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Players choose to see positives in close loss

Times Staff Writer

Things were pretty quiet around UCLA’s campus Monday, as if the school were still in shock after the football team’s dramatic 20-17 loss at Notre Dame over the weekend.

But it did not feel that way when talking with the players. After playing their most complete game of the season, the Bruins’ confidence seems to have grown despite their late collapse against the Irish.

“It started Sunday, watching the game,” defensive end Bruce Davis said. “We met with the coaches and watched some tape. They had some good things to say about us. We just didn’t finish the game. If we make those tackles at the end of the game, we’re sitting here talking about a win at Notre Dame instead of a loss.”

Before the season began, the Bruins were not given much of a chance to knock off highly regarded Notre Dame on the road, and their odds grew even longer after they were knocked off at Oregon a week before the game.

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Then UCLA played the Irish and almost won.

“We now know that we can play with anybody,” wide receiver Marcus Everett said.

“The coaches had us very prepared and ready to play. We had never been to South Bend, and it was everything everyone said it would be. It’s a tough place to play and we win the game if we finish.”

The Bruins understand that those are hollow words if they lose at home to Washington State on Saturday. At 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference, the Bruins are at a pivotal point of the season.

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If UCLA can continue to win at home -- the Bruins have won 10 in a row at the Rose Bowl -- the team will remain in the Pac-10 hunt. But if the Bruins falter against the Cougars and Oregon State, their next two home opponents, a promising season will have been lost.

“A goal for us is to stay undefeated at home, and we’ve been able to obtain that goal,” Everett said. “We’ll definitely be fired up and ready to play this week.”

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Sophomore quarterback Ben Olson, who suffered a torn knee ligament against Arizona on Oct. 7, is expected to start individual work and could get in some practice time this week, but he will not play against Washington State.

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“He’s not ready,” Coach Karl Dorrell said. “He should be on the field progressing himself getting ready for practice sometime soon.”

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Starting outside linebacker Aaron Whittington and backup running back Kahlil Bell suffered ankle injuries against Notre Dame and are wearing protective boots. Both players are listed as day-to-day. John Hale replaced Whittington in the lineup Saturday and is expected to continue with that role this week in practice.... Freshman Chane Moline, who has been working behind Michael Pitre at fullback, will get more work at tailback, along with Derrick Williams. Danny Nelson will move up at fullback, according to Dorrell.... Freshman wide receiver Terrence Austin, who did not play against Notre Dame because of a hamstring injury, could return to practice this week.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com


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