EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Get ready for a wild afternoon on the
UCLA and Northwestern meet Friday in a tantalizing Vitalis Sun Bowl,
where big-play stars could put big numbers on the scoreboard. It's
Drew Olson and Maurice Drew for the No. 17 Bruins (9-2) against the
equally dazzling Brett Basanez and Tyrell Sutton of the Wildcats
"If you leave your seat to get a soda and some popcorn, you
might miss 10 points," Sun Bowl president Wayne Thornton said
What makes it likely to be wild? Check out these numbers.
Northwestern averaged 492.7 total yards, ranking eighth
nationally, while scoring 31.8 points per game and setting a school
record with six games of at least 500 yards. UCLA averaged 429
total yards per game, ranking 24th nationally, and 38 points per
"Our team can move the football," Bruins coach Karl Dorrell
said. "We've done it against some very good teams in our
conference. We also know how good the Big Ten is. For them to have
success in the Big Ten, we know our hands are full."
But these teams also have another thing in common -- woeful
The Wildcats ranked dead last among 117 Division I-A teams,
allowing 482.9 yards per game, while UCLA was 111th by yielding
457.5 yards. And consider UCLA's last three games: a 52-14 loss at
Arizona, a 45-35 win over Arizona State and a 66-19 loss to USC.
As such, both coaches are going with a simple approach on
"Make one or two more plays than they do," Dorrell said.
"We just need to get one more point than them," Northwestern's
Randy Walker said. "Heck, if it's 7-6 and we win, I'm happy with
Well, Walker's low-scoring forecast seems like a stretch. But he
emphasized his belief that both defenses are going to perform
better than expected, and that the scorekeeper won't be as busy as
"Give a defense three or four weeks to prepare. Normally, we
get two or three days," Walker said. "The defense loves
preparation. I think this game will surprise some people. Our
defense has been maligned, but they've made plays when they had
They'll be tested again, all right.
Olson had a marvelous season with 31 touchdown passes,
shattering UCLA's school record of 25 by Cade McNown in 1998. The
versatile Drew had 23 plays covering at least 20 yards -- six runs,
five punt returns, 11 receptions and one kickoff return.
If that wasn't enough, Mercedes Lewis won the Mackey Award as
the nation's top tight end.
"It starts with the diversity of their football team," Walker
said. "They have great athletes at every position. They present a
lot of problems. They are especially explosive, very difficult to
You could say the same thing about the Wildcats. This season,
Basanez became Northwestern's career leader in passing yardage,
completions and total offense. His 20 victories also make him the
school's winningest quarterback.
"They throw the ball very well and run the ball very well,"
Dorrell said. "The third dimension is their quarterback. He's very
mobile and that's always difficult. Most of the time, you don't
count on the quarterback being a key contributor in the run game."
Sutton, a freshman, had a fabulous year. His rushing average of
126.4 yards per game ranked sixth nationally and included a
244-yard effort in a 51-48 win over Wisconsin. His 1,390 yards
rushing and 18 TDs led the nation for freshmen.
"He is quick as a cat," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said
earlier this fall.
So what might make the difference when both teams are so evenly
matched on offense and defense? Perhaps special teams, where
Dorrell suspended kicker Justin Medlock for the Sun Bowl after a
drunken driving arrest.
The Bruins will use two walk-on freshmen: Jimmy Rotstein for
placekicking and Brian Malette for kickoffs. Dorrell said he might
alternate the two at those positions if he feels it's warranted.
"We'll see during the game where my comfort level is," he