BYU Hosts UCLA
For a program that has racked up plenty of victories lately, BYU has been relying on blocked kicks to win games perhaps more often than it would like.
Count UCLA as another team that has seen enough of such endings.
One season after the Cougars beat the Bruins on a blocked kick in a bowl game - and one week after 18th-ranked BYU secured a victory over another Pac-10 opponent in the same fashion - the teams meet for the third time since last September on Saturday in Provo.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made BYU –7.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on UCLA +7.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
BYU's 28-27 victory at Washington last Saturday immediately became a topic of controversy after Huskies quarterback Jake Locker cut the Cougars' lead to one on a touchdown run in the closing seconds.
Washington was assessed a questionable 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Locker threw the ball in the air in celebration. BYU (2-0) then blocked the 35-yard extra point attempt, securing its 12th consecutive victory to extend the longest active streak in the nation.
"What it really came down to is the blocked extra point. That's what happened and we won the game," BYU linebacker David Nixon said. "... At the end of the day, I think it just came down to our will against their will and it was pretty apparent whose will won."
UCLA certainly remembers the Cougars' strong special teams play. Trailing 17-16 in the closing seconds of last year's Las Vegas Bowl, Bruins kicker Kai Forbath had his 28-yard field goal attempt blocked by BYU as UCLA saw its seven-game winning streak against the Cougars snapped.
The Bruins, meanwhile, had ended BYU's 11-game overall winning streak with a 27-17 win in Pasadena last Sept. 8. First-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has called Saturday's game the "rubber match."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall's BYU team has won 24 of its last 28 games overall, including 14 in a row at home since a loss to Boston College in Provo on Sept. 3, 2005.
The win at Washington was BYU's fourth in its last five games against Pac-10 opponents, but the Cougars still fell three spots in the rankings after the close call.
Junior quarterback Max Hall threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, while junior tight end Dennis Pitta caught 10 passes for 148 yards and a score. Two games into the season, the Hall-to-Pitta combination has already connected 21 times for 361 yards.
In the two matchups with UCLA last year, Hall threw for 622 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
"The two games last year were really close. They'll be ready for us," UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said. "It's our first away game, first test of the season with this new team we have."
Neuheisel's team already has experience beating the 18th-ranked team in the country. The coach led his team to a 27-24 overtime win over then-No. 18 Tennessee in his UCLA debut on Sept. 1.
Forbath drilled a 42-yard field goal in the first overtime to give UCLA (1-0) the win despite four first-half interceptions from quarterback Kevin Craft and only 29 team rushing yards for the game.
"It was just a matter of settling down," said Craft, who went 18-for-25 for 193 yards and a touchdown after halftime. "I wasn't nervous at all. I just wasn't in a good rhythm. In the second half, I found it."
The Bruins moved into the top 25 after the victory, but fell out of the rankings after a bye week.
"Our kids, having tasted that success that came from the Tennessee victory, I think that they are hungry and eager to taste it again - and I think willing to do the things necessary," Neuheisel said.
They'll have plenty of in-house advice on BYU. UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow served as an assistant in Provo from 1973-99, while Bruins defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker was the secondary coach there in 1994.
The Bruins also have fresh memories of a bad trip to Utah. One week after beating BYU at home to start the 2007 season 2-0, they lost 44-6 at Utah, part of their 2-4 record on the road.
UCLA has lost 10 of its last 13 road games.
"That really kind of sent our season downhill," said defensive tackle Brigham Harwell, who injured his knee in the first game against BYU last year and missed the rest of the season. "So we know we can't have a good game one week and then the next week fall off."
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