UCLA football: A fan's look back at Washington State
That's two in a row for those of you keeping score at home, and all of sudden a bowl game and, dare I say, even the possibility of a four-game winning streak heading into the postseason are distinct possibilities.
But first things first. UCLA is far from being a team that can take anything for granted, so we'll just revel in the idea of what was a winning weekend. After all, that's not something everyone can say.
Here are observations, opinions and reflections from the fan's chair after UCLA's 43-7 win over Washington State.
-- When I saw that it had snowed in Pullman, Wash., and temperatures were in the 30s, I must admit I thought it might be a recipe for disaster. But then the game actually started.
-- Akeem Ayers and Kevin Prince quickly eased my concerns. On the third play of the game, Ayers used great anticipation to get the first of his two interceptions in 5 1/2 minutes. On the next play, Prince rolled left and threw over the defense to a wide-open Taylor Embree for a 27-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Incidentally, Embree tied his career high with six receptions.
-- In addition to his interceptions, Ayers had the Bruins' two sacks and clearly showed that his athleticism has him on a path to be a dominant defender.
-- Sandwiched between Ayers' two picks was an interception by sophomore safety Rahim Moore, who leads the nation with nine. Moore showed great cover skills on that play but was late reading what turned out to be Washington State's only touchdown on a 46-yard pass to Jeff Solomon near the end of the third quarter.
-- Was anyone else screaming "Slide! Slide! Slide!" when Prince took off on what turned into a 68-yard touchdown run as the quarterback tiptoed his way down the sideline in the first quarter? It was the longest play Prince has been involved with at UCLA.
-- With his 314 yards passing, Prince tied a school record held by Tommy Maddox for the most 300-yard games (three) in a season by a freshman.
-- Senior fullback -- though he might be better served being called a tailback these days -- Chane Moline had one of the best games of his career with three touchdown runs in three carries and a career-high seven catches for 60 yards. Moline even scored a touchdown out of the wildcat formation.
-- Sean Westgate, one of the Bruins' top players on special teams, blocked a punt in the second quarter to give UCLA a 23-0 lead. Westgate also played on defense late in the game but had an ill-advised personal foul penalty, probably a result of him just being overly excited.
-- As good as the Bruins looked at times, the running game still is searching for an identity. Derrick Coleman got the start and had 50 yards in 12 carries but nothing overly impressive. Milton Knox played decently out of the wildcat and had a 22-yard run (his longest), and Prince had his long run. Johnathan Franklin, once the starter, had a setback after a second-quarter fumble and even play-by-play announcer Steve Physioc took notice, saying, "That may cost Franklin some playing time." Sure enough, Franklin did not play again.
-- Did you notice? Terrence Austin had a long punt return called back in the second quarter because of an illegal block by Glenn Love. Austin didn't look too pleased.
-- Not in the box score: On one of Washington State's few positive offensive possessions, the Bruins put an abrupt end to it when Andrew Abbott knocked the ball from quarterback Kevin Lopina, who was scrambling for a big gain. The loose ball was recovered by Reggie Carter.
-- Kai Forbath had two more field goals -- one at the end of the first half and the other at the beginning of the third quarter -- to give him 23 for the season.
-- Even backup punter Danny Rees, a junior, got into the action with a 37-yard punt -- the first of his career -- in the fourth quarter that was downed at the two-yard line
-- Final grade: B-plus. The game was never in doubt, but there are certainly many areas in which the Bruins need to improve, including the running game, as mentioned. UCLA had nine penalties for 70 yards and that's just way too many against a team such as Washington State. Still, Prince looked sharp again with 27 completions and you can see the confidence growing the last two weeks.
-- Jim Barrero
Photo: UCLA's Kevin Prince throws a pass against Washington State on Saturday. Credit: Dean Hare / Associated Press