UW loses comedy of errors to Bruins

SEATTLE — In a rather unusual halftime performance, the Washington band performed the song “Always look on the bright side of life” from the Monty Python move “The Life of Brian” while other band members danced along in medieval costumes.

The problem for the Huskies this season, however, is finding that bright side. The song is about finding the positive in even the most dire situations—the main character is awaiting his execution while the song is sung—something Husky fans know far too much about this season.

And after Saturday night’s 27-7 loss to UCLA, the Huskies are again struggling to find the good in a season full of losses. Washington is now 0-10 for the first time in school history, and extends its program-record losing streak to 12 games. The loss also makes Washington winless at home for the first time since 1894—and the team played only one home game that year.

“Right now, obviously, playing in the manner that we play, nothing is good right now,” Tyrone Willingham said after coaching his final game at Husky Stadium as Washington’s head coach.

A winless year at home was especially tough on Washington’s seniors, 19 of whom were honored before their final home game.

“That’s tough,” said senior cornerback Mesphin Forrester. “I look back at my career here at the UW from 04 to 08, and it’s not a lot of wins. It was great to run up the tunnel with guys I came in with. I made a lot of friends on this team, and I can always count on them or call them. We didn’t win a lot, but I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for the guys in my class.”

At least the Monty Python halftime show matched the comedic theme that was frequently on display as two of the Pac-10’s worst offenses bumbled their way through a November night.

UCLA, the conference’s eight-ranked offense, turned the ball over three times, while the Huskies, No. 9 in total offense, gave the ball away five times. The two teams combined for 427 total yards, which is normally an off night for a UW opponent.

Both teams were apparently better at giving things away than were season ticket holders, as far fewer fans than the announced total of 59,738 showed up for the night game.

When the season started, Rick Neuheisel’s return with the Bruins looked like one of the marquee games on the schedule. But thanks to the bad play of both teams—UCLA improved to 4-6 with Saturday’s win—and the late kickoff time, only 45,000 or so fans showed up.

Neuheisel’s return to Husky Stadium was still a big deal to his players, however.

“It was a great win of our seniors, a good win for our program, and most importantly, it was a great win for coach Neuheisel,” said UCLA running back Kahlil Bell, who rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

As has been the case in most games this year, the Huskies found themselves behind early. UCLA, a team that has struggled offensively this season averaging 293.8 yards and 18.8 points per game, found out what so many other teams have this year: Washington’s defense will cure most offensive ailments.

UCLA needed only 12 plays to march 80 yards on the game’s opening drive. Derrick Coleman’s touchdown run marked the first time the Bruins have scored on their first possession this season.

Washington’s first possession ended in a punt, and from there the comedy began. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw a third-down pass that was broken up by Forrester and intercepted by Trenton Tuiasosopo, who returned it 33 yards to the UCLA 11. Two plays later—both Brandon Johnson runs—the Huskies scored their only touchdown of the night.

On UCLA’s next possession, Craft threw another interception, a ball that was tipped by Tuiasosopo and caught by Tripper Johnson. The Huskies didn’t capitalize on that turnover, however, as Ronnie Fouch fumbled on a sack, giving UCLA the ball at the Washington 31-yard line.

Fouch’s fumble was the third turnover in nine plays between the two teams. And they were just getting started.

UCLA went ahead 14-7 following that turnover on a one-yard Bell run, and led the rest of the way. A 17-yard run by Bell during that drive put the Bruins over their rushing average of 77.8 yards per game, and that was with 12:20 left in the first half.

After UCLA took a 17-7 lead, Washington drove into UCLA territory, but a Fouch interception ended that threat. Fouch had perhaps his worst games of the season, completing seven of 22 attempts for 39 yards and three interceptions. He was also sacked three times and fumbled on one of those.

Asked to rank the performance, Fouch said, “It’s one of the bottom. I’m pretty frustrated after this game.”

Early in the third quarter, the teams traded turnovers again when a Terrance Dailey fumble was followed three plays later by Craft’s third interception. Forrester made a nice diving catch on the play, giving the Huskies as many interception in the game—three—as they had all season coming into the game.

Washington’s offense, which finished with just 135 total yards and 39 in the second half, stalled out again on the next possession, and Jared Ballman punt pinned the Bruins at their own 8.

Determined to not let Craft throw another interception, the Bruins ran six straight times to start a 15-play, 92-yard drive that put the game away.

And for those trying, like the UW band, to look on the bright side of life after a 12th straight loss, take comfort in knowing that UCLA managed just 292 yards, the lowest total by a UW opponent since Nov. 3 last year.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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