SEATTLE — In January, the Rose Bowl will take place in Pasadena amidst much fanfare. This weekend, under a much dimmer spotlight, UCLA and Washington will take part in the rebound bowl in the same stadium.
After entering week three of the college football season with 2-0 records and high hopes, the Huskies and Bruins both suffered disappointing — or in the case of UCLA, horrifically embarrassing — losses. Now both are desperate to get back on track.
“I think that is the normal thought that they will be very upset and very angry about their loss, but why shouldn’t we be very angry about our loss?” Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said.
Washington might be angry after a 33-14 loss to No. 10 Ohio State, but the Huskies can’t be nearly as upset as the Bruins, who were ranked 11th before losing to 44-6 to winless Utah.
UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said his team still believes in itself despite the ugly loss.
“Their confidence isn’t shattered,” he said. “We had a chance to watch the tape and view the things that we’ve done. We didn’t perform to the level we can perform. … There were a lot of things that we felt can be fixed.”
Despite UCLA’s struggles, the Huskies are preparing for a tough game.
“We look at UCLA as not the team that played last weekend against Utah,” Willingham said. “We know that we’ve got another extreme test, and we’ll begin to gear ourselves up for that.”
The Bruins came into the season expecting their defense to be a strength, but UCLA currently ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in total defense after three games. Don’t be fooled, Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano warns.
“I’m not buying the fact that they’re ranked No. 9 in the Pac-10 right now,” he said. “These guys are a good defense. They have 10 returning starters from the team that came up here last year.”
Lappano said he expects plenty of blitzing from the Bruins, calling their defense a “blitz-o-rama.” He also said some of the big numbers given up by UCLA come from occasional big plays against an aggressive defense, not long drives.
“For us the challenge will be their quickness, their speed and their explosiveness,” Willingham said of the UCLA defense. “If we can neutralize those things, find some running game, and be smart with the ball, not make a lot of turnovers, then we’ve got a chance.”
After turning the ball over five times against Utah, the Bruins also hope to be smarter with the ball.
Both teams are looking to fix mistakes from last week, both need a rebound win, and both are confidence they can take care of both tasks Saturday.
“We still have some things that are lying in front of us that can be fixed and kept alive for our season,” Dorrell said. “The best thing about what happened last week, it’s the early part of the season and it doesn’t affect the Pac-10 standings. We have to play really, really good football and get our team to play up to its potential this week.”
Sharing the carries: Through three games this season, Jake Locker and Louis Rankin account for almost all of Washington’s rushing offense, combining for 88 of the team’s 115 carries, and 503 of 577 yards. Lappano wants to see that change.
“We’re looking for a guy to take a little bit of the load off of (Rankin) a little bit,” he said. “We need fresh guys in there all the time, so that everything we do, whether we’re pass blocking, whether we’re running a rout, whether we’re carrying the ball, we want a guy who can play 100 percent all the time. We’re looking to play a few more backs to get a faster, fresher guy on the field.”
Who that is remains to be seen. Lappano expects the Huskies to take four tailbacks to L.A., most likely Rankin, J.R. Hasty, Curtis Shaw, and Brandon Johnson (provided his bruised ribs are healed enough by this weekend). Hasty, Shaw, and Johnson are all listed as backups behind Rankin in this week’s depth chart.
More Goodwin: D’Andre Goodwin is said to be the fastest player on the team, but the sophomore hasn’t had many chances to show it so far. On his first college touch, he gained 31 yards on a reverse against Syracuse, but has had few opportunities to shine since. He had one catch for four yards against Boise State and gained one yard on a reverse against Ohio State. The Huskies plan on involving Goodwin more this weekend.
“We’re trying to get him in a little bit more,” said Lappano. “We need to get him in the game more because he does have that deep threat. He’s our fastest guy. He can run, so we’re trying to find some ways to get him the ball and get him some more playing time. You will see him more than you have in the past couple of weeks.”
Six pack of linemen: So far, the Huskies have been sticking to a six-man rotation on the offensive line, with Cody Habben and Ben Ossai splitting time at left tackle, while Ryan Tolar (left guard), Juan Garcia (center), Casey Bulyca (right guard) and Chad Macklin (right tackle) have been on the field for almost every meaningful play.
Lappano said he expects that to remain the same for the time being, but left open the possibility of Matt Sedillo joining the rotation once his injured ankle is fully recovered.