UCLA deals with distractions while preparing for Stanford
STANFORD, Calif. -- UCLA defensive end Dave Ball leads the nation in sacks and is first in the Pac-10 in tackles for loss. Bruins linebacker Brandon Chillar is the conference's top tackler, and two of his teammates rank in the top five.
And UCLA has 14 interceptions in its last seven games.
This is not a good sign for Stanford, shut out last week by Oregon and now facing what seems like a tougher task Saturday against the Bruins.
The Cardinal (2-4, 0-4 Pac-10) are desperate to get things clicking -- they have lost four straight and were embarrassed in a 35-0 defeat last week at Oregon.
"We're getting kind of tired of calling these games learning experiences," Stanford senior left tackle Kirk Chambers said. "We should have learned by now."
UCLA, meanwhile, learned this week about staying focused during tough circumstances.
There was the poor air quality during practice because of the wildfires in Southern California, and the evacuation of coach Karl Dorrell's home when flames got within a mile of his residence.
But the Bruins have a lot at stake this weekend, and they certainly will be ready.
If they win Saturday and No. 6 Washington State loses at No. 3 Southern Cal, then UCLA (6-2, 4-0) would be the only remaining unbeaten team in conference play, taking sole possession of first place.
A national ranking would likely follow.
The Bruins have won five straight despite having the lead just once at halftime in those games, and they're 4-0 in the conference for the first time since 1998 when they won the Pac-10 at 8-0.
"We're in a very fortunate position right now being in the top tier of the conference," Dorrell said. "There are still a lot of games to go. There's no magic formula. We've been able to put some things together and do some things at opportune times."
The defense is a big reason why.
Things could get worse for Stanford's struggling offense this week if UCLA's defense gets on a roll. The Bruins have allowed only three touchdowns in the second half in their last five games. Last week, Arizona State didn't score on its final eight possessions and managed only three first downs and 52 yards in the second half as UCLA won 20-13.
"The biggest frustration in the course of the game was not putting points on the board," Cardinal coach Buddy Teevens said of last week's loss at Oregon. "That's the bottom line. When you look at 35-0, nothing looks good. ... You look up on the scoreboard and see a goose egg and it's hard to swallow."
The Bruins' offense has been inconsistent.
Last week, Maurice Drew ran for 176 yards, all in the second half, including an 83-yard scoring run. Freshman quarterback Matt Moore returned to a starting role and went 14-of-28 for 190 yards, with the one touchdown and two interceptions, both when he was hit as he threw.
Teevens will stick with fifth-year senior quarterback Chris Lewis this week. Lewis returned to the starting lineup last week for the first time since the Cardinal's season-opening win against San Jose State. Freshman Trent Edwards had been starting but is hurt. Lewis completed 12 of 26 passes for 188 yards at Oregon.
One positive for the Cardinal is they play four of their final games in Stanford Stadium, where they have won the last two meetings against UCLA.
"They have the potential to be a big-play team from an offensive and defensive standpoint," Dorrell said. "It's just a matter of time for them to explode and play really well. I just hope it's not against us."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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