Las Vegas Bowl

Las Vegas Bowl

2007 Las Vegas Bowl Preview
Joe Paciella

UCLA (6-6) vs. BYU (10-2)

Conference Matchup: PAC-10 vs. Mountain West
Date: Dec. 22, 2007 - 8 p.m. EST on ESPN HD
Location: Las Vegas
Spread: BYU -5.5

BYU finds their way into the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl by way of a nine-game winning streak, which began after they lost their second and third games of the season. UCLA's path could not be more different. The Bruins have lost four of their last five, with their only win coming at home against a Dennis Dixon-less Oregon team. The Cougars will also meet the Bruins for the second time this season, as they squared off on Sept. 8, with UCLA defending their home turf in a 27-17 victory. At the time, the Bruins were ranked No. 17 in the country, while BYU was unranked. Now, UCLA is the one who is on the outside of the top 25 looking in, as the Cougars sit currently in the No. 17 spot.

UCLA can cover if: they can move the ball on the ground against BYU. The Bruins have averaged a pedestrian 150.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks them 63rd in the nation. They may have a tough time hitting that mark though, since BYU has only given up an average of 92.1 rushing yards per game. UCLA will need to establish the run early to soften up the Cougar defense. If they cannot, Chris Markey, the Bruins go to rusher, will most likely find his role diminished.

They can also hang with the 10-2 Cougars if the UCLA defense can slow down quarterback Max Hall and BYU's potent passing attack. The Bruins only allow an average of 22.8 points per game, and it will be critical to keep BYU around that number. Averaging over 300 passing yards per game, the Cougars have shown the ability to move the chains and score through the air. UCLA won their earlier meeting against BYU due in part to a +2 turnover margin, and turned one of those into a touchdown as they returned a Hall interception for six. Hall also fumbled twice, losing one of them. If the Bruins can rattle Hall again and force him into throwing a pick or two, the momentum could turn towards UCLA yet again.

BYU can cover if: quarterback Max Hall has an average to above average game. UCLA's defense gives up around 230 passing yards per game. If Hall's 13th-ranked passing team can move the ball and he can get to his passing yard average, it should also mean they are putting points on the board. If this is the case, it will force UCLA to throw the ball, something the Bruins as a team do not do well. BYU will also need to maintain their concentration through the entire game. On Sept. 8, they were flagged 11 times in comparison to UCLA's four penalties.

Furthermore, the Cougars need to do a better job on the ground than they did in their previous matchup this season with UCLA. The Bruins held them to just 44 rushing yards on 25 attempts. This BYU team typically averages over 150 yards per game. If BYU can have a balanced attack and keep the Bruin defense guessing, they should have no problem covering. In their first meeting, Hall threw for 391 yards, but the Cougars lost, due to turnovers and a lack of a running game. Balance for BYU becomes the key.

General notes: One of these two schools has been a Las Vegas Bowl participant in four of the last five years. They are both 1-1 in their last two appearances. UCLA is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games against a team from the Mountain West Conference. They are also 22-7 ATS in their last 29 against a team with a winning record. In BYU's last 29 games, they are 20-8-1 ATS. Lastly, running back Kahlil Bell is out for the season with a knee injury, which could prove to be costly for the Bruins. In their prior meeting, Bell racked up 79 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown. Without Bell to aid the ground game, UCLA may not be able to keep the BYU offense off the field as long as they like. This one shows signs of a BYU cover.

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Re: Las Vegas Bowl

Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA Bruins vs. BYU Cougars

UCLA's poor play cost coach Karl Dorrell his job and now they will try to salvage the season with a win in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bruins face the BYU Cougars December 22 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Cougars won nine straight to claim the Mountain West championship and are not intimidated by playing a major Pac 10 school.

UCLA had four turnovers last time out in a 24-7 loss at USC, falling as 18.5-point road underdogs. The 31 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 46.

Patrick Cowan went 13-for-24 for 156 yards, one touchdown and an interception, and Brandon Breazell caught four passes for 53 yards for the Bruins.

Harvey Unga ran for four touchdowns in leading BYU to a 48-27 win over San Diego State last time out. BYU covered the 16.5-point spread, while the combined 75 points sailed OVER the posted total of 58.

Unga carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards for BYU, and Max Hall completed 19-of-26 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns.

