Strength on strength
Bruins' offense to do battle with bruising Badger defense
Posted: Tuesday December 29, 1998 06:49 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It will be Bruin Balance against the Blue-Collar Badgers in the key matchup of Friday's Rose Bowl game.
Led by All-America quarterback Cade McNown, No. 6 UCLA had one of the country's most effective offenses this season, averaging nearly 40.5 points and 483 yards en route to winning the Pacific-10 Conference championship.
No. 9 Wisconsin, meanwhile, did it with defense, allowing averages of just 10.2 points and 270.3 yards on its way to tying for the Big Ten title and earning a Rose Bowl berth.
So something will have to give when the Bruins have the ball.
"I think what you've seen is the end product of three years of trying to build a system and getting some good players to make that system go," offensive coordinator Al Borges said of UCLA's potent offense.
"They've got a serious defense, maybe the best we've played," Borges said of the Badgers. "Their ball-control offense is perfect for them. They remind me a lot of the way Arizona used to be -- run the football, play good defense, good special teams."
The Bruins (10-1) opened the season by scoring over 40 points in each of their first five games. They scored 34 or more in nine of their 11 games, with a low of 28 twice.
"What we're doing is not turning the ball over and using balance -- Bruin balance," Borges said, referring to the team's efficiency on the ground and in the air. "That's what makes us go. It's been a terrific year."
The Bruins appeared on their way to the Fiesta Bowl and a shot at the national championship, but lost that opportunity on December 5 when they were beaten by Miami 49-45 despite rolling up 670 yards of total offense.
"We're going to the Rose Bowl, it's a good consolation," Borges said. "I think we're all right now. We've got Wisconsin on our mind. We're on track."
The Badgers (10-1), who were shooting for the Rose Bowl from the beginning, never allowed as many as 28 points in a game, giving up a season-high 27 in their only loss, a 27-10 setback at Michigan.
Wisconsin recorded two shutouts and yielded seven points or less on six occasions.
"We have done it blue-collar, hard-nose," coach Barry Alvarez said. "The kids have worked hard and won football games. That is what we are all about. We don't have a lot of fluff. Sometimes, we are not real pretty, but when you win 10 games and do it the way we did, you deserve to be here."
One of the key individual matchups in the game will be between UCLA offensive tackle Kris Farris and Wisconsin defensive end Tom Burke.
Farris won the Outland Trophy as the country's finest offensive lineman, while Burke leads the nation with 21 sacks, four of which came in Wisconsin's season-ending 24-3 victory over Penn State that cemented the Rose Bowl berth.
"The guy I'm going against is the best in the nation," Farris said.
Burke said if he comes out of a game without a sack, he hasn't played his best.
"I visualize hitting McNown and causing a fumble, just stuff like that," he said. "More often than not, when I visualize stuff like that, it happens in a game."
UCLA is known for its trick plays -- head coach Bob Toledo runs at least one per game -- and Borges issued a warning to Wisconsin on the matter, saying, "We'll have a few wrinkles they haven't seen."
Meanwhile, if Burke can be trusted, the Wisconsin defense won't spring any surprises.
"We are not going to come out and pull out any magic tricks or bunnies out of the hat," he said. "We are just going to come and play like we have played all year."
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