Though it has been a short one, Karl Dorrell's path in re-establishing No. 7 UCLA as a national football powerhouse has not been easy.
The former Bruins receiver became UCLA's third head coach in a nine-day span on Dec. 18, 2002, replacing interim coach Ed Kezirian, the replacement for the fired Bob Toledo.
Following successive mediocre seasons that saw the Bruins go 6-7 in 2003 with seven consecutive losses to close out the campaign, and a 6-6 2004 season that included a Las Vegas Bowl loss to Wyoming, many in the City of Angels were ready for yet another replacement at the helm of Bruin football.
UCLA has emerged as one of the nation's biggest surprises, boasting an 8-0 record, and is a serious contender for a Bowl Championship Series bid coming into tomorrow's matchup with Arizona.
The Bruins, tied with inner-city rival Southern California at the top of the Pacific 10 Conference, have done it the hard way, winning after trailing in the fourth quarter in four of their last five wins.
"You've got to be very strong in the mind to keep up and play a whole game, and that's what we have to do as a team (against UCLA)," said sophomore receiver B.J. Dennard.
Stanford learned firsthand Saturday why a full 60 minutes is required against a resilient Bruins squad.
Behind two Maurice Drew touchdown runs, UCLA bounced back from a 21-point deficit with eight minutes remaining to knock off the Cardinal in overtime.
"Our offense struggled ... 80 percent of the way through that game (but) found a way with our two-minute offense to get a rhythm going and get some plays for us," Dorrell said Monday in his weekly press conference.
UCLA's no-huddle fourth-quarter offense has been a sight to behold this season.
In games against Washington, California, Washington State and Stanford, the Bruins have amassed 71 points in the final stanza en route to four wins - two of which came in overtime - by a combined 14 points.
"This team doesn't panic," Dorrell said. "When this team had its first crucial situation against Washington (Oct. 1), that was a huge stepping stone."
Dorrell's offense has risen to challenges throughout the season, powered by the Heisman Trophy-candidate Drew and his 86.4 yards per game on the ground. Of his 11 rushing touchdowns, he's scored five in the fourth quarter or overtime.
"(Defending Drew) is a big challenge," said junior safety Marcus Hollingsworth. "We've got to fit our gaps in the run. The (defensive backs), we have to be in the right position."
Drew has been three-dimensional in his offensive attack, with four receiving touchdowns and three punt-return scores.
Though his statistics are impressive, Drew is just one of many weapons on a Bruin offense that in the Pac-10 trails only the Trojans in scoring.
Quarterback Drew Olson has thrown for 2,167 yards with 23 touchdowns en route to a 165.3 passing efficiency rating.
Olson's No. 1 target, tight end Marcedes Lewis, is a player with whom Arizona became well acquainted in last season's 37-17 loss.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound senior racked up 99 receiving yards for three touchdowns against the Wildcats a year ago, and this season has a team-best six receiving touchdowns.
Because of Lewis' size, Arizona's linebackers are expected to match up with the tight end.
"I'm looking for a battle (with Lewis). I expect nothing less," said redshirt freshman linebacker Ronnie Palmer.