The postgame scene did not seem to be one of a team moving forward. The signs were everywhere.
UCLA had just trudged off the field after a 24-7 loss to Washington and while Coach Rick Neuheisel was doing his post-mortem with the media, he lost a recruit. Lakewood Mayfair tackle Darryl Jackson left a phone message for a reporter saying he was decommitting and going to Oregon State.
Strong safety Tony Dye sat crying, seemingly oblivious to Neuheisel, who poked his head around the corner and said, “Got to keep your head up,” to the players in that corner of the locker room.
Free safety Rahim Moore, always upbeat and positive, did his best to verbally prop up the Bruins, saying, “We are building. It might not be as fast as people would like it. But it’s not like we turn tail and run every week. Our program isn’t where it should be, but that’s how you feel when you lose.”
The Bruins had that feeling again at Husky Stadium on Thursday.
They were down to their fourth-string quarterback at the finish, walk-on Clayton Tunney. They had been run over again, giving up 253 yards rushing, with the Huskies’ Chris Polk getting a career-high 138.
They were mauled after quarterback Richard Brehaut left the game in the third quarter because of a concussion, the Huskies scoring 14 fourth-quarter points to end a three-game losing streak.
Quinton Richardson intercepted a Darius Bell pass and returned it 28 yards for a 17-7 lead with 6 minutes 22 seconds left. Polk then iced things on a chilly evening with a two-yard touchdown run.
For the Huskies (4-6 overall, 3-4 in Pacific 10 Conference play) to get bowl eligible, they have to win the last two games to get to six victories. The Bruins (4-6, 2-5) find themselves in the same spot, needing to beat Arizona State and USC.
“We have to get to a bowl, there is no other way,” Dye said. “I don’t want to sit at home this December.”
Asked if failing to make a bowl game would be a step backward in his rebuilding effort, Neuheisel said, “It would be a disappointment, there is no question about it.”
But not a step backward?
“You can use any word you want, I just used disappointment, " Neuheisel said.
The word for the Bruins on Thursday was “bad.”
After Johnathan Franklin’s 31-yard touchdown run on UCLA’s second possession, capping a 92-yard drive, the Bruins’ offense offered little that concerned the Huskies.
Even before Brehaut left the game, UCLA was floundering. Brehaut went five for 14 for 42 yards. UCLA had only 33 yards rushing after the first quarter.
“To be an effective offense, you have to stay on the field,” Neuheisel said.
Washington’s Cort Dennison intercepted a Brehaut pass to send the Bruins’ offense to the sideline in the second quarter.
“I didn’t understand what happened on that play other than he thought the receiver was doing something else and, fundamentally, he was incorrect,” Neuheisel said.
That was all the invitation the Huskies needed. Quarterback Jake Locker, who threw for only 68 yards, scored on a three-yard run on the drive following the interception to tie the score.
The Huskies were hardly the picture of efficiency. Three times in the second half, Washington moved deep into UCLA territory, only to have those plays nullified because of penalties.
But Washington got a 27-yard field goal from Erik Folk in the third quarter, and the Huskies then smothered the Bruins’ offense, holding them to 163 total yards.
“We came out with great intensity, then little things messed us up,” Moore said. “We have to learn and do something about it. We’re running out of time.”
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No fancy passing
Both UCLA and Washington struggled to move the ball through the air Thursday.
*--* Team QB PC-PA Yds TD-Int UCLA Brehaut 5-14 42 0-1 UCLA Bell 0-3 0 0-1 UCLA Tunney 1-8 13 0-1 Wash. Locker 10-21 68 0-1 *--*