UCLA not deterred by losses

first_imgCOLLEGE FOOTBALL: The Bruins still unbeaten in Pac-10 going into Cal game. By Brian Dohn STAFF WRITER UCLA tailback Kahlil Bell grabbed the rubbery white bracelet on his left wrist and gave it a snap, then did the same to the identical bracelet around his right wrist. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.For the last few seasons Bruins coach Karl Dorrell had a snappy phrase, geared toward winning the Pacific-10 Conference title, engraved into rubber bracelets, and asked all his players to wear them. Dorrell isn’t fond of speaking about internal program mottos, instead desiring the rallying cries remain exclusive to those who are on the field, and not a rallying cry designed for the masses. And this year’s motto, which is to finish games strong and win a conference title, may fit into Dorrell’s wish of keeping things in house better than any, because there may not be a whole lot of folks believing in the Bruins these days. UCLA hosts No. 10 California at a sold-out Rose Bowl today as one of two undefeated Pac-10 teams, but that is hardly the vibe in Westwood. The Bruins have not played since a demoralizing 14-point home loss to a bad Notre Dame program two weeks ago. Couple that defeat with the 38-point loss at Utah last month and talking about the Bruins winning the league title doesn’t seem quite right. “We’re 3-0 in the Pac-10, so we’re in the driver’s seat,” Bell said. “We’re 3-0, and I firmly believe we can win this conference. “Everybody on this team feels we have just as good a shot as anybody else to win this conference.” The Bruins are a half-game behind Arizona State (7-0, 4-0), but many of their toughest opponents remain on the schedule. Bell said the players knew they were undefeated in league play, even after the horrific defeat to the Irish, but it wasn’t until the coaching staff hammered the point home that total belief took affect. “Coach put up some numbers, and we actually got to see it physically instead of just hearing it, and we kind of shook (Notre Dame) off,” Bell said. “It’s a nonconference game. I know it (stinks) to say that, and great teams have to be ready and come out every week to play a championship game … but it meant absolutely nothing to the Pac-10 race. “And we all have these wrist bands on that say, `Finish Pac-10 championship.’ Everybody on this team believes we can win a Pac-10 championship.” The Bruins (4-2, 3-0 Pac-10) have found their defensive stride lately, but the offense is a shell of what it was expected to be. With Ben Olson out a few more weeks with a knee injury, Patrick Cowan is the undisputed starter at quarterback, but there is no guarantee walk-on backup McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who committed five turnovers in three quarters against Notre Dame, will not be pressed into action. Cowan, who practiced for two full weeks since injuring his hamstring in training camp, is making his first appearance since tearing a ligament in his right knee Sept. 22 against Washington. Much of Cowan’s game relies on avoiding pressure and getting out of the pocket, but his mobility is in question because his knee is not 100 percent, and he is wearing a cumbersome brace. “He’s going to have to wear that for awhile,” Dorrell said, “but his mobility and his ability to move around and stuff looks to be pretty good.” The reason for skepticism comes in two games – a 44-6 loss at Utah, which is now 5-3, and the 20-6 loss to Notre Dame, which is 1-6 – that threaten to paint a dark picture of a season that began so brightly. And much of the problems are offensive-based. Injuries have played a role, but sloppiness and lack of execution are also prime factors. Twelve of UCLA’s 18 turnovers came against the Utes and the Irish, and 21 of its 50 penalties came in those two losses. And no bracelets are needed to know that is the rallying cry for the offense today. “The only people who stopped us have been ourselves,” UCLA offensive tackle Aleksey Lanis said. “If you look at our last six games, what happened? Turnovers, penalties. “So if we stop penalties, and stop our false starts, we’ll get on track. We have been able to run on most teams so far, and the only thing that stopped us is penalties in key situations.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img