Team records:
UCLA: 6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS
BYU: 10-2 SU, 6-5 ATS

UCLA most recently:
When playing in December are 3-7
When playing on turf are 4-6
After being outgained are 3-7
When playing outside the conference are 6-4

BYU most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on turf are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 9-1
When playing outside the conference are 5-5

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of UCLA's last 7 games
UCLA is 12-5 ATS in its last 17 games
UCLA is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games
BYU is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games

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Re: Las Vegas Bowl

Game Preview for U-C-L-A vs B-Y-U

GAME NOTES: Two programs heading in opposite directions clash in Sin City for the 16th Annual Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, as the slumping UCLA Bruins size up against the 19th-ranked BYU Cougars at Sam Boyd Stadium. BYU, which has played in the last two Las Vegas Bowls and beat another Pac-10 program in Oregon last year by a resounding 38-8 final, lost back-to-back decisions against this same UCLA squad and Tulsa in early September but has since ripped off a total of nine straight victories and went undefeated in Mountain West Conference play. As for the Bruins, who were nationally ranked when they defeated BYU by a score of 27-17 earlier this season, They went from losing to Notre Dame by two touchdowns the first week of October to dropping four of the last five games overall and going 5-4 in league play. Due to the team's complete meltdown over the final weeks, head coach Karl Dorrell was shown the door, dismissed after five seasons even though he led the Bruins to the postseason each time. Stepping in for Dorrell will be DeWayne Walker who will try to improve upon the program's all-time postseason bowl mark of 13-14-1. The squad has won just once in its last four bowl appearances, taking out Northwestern in the 2005 Sun Bowl, 50-38, before bowing to Florida State in last year's Emerald Bowl, 44-27. Meanwhile the Cougars are even further below .500 in the postseason with a mark of 8-16-1, winning only three times over the last 12 opportunities since 1989. Obviously BYU has a degree of revenge on its mind from the loss earlier this season to the Bruins and really the feeling of payback should have been building for quite some time, considering UCLA has won all but one of the previous eight meetings between the squads, taking seven in a row since the Cougars tallied a 37-35 victory back in 1983.

With the prospect of finding a new head coach looming large, the Bruins are trying to focus on their final football game of the 2007 season. This year, UCLA had some strong offensive efforts, but those were overshadowed by the four games in which the squad scored a touchdown or less. A revolving door of signal-callers resulted in UCLA producing just 185 ypg through the air, placing the team last in the Pac-10 and 99th in the nation. Because of that inconsistency, the Bruins managed just 335.1 ypg of total offense, ninth in the conference and 96th in the country, which eventually led to just 22.9 ppg (90th). Anyone who settled under center was taking his life in his own hands, whether it be Ben Olson, Patrick Cowan, Osaar Rasshan or McLeod Bethel-Thompson because the opposition recorded 14 interceptions and came up with 2.8 sacks per game, which means the UCLA offensive line ranked eighth in the conference and 103rd in the nation in terms of pass protection. At this point, Cowan and Olson could both see action depending on which is more effective.

Thankfully for the Bruins, the defense did not have as much trouble keeping the same players on the field. The squad up front held foes to just 115.4 ypg on the ground, fourth best in the Pac-10 and 25th in the nation. The team also ranked second in the league and fourth in the country in tackles for loss with 8.7 per game and were tied for 14th in the nation with an even three sacks per outing. Dennis Keyes was the leading tackler for the group with his 106 stops, making three interceptions along the way as well. Christian Taylor racked up 74 tackles, of which 12.5 were behind the line of scrimmage. Even more impressive from that standpoint is Bruce Davis who had just 38 stops overall, with 12 TFLS and a team-best 9.5 sacks. A couple of the top cover men in the conference reside in the secondary for the Bruins in Al Verner and Trey Brown, the former posting four interceptions and 12 pass breakups and the latter five INTs and a team-best 18 breakups, in addition to a pair of fumble recoveries as well. Not to be overlooked is safety Chris Horton who was named a First Team All-American after putting up 83 tackles, 59 solo and seven behind the line.

Just a sophomore, quarterback Max Hall immediately proved his worth to the BYU program this year as he stepped in for the departed John Beck. Hall had some huge efforts for the Cougars over the course of the campaign, throwing for at least 300 yards on five occasions and even hitting for a staggering 537 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Tulsa. Over the course of 12 games Hall, who was named to the All-MWC First Team, averaged 301.4 ypg through the air and tallied 24 TDs against only 12 interceptions in 461 attempts. But Hall was not out there on an island for the Cougars because Harvey Unga was lining up behind him to take some of the heat as well. The running back rolled up 1,211 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, becoming the third BYU player to be named the MWC Freshman of the Year. More than that Unga, who was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week three times, also placed third on the team with 41 receptions for 629 yards and four TDs for an offense that was first in the conference in passing (304 ypg), total yards (457.6 ypg) and scoring (31.2 ppg). Also putting up strong numbers from a receiving standpoint were Dennis Pitta (54 catches, 775 yards, five TDs) and Austin Collie (50 catches, 839 yards, six TDs) to make Hall's transition go smoothly.

