UCLA has four regular-season games remaining, and the Bruins would be fortunate to be favored in any of them. Unless Coach Karl Dorrell gets his team to play better, he may be looking at his first season without a bowl game in four years.
“It’s a time where we all realize where we’re at,” Dorrell said Monday after the Bruins dropped to 4-4 with a 37-15 loss to Washington State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. “Where can we go from here? That’s the point where we’re at as a program.”
UCLA, which has lost three consecutive games, plays at streaking California on Saturday. The 10th-ranked Bears have won seven games in a row and lead the Pacific 10 Conference with a 5-0 record.
The Bruins, 3-4 in conference play, control their destiny. A strong finish against Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State and USC would get them into a bowl game. Maybe not the Rose Bowl, but a return trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, where the Bruins lost to Wyoming as the Pac-10’s fourth-place team in 2004, would be considered a solid turnaround for an up-and-down season.
But if they continue to falter, the Bruins could end the season with a seven-game losing streak and fail to get a bowl bid for the first time since 2001, when they finished 7-4 under Bob Toledo.
For Dorrell, that would be something new. Even in 2003, his first season as coach, the Bruins lost their last four regular-season games but still played in the Silicon Valley Classic, where they lost to Fresno State. Last December, UCLA defeated Northwestern in the Sun Bowl.
Dorrell doesn’t seem worried about ending his bowl streak, saying his biggest concern is finding a way to get more consistent play out of the Bruins.
After starting the season by limiting Utah to 57 plays and Rice to 52, the Bruins’ defense has worked much longer the last two weeks. Notre Dame ran 80 plays, and Washington State ran 74.
“You can tell,” linebacker Christian Taylor said. “Your body tells you how long you’ve been out there.”
The Cougars took advantage of UCLA’s fatigue in the second half. Alex Brink, who did not have to worry much about the Bruins’ pass rush after halftime, finished with 405 yards passing and three touchdowns and Washington State had 515 yards.
Dorrell said Patrick Cowan would start at quarterback against Cal but expects Ben Olson, sidelined since Oct. 7 because of a ligament tear in a knee, to return to practice this week.... Running back Kahlil Bell could sit out his second game in a row because of an ankle injury, Dorrell said. The status of receiver Brandon Breazell (ribs) and linebacker Aaron Whittington (ankle), both of whom left early against Washington State because of injuries, is considered day to day.