Washington's losing streak against UCLA at the Rose Bowl continues with a disheartening 24-23 Pac-10 football loss.
PASADENA, Calif. — After yet another game that in seconds turned from potentially groundbreaking victory to simply heartbreaking defeat, Steve Sarkisian said there has to be “a silver lining” somewhere for the Washington Huskies.
But it was hard to find Saturday after Washington’s 24-23 Pac-10 football loss to the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl — and not just because of the haze that settled over the stadium as the afternoon progressed.
It was also hard to see through a blizzard of lost opportunities that left the Huskies with no shortage of blame to go around.
“All these game and experiences that we’ve been in — that we continue to be in — we’re going to grow from them,” Sarkisian said. “We’re going to find it. I feel for our guys, but when you get so close, so many times, and you just can’t finish it, it’s disappointing for all of us.”
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It was Washington’s seventh straight loss here to UCLA, a streak dating to 1995 — their longest current road losing streak against another Pac-10 team — and 11th straight defeat on the road.
And while the emotional punch to the Huskies’ gut felt a lot like an overtime defeat at Notre Dame and a last-second loss at Arizona State in the emotional punch it dealt, this one might have hurt worse.
The defeat left the Huskies at 3-6 overall and needing to win the last three games — at Oregon State and home to Washington State and California — to reach their goal of a .500 season and a probable bowl game.
Sarkisian wasn’t giving up on the season, but talked later about the reality of what the loss could mean for his team and a senior class hoping to return the Huskies to the postseason.
“You always want guys to go out on a high,” he said. “So, hopefully, we can do that for them the last three weeks and close this thing out for them the way we know we can.”
It might help if the Huskies could scored touchdowns in the red zone and figure out a way to stop opposing passers.
Washington benefited from five UCLA turnovers but converted them into just 13 points. Four possessions inside UCLA’s 20 were limited to field-goal tries.
“Really frustrating,” said quarterback Jake Locker, who looked fine in his first game since suffering a deep thigh bruise against Oregon Oct. 24. “Obviously it was the difference in the game.”
The defense, though, had its own shortcomings, allowing UCLA quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Kevin Craft to complete 23 of 31 passes for 371 yards — the most for the Bruins since 2005. UCLA entered the game ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in passing offense.
But Prince, a redshirt freshman, had 212 before leaving late in the second quarter with a concussion courtesy of a hard hit from UW linebacker Donald Butler that drew a personal-foul penalty. Craft, who was the team’s No. 3 QB, came on and went 10 of 14 for 159 yards.
“They found some soft spots down the middle of the field, and they were making their plays,” Sarkisian said.
However, UCLA’s turnovers — three fumbles and two interceptions — helped put UW in position to take control when Locker’s 34-yard scoring pass to Jermaine Kearse put Washington ahead 23-14 with 11:52 left in the third quarter.
“I felt good about what we were doing,” Sarkisian said.
The mojo didn’t last long. Terrence Austin returned the kickoff 59 yards setting up his own controversial 29-yard TD catch. He initially bobbled a Craft pass, then controlled it as he rolled over into the end zone.
“They obviously got the big kickoff return to swing the momentum and then the bounced touchdown I don’t know if the guy catches it or not,” said Sarkisian, who said he didn’t call a timeout to ask for a replay because he didn’t want to lose a timeout and thought the replay officials would do it on their own. “Hard to tell.”
The lead changed for the fourth and final time when UCLA’s Kai Forbath hit a 27-yard field goal with 14:53 to play. Washington drove in position to retake the lead but Erik Folk missed for the first time in four tries Saturday — from 38 yards with 10:41 to play. UCLA then ran 6:20 off the clock before UW got the ball back at its own 10 with 4:21 to play.
The Huskies moved swiftly down the field, and once again, victory seemed enticingly close. Locker dropped back and looked for Kearse on a fade route on second-and-six from the UCLA 46.
The two had hooked up for two earlier TDs on a similar play, Locker lofting the ball up and Kearse leaping high to get it.
“I left the ball a little too far inside,” said Locker of the final pass. “If I would have gave it outside to him a little bit more, he (Kearse) would have been able to do what he did on the first two.”
And that allowed UCLA cornerback Sheldon Price to disrupt the play with the ball bouncing into the hands of Bruins safety Rahim Moore for a game-clinching interception.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for UCLA. Second-year coach Rick Neuheisel, the former UW coach is now 2-0 against the Huskies since taking over the Bruins and 2-11 against the rest of the Pac-10.
“Guess it just wasn’t our day,” UW cornerback Desmond Trufant said.
It rarely is here.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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