maurice Drew said "seems like a high school game" earlier this week.

"They're a weird program," UCLA senior linebacker Spencer Havner said. "Their band is weird. The band wears trees, and they're jumping around. Their stands are weird. It seems like a big stadium with not so many people all the time. It's quiet. That means we have to bring our own energy."

UCLA's veterans, who played in the 21-14 loss in 2003 on the Farm, said they know how to handle the non-hostile, garden-party atmosphere.

"This year's team is self-motivated," UCLA senior tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "I think there's enough guys on this team that are self-motivated to get those that are not, motivated."

But playing Stanford, be it in the Bay Area or in Pasadena, hasn't led to good things for the Bruins. In fact, the Stanford game has ignited the infamous UCLA late-season collapse the past five years.

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