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Provo • Max Hall saw it coming. In the days leading to BYU's last football game against UCLA, the Cougars' brash junior quarterback told a reporter who had lingered around a bit after the regular interview session that BYU had spent extra time in the summer preparing for the third game of the 2008 season, the so-called "rubber match" with the Bruins after the teams split a pair of games in 2007.
"We are going to kill those guys," Hall said.
Sure enough, BYU overwhelmed first-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel's team 59-0, despite not scoring in the fourth quarter. Hall threw seven touchdown passes and the win still stands as the largest margin of victory ever for a non-Power 5 team over a Power 5 team.
Suffice it to say, nobody associated with BYU this year is calling for anything close to that masterpiece. The No. 19 Cougars tangle with the No. 10 Bruins on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, and UCLA is a 161/2-point favorite.
"Another great challenge for us," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday, summing up last week's 35-24 win over Boise State and the season-opening 33-28 win over Nebraska. "Really fun to have these kinds of opponents week in and week out."
UCLA leads the series 7-3, winning six straight from 1985-1995 after Steve Young-led BYU won the first meeting, 37-35, in 1983. In 1985, UCLA avenged that defeat with a 27-24 win in Provo over Robbie Bosco and the defending national champs to snap the Cougars' 25-game winning streak, and the Western foes have staged plenty of memorable games since, though they haven't always been close.
In 1993, for example, the Cougars rolled into the Rose Bowl with a 4-0 record and a No. 19 ranking, and were demolished 68-14 as quarterback John Walsh was sacked eight times in the first half. Steve Sarkisian, now head coach at UCLA's crosstown rival, USC, tried to make amends for that loss in 1995. He threw for 305 yards, but the Cougars committed five turnovers and fell 23-9 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
After a 12-year hiatus, the series heated up again with three games in a 370-day span in 2007 and 2008.
After the Bruins, led by former BYU quarterback Ben Olson, bounced the Cougars 27-17 in Hall's second career start, they met again that year in the Las Vegas Bowl. With interim coach DeWayne Walker at the helm after Karl Dorrell was fired, UCLA appeared to be in position to win the game, but BYU freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna got a finger on Kai Forbath's short field-goal attempt, and the Cougars celebrated a 17-16 win and the season split.
"It is pretty unusual that you play a team three times in a calendar year, which we did," said BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen, who played in all three games. "There was a lot of back and forth. It was an incredible series. We got to know them pretty well."
Jorgensen said BYU's offense was coming into its own in 2007 with four players who would go on to become some of the most prolific at their positions in BYU history: Hall, running back Harvey Unga, tight end Dennis Pitta and receiver Austin Collie.
"I remember the first game coming down to a couple controversial plays, including a fumble we lost when [tight end] Vic So'oto's knee was down," Jorgensen said. "Then the bowl game, I will never forget. It felt like we were dominating the whole game, but couldn't put points on the board. Then we ended up blocking that field goal. That was amazing."
Jorgensen, now a graduate assistant in the program, said the 2008 game was supposed to be all about Neuheisel, but the Cougars had other ideas.
"One of the funnest games I've ever been a part of," he said.
No coach on UCLA's current staff was a part of that debacle. Mendenhall, linebackers coach Paul Tidwell, defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi and offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who declined to talk about the 2007-08 games, will be on the sidelines again for BYU on Saturday.
Mendenhall said it is "hard to say" how UCLA compares to Nebraska and Boise State.
"I don't know who is the best team," he said. "They are all different, and matchups might have something to do with it. I thought Nebraska was a good team, and Boise was a good team, and now watching film, I think UCLA is good. … The rankings, clearly, after week three say UCLA is. We will find out. I mean, we certainly respect them."
BYU's 10 Games vs. UCLA
Year Final Score Notable
1983 BYU 37, UCLA 35 Steve Young throws for 270 yards and 2 TDs vs. eventual Rose Bowl champs
1985 UCLA 27, BYU 24 Visitors score 11 points in fourth quarter to snap BYU's 25-game winning streak
1986 UCLA 31, BYU 10 UCLA's Gaston Green runs for 266 yards in overwhelming Freedom Bowl win
1991 UCLA 27, BYU 23 Ty Detmer throws for 377 yards, but Kevin Williams runs for game-winning TD
1992 UCLA 17, BYU 10 Bruins improve to 2-0 in Provo as Daron Washington runs for two touchdowns
1993 UCLA 68, BYU 14 UCLA defense comes up with 11 sacks in easy win at Rose Bowl
1995 UCLA 23, BYU 9 Steve Sarkisian throws for 305 yards, but Cougars commit 5 turnovers at home
2007 UCLA 27, BYU 17 Max Hall throws for 391 yards, but BYU's 11-game win streak ends
2007 BYU 17, UCLA 16 Eathyn Manumaleuna blocks Kai Forbath's 28-yard FG in final seconds
2008 BYU 59, UCLA 0 Max Hall throws seven TD passes and UCLA suffers worst loss in 80 years