The old saying is 'any press is good press'. Washington State head coach Mike Leach is probably going to disagree after receiving a lot of attention from the media this past week. His team's star receiver, Marquess Wilson, abruptly quit the team claiming abuse by Leach and his staff. Against No. 17 UCLA, the off-the-field drama looked to have impacted Washington St., until the team mounted an impressive comeback attempt, ultimately losing to the Bruins, 44-36.
Things did not start well for Washington St. The Cougars missed a field goal halfway through the first quarter. No big deal except UCLA capitalized on the error. The Bruins' Sheldon Price returned the missed field goal for 68 yards and the touchdown. With 34 seconds left in the quarter, Washington St. evened the score with a 6 yard touchdown reception by Dominique Williams.
UCLA proceeded to take the game over in the second quarter, not allowing the Cougars to put any points on the board. The Bruins scored two touchdowns just a minute and a half apart and proceeded to get a safety 19 seconds after the second touchdown. Following the safety, UCLA scored another two touchdowns. The first on a 10 yard Devin Fuller reception; the second on a 40 yard fumble return by Eric Kendricks. The Bruins took a 37-7 lead into the locker room at the half. Whatever Mike Leach said to his team at halftime cannot be written on SB Nation.
In the third quarter, Washington St. and UCLA traded touchdowns. The Cougars' Brett Bartolone received a 7 yard pass from quarterback Connor Halliday. Three minutes later, Jordon James ran 2 yards into the endzone on what would be UCLA's final scoring play of the game. With 50 seconds left in the third, Washington's Marcus Mason caught a 4 yard pass from Halliday. The successfully PAT brought the score to 44-21.
By the time Washington St. scored it's next touchdown, there was 6:25 left in the game and 90% of the stadium was empty. Dominque Williams' 11 yard catch plus the point after cut the score to, 44-28. The final two minutes of the game would be the longest of UCLA's season. Only a minute and a half was left on the clock when Kristoff Williams' caught a 3 yard touchdown. Coach Leach gambled on the two point conversion and was successful. The score was now 44-36 and that's where it would remain. UCLA held on for the victory.
Box Score Hero: His team may have lost, but after taking over for starter Jeff Tuel, Cougars' quarterback Connor Halliday brought his team almost all the way back from a big deficit. Halliday was 26-for-43 for 330 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. In comparison, winning QB Brett Hundley was 18-for-21 for 261 yards, 3 TD's and 1 INT.
Rankings Ramifications: No. 17 UCLA gave up a big lead to unranked Washington State. The Bruins didn't lose, but they did give up 21 points in the final 21 minutes. This could play against the Bruins moving up in the standings.
But Did They Cover? UCLA was favored by 16 1/2 coming in. Thanks to the boost by the extra points, Washington State covered the spread.
Next Week's Schedule: UCLA is at home in The Rose Bowl for the annual crosstown grudge match against USC. Washington State flies out to Tempe to face Arizona State.