Bruins look to extend Arizona's troubles

Updated: October 10, 2003, 3:02 AM ET

TUCSON, Ariz. -- While UCLA fine-tunes for another run at a bowl game, Arizona is trying to stop things from unraveling completely.

The Wildcats are desperate to snap a 12-game Pac-10 home losing streak for interim coach Mike Hankwitz, who replaced John Mackovic on Sept. 28 when Mackovic was fired after months of player and booster-club unrest. That alone is enough to make UCLA coach Karl Dorrell wary.

"Obviously they have had their own issues," Dorrell said. "But I believe in this conference that any team can surprise you and do some good things, particularly with their own situation there. We're going to get their best shot."

The Bruins (3-2, 1-0) impressed their coach last week when they outscored Washington 39-0 in the second half of a 46-16 victory.

"Now we have to make sure we begin that way and be able to sustain it for four quarters," Dorrell said.

Such consistency would be bad news for the Wildcats (1-5, 0-2), who showed slight improvement in the last two weeks of a five-game losing streak. After three embarrassingly one-sided losses, Arizona pushed TCU before dropping a 13-10 decision the night before Mackovic's ouster.

Last week, Washington State beat the Wildcats 30-7.

By coincidence, UCLA started the string of conference losses by beating the Wildcats 27-24 in Arizona Stadium on Oct. 28, 2000. The Bruins probably will rely on a powerful defense in this game -- defensive end Dave Ball earned the Football Writers Association of America defensive player of the week award after recording 3{ sacks and forcing two fumbles against the Huskies.

Ball and his teammates have silenced opposing offenses with the exception of a 59-24 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma. That is not good news for an Arizona team that has scored six touchdowns in the last five games.

The Bruins also are getting good production from their offense, led by Drew Olson for the fourth straight game.

Olson earned the starting job by default when Matt Moore bruised his left tibia Oct. 6 at Colorado, and kept it by completing 76 of 140 passes for 918 yards and four touchdowns. Olson was 16-of-24 to match a career-high with 258 yards against Washington, threw one of his four interceptions and ran for a TD.

"UCLA is obviously hitting stride," Hankwitz said. "We are catching them at a time where they are playing their best football."

The Wildcats believe they are making headway despite their past turmoil and some of the worst offensive numbers in Division I. They are averaging 248 yards a game, but have gained over 200 yards just once in the last five games.

"We have to be a little more poised and learn how to handle the adversity and not let it frustrate us," Hankwitz said.

In his last game as coach, Mackovic gave prize recruit Kris Heavner his first start at quarterback. That hasn't changed under Hanwitz, who left Heavner at the controls last week and said the freshman would be under center against UCLA's formidable defense.

The change in regimes is most apparent at tailback, with Clarence Farmer, the Pac-10's leading rusher in 2001, now back in the picture. Farmer's unhappiness with Mackovic developed into a silent treatment in which the two never spoke and Farmer got little use in one of the country's least productive offenses.

"We told him, 'It's wide open," Hankwitz said. "We want to find out who's going to give us the most effective downhill running."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index