In the first four months of the season, the Arizona football team has yet to face a premier running back. That will all end this weekend when the Wildcats travel to Pasadena, Calif. to play NCAA all-purpose yardage leader Maurice Drew and University of California, Los Angeles at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Drew is the Pacific 10 Conference rushing leader and ranks fourth in the nation with 167.2 yards per game.
He also is tied at the top of the Pac-10 in scoring and has a talent for the long touchdowns. He is averaging 46.1 yards per touchdown run and has three scores of over 50 yards.
Team Nickname: Bruins
"Maurice Drew is a tremendous player. He does a lot of good things. He seems to find the hole very well," said UA head coach Mike Stoops.
Drew made national news three weeks ago when he ran for a UCLA record 322 rushing yards and five touchdowns, carrying the Bruins to a 37-31 win over Washington.
A big reason for the early season rushing success is the play of the offensive line.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable is in his first year as offensive coordinator at UCLA after moving over from head coaching duties at Idaho. Cable's work is rubbing off on his players.
"I think their strength is their offensive line," Stoops said. "They're very talented at running the football, and we're going to have to play great run defense this week to be successful."
It might make the Wildcats' job a bit easier if Drew were the only player they had to focus on this weekend; but the Bruins have another running back who is averaging just less than 100 yards a game himself.
Senior Manuel White offers a bit of a relief for Drew.
White is a bigger back at 6-foot-2, 245 pounds and a bit more physical than the 5-foot-8, 200 pound Drew, and, currently third in the conference in rushing at nearly 90 yards per game, could arguably start anywhere else in the Pac-10 himself.
Freshman cornerback Antoine Cason said there is little difference between the two backs besides their size, and the Wildcats would have to make plays to be successful against the nationally ranked rushing attack.
"You have to be physical with their backs, they'll get after you," he said. "You have to come up and make the big plays."
Junior quarterback Drew Olson has been under center for much of the last 2 1/2 years for the Bruins and has been impressive thus far this season, Stoops said.
Olson is near the bottom of the Pac-10 in passing, completing 54 percent of his passes and throwing more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four).
"UCLA is probably similar to us in a lot of ways," Stoops said. "They are very balanced. Probably a little more balanced than our offense is at this point so that's a great challenge for us defensively."