UCLA – Washington Preview: Bruins Try To End Losing Streak Against Huskies


Going into this Saturday’s game against the Washington Huskies at the Rose Bowl, the stars are all aligned for the UCLA Bruins to end their month-long losing streak…

1.  The Bruins will be at home in front of their die-hard fans.

2. It is Homecoming.

3. UCLA’s offense finally showed some life last week, coming back from the dead against Oregon State and scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter to tie the score late before succumbing to the Beavers in Corvallis.

4. Since beating USC 16-13 in Seattle earlier this season, Washington’s fortunes have gone south, sporting a 1-4 record with the only win coming from a controversial interception versus Arizona; they seem like a team that spent all of their energy in defeating the Trojans, and now they have little left in the tank.

5. Husky quarterback Jake Locker, Washington’s undisputed leader and their most talented player, is questionable for Saturday’s game and will be a game time decision due to a deep thigh bruise.

For the past few seasons, Washington’s mantra has been:

As goes Jake Locker, so goes the Huskies.

It was no coincidence that Washington’s 0-12 record of a year ago can largely be traced to Locker breaking his thumb early in that campaign. Everyone knew they would be in trouble then, and it was proved to be right on the mark as without their catalyst, the Huskies suffered through their worst season ever.

In other words, without Locker the Huskies may well be in trouble against a UCLA team that is frustrated, desperate, and starving for their first victory since defeating Kansas State at home on September 19.

All of this plays into the Bruins’ favor as they try to end their five game drought.

Being that Chris Polk  and James Johnson, Washington’s rushing and receiving leaders respectively, have statistics that are really nothing to write home about, the Huskies (3-5, 2-3 in the Pac-10) sorely need Locker to play. If he does, it will give coach Rick Neuheisel and his Bruins worry because of his elusiveness; Locker is the team’s second leading rusher.

As an added motivation, UCLA will be wearing throwback jerseys for the first time, honoring the 1967 team that was ranked number one in the country for part of that season. Gary Beban, the quarterback and leader of that team and the Bruins’ lone Heisman Trophy winner, will be on hand for the game as an honorary captain; if that doesn’t fire the Bruins and their fans up, nothing will.

And it’s not a bad way to celebrate Homecoming in Westwood.

For the Bruins to return to the win column, their offense needs to continue the progress that they showed in that 4th quarter in Corvallis on Halloween. Kevin Prince needs to continue his progress as quarterback and have an efficient if not eye-popping day against the Huskies, and the receivers need to perform as well. Nelson Rosario had his best game as a Bruin last week; the wide receiver cannot regress to his pass-dropping ways.

As for UCLA’s defense, that streak of allowing 100 yard rushing games, currently at five (which coincides with their losing streak) needs to end. Now. They need to do a better job of tackling and wrapping up; it was their failure to stop the Beavers on their last drive that cost the Bruins last week’s game.

This month is crucial for UCLA’s hopes. After Washington they have two more winnable games: against last-place Washington State in Pullman and Arizona State at home before their finale versus USC on November 28.

It is most imperative that the Bruins (3-5, 0-5 in the Pac-10) win these next three games and go into the crosstown battle against the Trojans with six wins and bowl eligibility in hand, rather than needing to beat USC to get that sixth win.

That is what I would be telling the team if I was Neuheisel.

With these games, starting with Washington on Saturday, as winnable as they are, I think UCLA has a shot at a 6-5 record.

It all depends on how motivated the Bruins are and how well they execute.