UCLA may not be playing world-beating football in the Pac 12 Conference's initial season. However, when it comes to being optimistic, the Bruins are running away with the conference title.
Following a 45-19 drubbing by Stanford (4-0, 2-0 Pac 12) in Palo Alto Saturday night, Bruin players were insisting that they're a better team than their 2-2 (1-1 Pac 12) record indicates. Despite giving up 227 yards and three touchdowns to Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luckand allowing the quarterback to make a one-handed sideline catch that helped the Cardinal to their first TDBruin quarterback Richard Brehaut talked about good the D was playing.
"They made some big plays for us, to get us back on the field," Brehaut told reporters. "I know the score doesn't look great, but we're definitely playing better defense. We're also improving offensively.
"We were moving the ball all night. We couldn't take advantage of some of the opportunities we had in that first half; if we had we're right in the game. (The loss) is unfortunate, but we did a lot of good things.
"It's something to build on this week in practice as we get ready for our next opponent, Washington State. "
Brehaut threw for 202 yards and a pair of TD's to 6'8" Joseph Fauria, but it wasn't near enough to prevent number four-ranked Stanford from winning its 12th consecutive game, longest streak in the nation.
Luck went 23-27, while running back Stepfan Taylor attacked the Bruins' defensive front line, gaining 112 yards on 17 carries and scoring two touchdowns. And while UCLA did look better at different points in the game, they were still out-gained by 99 total yards, as they still can't find they type of balance and continuity needed to become proficient with their "Pistol" offense. Brehaut credited the Cardinal for the Bruins' offensive inconsistency.
"They were doing a lot of different things out there, especially before the snap, moving around. It makes it kind of tough to make the right calls when they're doing stuff like that. I thought my guys up front gave me (plenty of) time to make the throws, and even when they didn't, I tried to find somebody open, tried to find a way to make a play. Offensively, if we can put it all together and play a complete football game, and not just (have) spurts of productivity, we can be great."
Stanford already is a great team, according to head coach David Shaw, who's in his first year at the helm, replacing Jim Harbaugh who went to the San Francisco 49ers.
"That's us, who we are," he said, referring to the balanced offensive attack and his team's outstanding defensive play. "We want to run it, throw it and do it whenever we want to. We like to be able to doing things when we want. We don't like it when the defense dictates to us. We try to dictate to the defense."
That, of course, starts with the big man behind center. There's not much luck needed when Andrew is calling the signals.
"He can do everything," said Shaw. "He moved the ball around, made all the throws, did everything we asked him to do. He's just a great athlete."
Luck said that execution is the key to the Cardinal success over the past two years.
"We are a very good team. I wouldn't want to play with any other group of players. They're great football players, and they come to (practice) everyday with a chip on their shoulders.
"It's an honor to be on the field with them."
If you're a Bruin player, head coach Rick Neuheisel, a coach or a fan, you're desperately hoping to hear Brehaut say something similarly uplifting.