After their best half in two years, Huskies crumble at UCLA

Updated: October 6, 2003, 10:42 PM ET

SEATTLE -- The Washington Huskies couldn't have looked more divergently different than they did last weekend.

-- First half: Big yards in the statistics and a comfortable 16-7 lead at UCLA.

-- Second half: Outplayed and outscored 39-0 in a 46-16 loss.

Asked how such a thing could happen, Huskies coach Keith Gilbertson on Monday looked back to one week earlier. Washington was tied at 14 against Stanford at the break, despite 285 yards of offense.

"And we had 271 yards of offense and 17 first downs in the first half against UCLA, the No. 1 defense in our league, and we only had 16 points to show for it," Gilbertson said.

"That's a lot of football, and you don't have many points or touchdowns to show for it," he added.

It's a very frustrating trend for the Huskies (3-2), who had been ranked No. 18 but plummeted from the Top 25 after the UCLA loss. They'll try to regroup before Saturday's game against Nevada (3-2).

Gilbertson was in good spirits, joking that a strange thing happened Sunday and Monday: The sun actually rose over Seattle despite such a disheartening loss.

"We are sick over how that thing flipped on us, but we have another game this weekend and we have to prepare," Gilbertson said. "I was hurt, but I am as excited to see my players today as I was last Monday. We have to go on."

The second half started ominously for Washington when Roc Alexander made an ill-advised decision to bring the kickoff out of the end zone. He was tackled at the 7, setting up a blindside sack of quarterback Cody Pickett, who fumbled.

UCLA's Rodney Leisle recovered for a touchdown.

Gilbertson took responsibility for that call Monday, saying he had considered the field position but ignored a bad feeling and sent the play in anyway. It was the first of Washington's four second-half turnovers, which led to 25 points.

"If you take those 25 points off the score, you have yourself a ballgame," Gilbertson said.

The Bruins went ahead 22-16 on their next possession, but Washington was poised to tie it when Pickett's pass bounced away from fullback Zach Tuiasosopo and into the arms of Leisle.

That turnover led to a field goal, followed quickly by another interception that was returned for a touchdown. With the UCLA points mounting so fast, everything spun out of hand for the Huskies.

"UCLA is a great team. They have great athletes," Pickett said. "When you get them on the ropes, you should be able to put them away. They're not going to be able to play as well when things are going bad, just like anybody.

"When they get the momentum, they're going to play better because they've got great athletes. We just couldn't beat them."

Washington played poorly in the first half of a 28-9 loss in the opener at Ohio State but recovered with a strong second half in that game. It was the opposite in each half at UCLA, leaving the Huskies looking enigmatic on the road.

They're coming home this weekend, where defensive tackle Terry Johnson predicted they'll find themselves.

"We know we're able to compete," Johnson said. "We just have to learn that competing is not being up by three. Competing is not being up by a touchdown. Competing means finishing the game. That's something we'll have to take to heart."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index