Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, left, and UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel meet after the Cougars' 59-0 blowout win Saturday. The Bruins' new coach is now leaning on advice received from John Wooden on how to deal with the peaks and valleys his team is going through.

LOS ANGELES — Before Rick Neuheisel's debut as UCLA football coach, he received some words of wisdom from John Wooden.

"I got a a handwritten letter from coach Wooden right before the first game, saying there will peaks and valleys," Neuheisel said.

He shook his head and added, "I didn't realize they'd be in the first two weeks."

Two games into Neuheisel's first season at the helm and the Bruins already have hit a heady high and a humiliating low. They stunned Tennessee 27-24 in overtime in the season opener on Sept. 1, then fumbled and stumbled their way to a 59-0 loss Saturday at BYU.

Both the Volunteers and Cougars were ranked 18th when they faced the Bruins. UCLA opens Pac-10 play Saturday at the Rose Bowl against Arizona, which is coming off a 36-28 upset by New Mexico.

Neuheisel called the lopsided loss at Provo "a bitter pill to swallow."

"Coming off a real emotional high with the win over Tennessee, then going in there and getting reminded that we've got a lot to work to do — in the manner we got reminded," he said Monday.

"I didn't have any preconceived notions that we were a national championship caliber team just because we had success in week one. But Saturday was an eye-opener."

He, his staff and players have been sifting through the wreckage of UCLA's worst loss since a 76-0 drubbing by Southern California 79 years ago.

Talking about how mistakes led to the BYU scoring avalanche that included Max Hall throwing for seven touchdowns, Neuheisel recounted how the game got out of hand.

"Offensively, they were just on fire, and when we got the ball out of their hands, it just bounced right back to them," he said. "It was a great reminder that turnovers kill you.

"We were down 14-0, moving down the field, then (quarterback) Kevin (Craft) gets hit in the back, the ball comes out and now it's 21-0. We get a 9-yard gain on first down, and coming around the corner, Ray Carter fumbles and now it's 28-0.

"They kick off, we fumble the ball and now it's 35-0. We drive down and have a field goal blocked, they run it back into their short field and it's 42-0. It's not rocket science, you just have to play good football or things like that can happen to you."

Asked which of the first two games were most reflective of the team, Neuheisel said, "The reality is, both games were us. I can put the film on and you'll recognize the faces of the kids that were running on the field excited after beating a very good Tennessee team.

"But those are the same faces that got whipped by BYU. If we go back to playing an efficient style of football, then we have a chance to be a decent football team, and decent football teams can win on every Saturday if you manage the game well and let the other team make the mistakes."

Defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said the Bruins obviously need to play smarter.

"There were so many plays we just didn't execute," he said. "We've got to fix it — fast. We've got to play a game to get that bad taste out of our mouth."

Along that line, Neuheisel read more of the letter from the 97-year-old Wooden, whose UCLA basketball teams won a record 10 NCAA titles.

"Long before any championships were ever won at UCLA, I came to understand that losing is only temporary and not all-encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it and try not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it," Wooden wrote.

Said Neuheisel: "That's what we're going to ask of our kids. It's one loss. We've played two of the top 20 teams in the country and we're 1-1."