Holding five opponents to 10 points or less this season, the Cougars managed to place second in the conference and 13th in the nation with a mere 18.8 ppg allowed. Throw out the wild, unexpected explosion in the Tulsa game and BYU would be even closer to the top from a national perspective. The run defense was especially strong for the group, permitting just 92.1 ypg to rank first in the MWC and ninth in the country. Perhaps most impressive about the team's efforts was that it held Air Force, a perennial rushing machine, to a mere 133 yards on 32 attempts back in September. More recently, the Cougars held Wyoming to just nine yards on 24 attempts, but that was par for the course down the stretch. Kelly Poppinga led the unit with his 100 tackles, but the bigger presence showing up in the opponent's backfield over and over again was Jan Jorgensen who made 18 of his 73 stops behind the line and was one of the nation's leaders with 12 sacks. Bryan Kehl contributed 11 TFLs and four sacks as well for the group as both players were named All-MWC First Team members. A senior, Poppinga showed up on the All-MWC Second Team even though the team was seventh in the conference and tied for 92nd in the nation with minus-.50 turnovers per game in 2007.

Hall may be playing a bit over his head at times, but he's yet to shy away from the attention. The defensive linemen for the Bruins are going to get after Hall for sure, but considering the disarray under which UCLA is operating, watching them fall will not be that surprising.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 31, UCLA 21

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Re: Las Vegas Bowl

Las Vegas Bowl Preview
By Brad Young

The Las Vegas Bowl is a rematch of a regular-season contest between UCLA and Brigham Young. Usually, bowl games want to avoid rematches at all costs but not this time. Things have changed dramatically for both squads since that earlier meeting.

Caesars Palace installed Brigham Young as a six-point ‘chalk’ over UCLA, with the total set at 47. The Cougars opened as a 5 ½-point favorite, while the total has remained constant. ESPN will provide coverage of the Las Vegas Bowl beginning Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The Bruins toppled the Cougars back on September 8 as an 8 ½-point home favorite, 27-17, while the combined 44 points went ‘under’ the 47-point closing total. UCLA was ranked 13th at the time, while BYU was unranked. Now the Cougars enter this matchup ranked 19th, while the Bruins are unranked and searching for a new head coach.

Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker will serve as interim coach for the bowl game, replacing the ousted Karl Dorrell. The quarterbacking carousel will also continue with UCLA starting its third different quarterback in as many games.

Signal caller Ben Olson will get the starting assignment after missing substantial time this season with a knee injury. The left-hander started against the Cougars earlier this year, completing 13-of-28 passes for 126 yards with an interception. His favorite target was Marcus Everett who caught five passes for 66 yards. Olson originally signed with the Cougars out of high school, but transferred to UCLA after serving a two-year church mission.

Brigham Young racked up 435 yards of total offense, but was ultimately done in by three turnovers including an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The ground game managed only 44 yards on 25 carries for an average of 1.8 yards per attempt.

UCLA (6-6 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) stumbled to a 1-4 SU record down the stretch that ultimately cost Dorrell the coaching job with his alma mater. However, the Bruins do enter this contest riding a three-game ATS winning streak.

UCLA dropped its regular-season finale December 1 against crosstown rival Southern Cal as a 19-point road underdog, 24-7. The combined 31 points never seriously threatened the 46-point closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 4-1 the past five games with a total attached.

Brigham Young (10-2 SU, 6-5 ATS) won another Mountain West Conference championship by winning its last nine games. The Cougars wrapped up their regular season by thumping San Diego State Dec. 1 as a 17-point road favorite, 48-27. The combined 75 points soared ‘over’ the 58-point closing total. The team hasn’t lost a game since mid September, and they have covered their last three outings.

BYU is making its third consecutive Las Vegas Bowl appearance, all under third-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Ironically, the Bruins were interested in Mendenhall taking over the football program but he has denied interest in the job.

The Cougars almost upset Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl a couple years ago before pummeling Oregon last year, 38-8. UCLA is also very familiar to Sin City, playing in this bowl game for the third time the past six seasons.

UCLA offensive tackle Brian Abraham (ankle) is ‘doubtful’ versus the Cougars, while backup quarterback Pat Cowan is ‘out.’

BYU free safety Quinn Gooch (knee) is ‘out’ against the Bruins.

Saturday’s forecast for Las Vegas calls for mostly sunny skies, with a high of 49 degrees and a low of 35.

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Re: Las Vegas Bowl

LAS VEGAS BOWL (at Las Vegas)

UCLA (6-6, 8-4 ATS) vs. (19) BYU (10-2, 6-5 ATS)

The Bruins, who canned coach Karl Dorrell to cap their disappointing regular season in the Pac-10 Conference, take on Mountain West Conference champ BYU in a rematch of a contest UCLA won earlier this year.

