Vitalis Sun Bowl


Northwestern 38

(7-5, 3-3 away)

(16) UCLA 50

(10-2, 7-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

2:00 PM ET, December 30, 2005

Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX

1 2 3 4 T
NW 22 0 3 1338
#16UCLA 7 22 7 1450

Top Performers

Passing: B. Basanez (NW) - 416 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: K. Bell (UCLA) - 19 CAR, 136 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: R. Lane (NW) - 7 REC, 136 YDS

Offenses poised for border showdown

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Get ready for a wild afternoon on the border.

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 (7-4).

"If you leave your seat to get a soda and some popcorn, you might miss 10 points," Sun Bowl president Wayne Thornton said Thursday.

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 game.

"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 defenses.

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 defense.

"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 that."

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 many think.

"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 to."

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 deal with."

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 said.


Passing Leaders

T. Siemian58.22214711
Z. Oliver52.636723
B. Hundley69.13155225
J. Neuheisel66.719421

Rushing Leaders

J. Jackson24511874.810
T. Green723194.40
P. Perkins25115756.39
B. Hundley1596444.110

Receiving Leaders

K. Prater5153510.52
D. Vitale4040210.12
J. Payton6795414.27
T. Duarte2854019.34