UCLA is 2-2 the hard way

AUSTIN, Texas -- All the preseason hullabaloo said UCLA would do well to come out of it's difficult opening four-game stretch with a 2-2 record.

Well, here they are sporting just that record, though the Bruins didn't exactly take the expected route.

They started 0-2, losing to Kansas State in what many thought would be one of their two victories, then got embarrassed at home by Stanford 35-0. That loss that brought about visions of 0-4, especially considering the Bruins were staring at consecutive games against nationally-ranked opponents.

But something happened on the way to oblivion. The Bruins reached that 2-2 record in improbable fashion. They manhandled Houston and powered through Texas and now have renewed confidence and momentum as they prepare to face Pac-10 opponents in their next eight games.

"It's huge for us," defensive lineman David Carter said of the two-game win streak. "It shows we're a good team and we're going in the right direction."

Carter said the team rallied after the 0-2 start partly because of the negative commentary being directed at the team.

"It was messed up how people predicted us to be losers," he said. "We were a young team, but now we’re experienced and we got our stuff together."

Coach Rick Neuheisel cautioned that his team can't make too much of the recent success, just as it couldn't make too much of the early struggles.

"We were 0-2 just 14 days ago and the world was looking at us like ‘What’s the matter with you guys?’ And calling us names and so forth," Neuheisel said. "What we mustered up in the way of pride and dedication to each other can’t be lost just because now we get to enjoy a wonderful victory. We’ve got to keep whatever that feeling was as our energy to get better as we get back now into the Pac 10 conference."

After reviewing game tapes from Texas, Neuheisel said the Bruins were not nearly as good as they looked. They failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities and pass protection is still a work in progress. Two turnovers brought the season total to 12 -- tied for most in the nation.

"It’s too early in the season to start pounding our chests and say, hey, we’re here," Neuheisel said. "But, I like that we’ve found a formula to get better. The kids know what it takes in the way of preparation throughout a week, both mental and physical preparation."