UCLA football: A fan's look back at Washington
Maybe it only felt as if the UCLA Bruins hadn't won a football game since 1967.
Still, there's no denying that Saturday's victory over Washington -- on a day the team wore throwback jerseys to honor the season in which quarterback Gary Beban won the school's only Heisman Trophy -- felt as good as any in a long while.
Actually, it was way back in September -- before UCLA students had even started school -- when the Bruins last won a game, beating a team called Kansas State, which, incidentally, sits atop the Big 12 North Division standings as we speak.
It doesn't matter how the Bruins got there, but putting an end to a dreaded seven-game Pacific 10 conference losing streak -- especially against a team that beat USC this season -- is a good step forward.Here are observations, opinions and reflections from the fan's chair after UCLA's 24-23 win over Washington.
-- Let's start with the positives (and there were plenty): What can you say about Kevin Craft? The guy is the consummate team player. As least publicly, he never gets down, despite the criticism that has been heaped on him and despite the fact that, as a senior, he has had to endure the indignity of falling down the depth chart behind not one but two freshmen.
-- Craft came to the rescue again in place of injured starter Kevin Prince, who suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Washington's Donald Butler.
-- As far as Prince is concerned, we're starting to see more Cade McNown (playmaker), but we'd rather see a little less Patrick Cowan (reckless abandon). Prince has to understand he's too valuable to go for that extra yard every time and risk injury. He's the guy now. There's nothing to prove anymore (at least not like that).
-- I have confidence that quarterback Richard Brehaut will be really good someday, but he's just not quite ready for the speed of Division I college football. And that's OK.
-- Terrence Austin did a great job selling his second-half diving touchdown catch. At full speed, it looked completely legitimate. In slow motion, though, it appeared Austin caught the ball before hitting the turf, then lost it briefly -- because the force of the turf popped it up -- after rolling over and regaining possession in the end zone.
-- It also was pleasing to see Austin -- despite his fumble on a kickoff return -- come up with big catches at key moments beyond only his touchdown grab. Austin also had a terrific 59-yard kickoff return that preceded his touchdown catch.
-- Man-crush alert: Nelson Rosario had his second consecutive 100-yard receiving effort and is quickly becoming the go-to receiver we've been clamoring for. Rosario is the first Bruin with back-to-back 100-yard efforts since Marcedes Lewis in 2005.
-- The whole game, I was wondering why Milton Knox wouldn't hand off the ball from the wildcat formation, especially because it seemed as though the Washington defense was finally getting wise to it. Then it all made sense. Let's just say as good and exciting as Knox looked running up field, he probably needs to work on his "touch" when handing the ball to someone else.
-- Though he has struggled a bit the last few weeks in coverages, defensive back Alterraun Verner remains one of the Bruins' best open-field tacklers.
-- Logan Paulsen had a terrific 56-yard reception to set up the first touchdown, but later he negated a solid gain by Knox by delivering an unnecessary late hit on a block downfield after the play was over. As a senior, we expect Paulsen to be more disciplined than that.
-- The more I see of senior fullback Chane Moline, the more I like it. But I also realize it's probably best not to pump that well more than is necessary to get maximum efficiency.
-- I appreciated that defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough seemed to get aggressive on third-down plays and wasn't afraid to put pressure on elusive quarterback Jake Locker. Most of the time, it worked in the Bruins' favor. More of this, please.
-- Nice going, as usual, by Brian Price and Reggie Carter for keeping pressure on Locker, but Datone Jones also showed he's turning into a force up front.
-- Sheldon Price is growing up fast. Teams keep picking on the true freshman and have had some success, but Price came through at the end with great coverage on Washington's Jermaine Kearse to force the interception that man on the spot Rahim Moore procured for his NCAA-leading eighth of the season to clinch the victory.
-- By the way, told you Kai Forbath's leg would win a game.
-- James Washington quote of the game: On the telecast, play-by-play man Bill Macdonald speculated that Locker was hobbling after a play because he took a hit on his injured thigh, which had slowed Locker during the week because of a deep bruise. Then there was this exchange:
Washington: "I don't think that's ... uh ... the thigh. That was the goody sack."
Macdonald: "That was the groin area?
Washington: "Yes it was."
-- Speaking of the telecast, kudos to former UCLA basketball player Sean Farnham, a broadcaster for Fox Sports. Farnham stepped in mid-game for Macdonald (who was battling a voice issue) and was a natural in the play-by-play chair.
-- Final grade: B. There were a lot of good things Saturday, but I don't want to get too excited either. Hopefully, Prince is back next weekend because he surely is coming into his own. The offense seems to be opening up, and the Bruins are finally starting to make plays. Same is true with the defense, which has been solid for most of the season but needs more consistency. The test will be how the Bruins avoid a letdown -- and when you did you think you'd be saying that again? -- against the conference's only winless team in Washington State.
-- Jim Barrero
Photo: Kevin Craft. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire