For UCLA, any thoughts of a winning record in the regular season have evaporated. At this point, the Bruins are playing for pride and trying to establish something positive to carry into next year. Times staff writer David Wharton looks at some of the key issues and matchups as the Bruins travel north to face a beleaguered Washington team that has yet to win this season:
Stop or start?
Today’s game puts a new twist on an old paradox. What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object?
The Bruins have one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation. They need to take some pressure off quarterback Kevin Craft by improving on a paltry average of 77.8 yards a game on the ground.
Washington answers with a defense that has been porous against the run. Linebacker Mason Foster is tied for the conference lead in tackles, but the Huskies have given up more than 236 rushing yards a game.
No pass zone
On the other side of the ball, the UCLA defense has played well against the pass, surrendering only 178.1 yards a game -- cornerback Alterraun Verner ranks fifth in the conference in passes defended -- but the secondary has not been so good on interceptions with only six.
That could change against Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch, who has struggled in the weeks since starter Jake Locker suffered a broken thumb. The redshirt freshman has completed less than 45% of his passes and has had nine passes intercepted in eight games.
Weather or not
The Bruins are leaving behind sunny and warm Southern California for the cooler, wetter Pacific Northwest.
The forecast calls for rain showers tonight, a high of 57 degrees, but UCLA did not seem overly concerned.
On one hand, Coach Rick Neuheisel insists it’s a light rain that falls in Seattle.
On the other, he used to claim the weather as a home-field advantage when he coached the Huskies.
Either way, his Bruins did not practice throwing, catching or kicking wet footballs this week.
The Bruins have made a habit of switching things up on the offensive line, looking for a combination that might ignite the running game. This week is no different. Micah Reed will replace beat-up Jake Dean at center, Neuheisel said. And Sonny Tevaga, who played much of last week’s game against Oregon State at right guard, was not scheduled to make the trip to Washington. He was told by Neuheisel to “do some soul-searching” about his commitment to football.
At a loss
It’s a no-win game for UCLA. A victory merely places them in the long line of teams that have defeated the Huskies. A loss would qualify as an embarrassment of national proportions.
“Husky Stadium is a tough place to play,” Neuheisel warned earlier this week. “I have personal knowledge of it.”
Much has been written about Neuheisel returning to the scene of the so-called crime. Washington fired him after the 2002 season for participating in a college basketball betting pool. He then sued the school and the NCAA, winning a multimillion-dollar settlement.
On the Huskies’ sideline, Coach Tyrone Willingham has played the role of lame duck since the university announced that he is fired effective at the end of the season. His players have made him into a rallying point, Fouch saying: “We’ve been going out there every weekend and trying to get some more wins for coach before he departs from here. Let him leave on the right note.”
By the numbers
*--* UCLA CATEGORY UW 18.8 Scoring 14.7 31.0 Points given up 41.3 216.0 Passing off. 192.4 77.8 Rushing off. 85.3 293.8 Total offense 277.8 178.1 Passing def. 234.9 190.1 Rushing def. 236.4 368.2 Total defense 471.3 *--*