PULLMAN – There’s no doubt the UCLA Bruins dislike coming to the Palouse.
“I don’t like that place,” senior linebacker Reggie Carter told the Los Angeles Times this week. “It is the worst trip. There is nothing there. It is 11/2 hours from the airport. It’s cold and even the hotel is bad. Everything is rough out there, man.
“You have to be a strong person to go there. Hopefully, we’ll go there, get the victory and run home as fast as we can.”
The Bruins (4-5, 1-5 Pac-10) haven’t taken many victories home from Pullman recently, as Washington State has won five of the last six between the schools here.
But if the Bruins are going to buck that trend and hand WSU (1-8, 0-6) its seventh consecutive defeat this season, Brian Price will more than likely play a major role.
Price has been a star ever since he stepped on the Westwood campus three years ago, quickly showing that a 6-foot-2, 300-pound man can be unbelievably quick off the ball.
“He’s the best defensive tackle in the conference,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “I haven’t seen every defensive tackle in the country, but he’s got to be right up there, as good as there is.”
Price, a junior, leads the Pac-10 with 13.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 a game. He’s made 28 tackles.
But it’s more than just the plays he makes, it’s the attention he draws.
Anchored in the gap between a guard and center, Price, a first-team All-Pac-10 selection last year, seems to control the middle against everyone.
“Our guards and center, Kenny (Alfred), have their work cut out for them,” Wulff said.
Price may not have his usual running mate, 6-2, 296-pound Jerzy Siewierski, next to him today as the junior has been sidelined with a foot injury and is questionable. But his replacement is 6-4, 296-pound senior Jess Ward.
“They’re good in their defensive line, particularly their two defensive tackles,” Wulff said. “That is clearly the strength of their team, let alone their defense.”
Thus controlling the middle will be crucial for the Cougars.
“It’s the biggest key for our offense, no question,” Wulff said. “Anytime you can slow someone’s best player down, or you have an opportunity to at least neutralize that person, it’s going to help you.”