UCLA got whipped by archrival Southern California 24-7 on Dec. 1, but covered as a 19½-point road underdog to improve to 3-0 ATS in its last three. The Bruins mustered just 168 total yards, including 12 net rushing yards, and finished with only seven first downs.

BYU rolled over San Diego State 48-27 as a 16½-point favorite on Dec. 1 to end the regular season on a 9-0 run (5-3 ATS in lined games). QB Max Hall finished 19 of 26 for 227 yards with three TDs and one INT, finishing the year with 3,617 yards, 24 TDs and 12 INTs. RB Harvey Unga plowed for 161 yards and three scores against San Diego State, finishing the year with 1,212 yards and 13 TDs.

The Bruins took advantage of three turnovers to beat BYU 27-17 at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 8, covering as an 8½-point home favorite. However, the Cougars finished with a whopping 435-236 edge in total yardage.

BYU is playing in its third straight Las Vegas Bowl, which annually matches the Mountain West Conference against the Pac-10. The Cougars lost 35-28 to Cal in the 2005 contest, but covered as an 8½-point underdog. Then last year, they blasted a disinterested Oregon squad 38-8 as a three-point chalk.

The Bruins went off as a 3½-point chalk against Florida State in last year’s Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, but ended up getting pounded 44-27 by the Seminoles. UCLA also lost to Wyoming 24-21 as a 12½-point chalk in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl.

UCLA is 5-0 ATS as an underdog this year and 9-1 ATS in its last 10 in that role. The Bruins are on further positive ATS runs of 12-5 overall, 14-3 following a loss, 9-2 against the Mountain West and 22-7 against teams with a winning record.

The Cougars have also excelled against the number of late, going 22-10 ATS in their last 33 on the board. They are also on spread-covering streaks of 4-1 against the Pac-10, 17-6-1 as a favorite and 3-1 as a visiting chalk.

The under is 9-2 in UCLA’s last 11 against the Mountain West, including the BYU meeting earlier this season, which featured a total of 47½. The under is also on runs of 4-0 when the Bruins are an underdog, 4-0 for the Cougars against the Pac-10 and 4-1 for the Cougars in non-conference action.


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Re: Las Vegas Bowl

Rasshan is expected to start

Olson has played little since injuring his knee in October, and he might not be ready for rematch with BYU.

December 22, 2007

LAS VEGAS -- UCLA interim Coach DeWayne Walker said it was likely Osaar Rasshan would start at quarterback against Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl today, though he held out hope that Ben Olson's injured left knee would show enough improvement so he can play.

"We're going to take it to the end, but I would say if we were playing the game today, Osaar would be in there," Walker said at Friday's news conference. "But we'll take it through tomorrow. I want to give Ben all the time he needs.'

Olson has practiced little this week since he "tweaked" his knee Monday. He first injured the knee against Notre Dame on Oct. 6. He has played only three quarters over two games since.

Rasshan, a sophomore, made his first collegiate start against Arizona State on Nov. 10 and played the first half against Oregon on Nov. 24. He completed 17 of 44 passes in five games.

The Bruins beat the Cougars, 27-17, on Sept. 8 at the Rose Bowl, but gained only 236 total yards. Olson, who was healthy in that game, completed 13 of 28 passes for 126 yards and had one pass intercepted.

UCLA will play without leading rusher Kahlil Bell and wide receiver Marcus Everett this time. Against the Cougars, Bell had 79 of the Bruins' 110 yards rushing and Everett led the team with five receptions for 66 yards.

"We're a little different team than we were then," UCLA offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said.

In its last two games, UCLA had only 220 yards against Oregon and 178 against USC.

Bruins receiver Brandon Breazell has had to talk about the least favorite moment of his collegiate career this week. Breazell was flattened by teammate Logan Paulsen in the September game against BYU. The two were chasing down Kayle Buchanan, who had intercepted a pass.

Breazell suffered a concussion and lost three teeth. He also had to undergo several root canals, yet he can put a positive spin on the incident.

"I was glad he was out there hitting," Breazell said of Paulsen. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Breazell had to relive the moment this week.

"We were watching film of that game and Coach Walker put that play up there, showing us friendly fire," Breazell said. "He said we have to come with Logan's mentality and just hit. That's what Logan was doing. I love that guy."

UCLA lost its first game against BYU, 37-35, in 1983, but has won the last seven. . . . UCLA officials said defensive end Nikola Dragovic was sent home from Las Vegas on Friday, as he did not complete the necessary six units to remain eligible. Dragovic sat out the last six games because of a sports hernia.

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