UCLA takes hands-off approach
With a chance to grab control of the game, the Bruins let it slip away at Washington
SEATTLE -- UCLA had this one in its hands and let it slip away.
Tony Dye had it in his hands. Corey Harkey had it in his hands. Richard Brehaut had it in his hands. Darius Bell had it in his hands. Johnathan Franklin had it in his hands. Kai Forbath ... well, he had it on his right foot.
A mass of missed opportunities sent UCLA spiraling to a 24-7 loss at Washington on Thursday night, a defeat that could eventually rob the Bruins of the opportunity to reach a bowl game.
The Bruins (4-6) came to Husky Stadium needing two victories in their past three games to become bowl eligible and this was supposed to be the easiest of the three remaining games. Now, UCLA must win at Arizona State next week and then beat USC on Dec. 4 to qualify for a bowl game.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Elaine ThompsonUCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, right, greets Washington's Steve Sarkisian after the Bruins' 24-7 loss to the Huskies.
And the hardest thing to take about the loss is that the Bruins pretty much beat themselves by failing to execute at crucial moments. They had control of the game but lost it by making unexplainable, inexcusable mistakes.
"This was a winnable game in my opinion," Franklin said. "We just didn't take advantage of the opportunity. Too many mental mistakes: Missed reads, missed blocks, dropped balls. Just a lack of execution."
UCLA took a 7-0 lead after driving 92 yards in the first quarter. Franklin had 55 yards on that drive, including a 31-yard touchdown run, and it appeared UCLA could control the game with the grinding ground attack of the pistol offense.
But after that drive, UCLA could do little right and it started on the very next play from scrimmage.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker dropped back and threw a pass over the middle from the Husky 12. Dye stepped in front of receiver Devin Aguilar, the ball hit him in the chest and bounced to the ground.
"I was already looking at the end zone," Dye said. "Cost my team points."
Later in the drive, Aaron Hester made an interception, setting up UCLA at the Washington 31. But three plays later, Forbath, the nation's top kicker a year ago, missed on a 44-yard field-goal attempt.
It got worse from there. UCLA had six first downs on that first-quarter scoring drive, but only four the rest of the game. The Bruins had 92 yards in offense on that drive, but finished with 163. Franklin had minus-2 yards rushing after that opening drive.
The Bruins were two-for-two on third-down conversions on the opening drive and were 2-for-14 the rest of the game.
"We just didn't get enough done on offense tonight," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Again, we sputtered on some third downs. ... I think we had guys open, we just missed them."
Brehaut missed first, trying to squeeze a pass into a tight spot in the second quarter. Cort Dennison intercepted it and Washington drove for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.
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A pair of dropped passes by Harkey down the stretch killed UCLA's momentum and a couple of botched assignments on draw plays resulted in large yardage losses, but still, the Bruins trailed only 10-7 when they took possession with 7:50 to play.
Bell, the backup quarterback playing because Brehaut suffered a concussion, threw a pass that Washington's Quinton Richardson intercepted and returned for a touchdown and a 17-7 Huskies lead.
Two plays later, Nathan Fellner intercepted a Clayton Tunney pass and Washington turned that into another touchdown. Three Washington touchdowns -- all the result of interceptions.
"We couldn't find a rhythm and couldn't find a way to get first downs and keep drives alive," Brehaut said. "I feel like this is a game we could have had and should have had."
This was a Washington team that was reeling. The Huskies had lost their past three games by scores of 44-14, 41-0 and 53-16. UCLA had momentum after a 17-14 upset over Oregon State.
But the inability to seize opportunities has been the story of UCLA's season. It's a team that has been unable to handle prosperity, so letting this game get away after seemingly taking control should come as little surprise.
"When you lose to a team that's better than you, it's one thing, but to lose to a team that you know you can beat nine out of 10 times, you feel like this one was that one time out of 10," Bell said. "It's extremely frustrating to let one slip away like this."
Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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