PASADENA, Calif. — Here comes Keith Price in a stocking cap, the same one he exchanged for his helmet during the second half of another miserable outcome for the Washington Huskies at the Rose Bowl.
Price, UW’s senior quarterback, hurt his throwing shoulder so badly late in the first half that he couldn’t throw, so badly that he was told during halftime that X-rays would be required. He’s sore, he says, but doesn’t know yet exactly what’s wrong with his shoulder. An MRI scan waits in Seattle on Saturday.
So he stood, and he watched, and you get the feeling that might have hurt more than the shoulder itself. But not more than the final score. Washington lost, 41-31, to the 13th-ranked UCLA Bruins, a 20-point first-half deficit dooming the Huskies in the kind of game that has come to define their season.
Quality, yet beatable, opponent. High stakes. Then, mistakes.
“It’s hard just watching from the sideline, knowing that you could have a big-time impact on a game,” said Price, who completed 10 of his 18 pass attempts for 181 yards before he was too hurt to play. “I’m not saying I would have won the game, but it was hard to kind of stop us when I was in.”
The Huskies, however, were plenty good at that, fumbling on their first two possessions in a game crucial to their goal of “taking the next step” as a program.
Instead, they stepped in it.
Washington (6-4, 3-4 in Pac-12) is now 1-3 on the road – and winless against UCLA here since 1995 – losing again in sloppy, undisciplined fashion to a team it is talented enough to defeat. The Huskies were penalized 11 times for 113 yards, including a hands-to-the-face flag that wiped out a first-half touchdown pass.
That call was questionable, but UW’s errors were plentiful. A first-down catch by Austin Seferian-Jenkins on UW’s first drive appeared promising. But the big tight end fumbled, the Bruins recovered, and they turned it into a touchdown.
The Huskies got the ball back, gave it to Bishop Sankey and he gashed UCLA for 29 yards on three carries. He also fumbled on the third carry. The Bruins recovered. And they turned it into a touchdown.
It was a competitive, entertaining game thereafter, but that early hole proved UW’s undoing on a night when it simply couldn’t afford to give the ball away.
“That was a frustrating game for us,” Sarkisian said. “A frustrating, frustrating game. Obviously, you spot a team of that caliber 14 points right off the bat, give them that field position, it makes it hard to battle back.”
UCLA (8-2, 5-2 in Pac-12) tried to help. The Bruins led 27-17 when they received the opening kickoff of the second half, then promptly fumbled. The Huskies recovered at the 26-yard line. Eight plays later, backup quarterback Cyler Miles, a redshirt freshman, connected with Seferian-Jenkins for a 1-yard touchdown pass that pulled UW within 27-24, game suddenly on.
But the Bruins displayed on their next possession why they were the better team on Friday night. And why winning the recruiting battle for Bellevue’s Myles Jack was so crucial.
Jack, a linebacker the Bruins now use at running back in short-yardage situations, had already scored three touchdowns in the first half. And on UCLA’s first drive of the third quarter, he carried four times for 10 yards inside UW’s 19-yard line, including a 3-yard carry on 3rd-and-3 and a 2-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal.
The stud freshman finished with 59 yards on 13 carries while also recording five tackles.
UCLA made it 41-24 on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Brett Hundley to Devin Lucien with 9:57 left in the game, a score that appeared to bury the Huskies.
They didn’t go away. Miles led an impressive drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, who was a bit of a revelation as he caught eight passes for 147 yards. He’d caught three passes all season before Friday.
“My teammates just kept telling me, ‘we trust you,’” said Miles. “I was excited. I put my trust in them and I was comfortable. I felt ready.”
Miles completed 15 of 22 passes for 149 yards, but threw two interceptions in the final four minutes, and that was it for UW. Victories at Oregon State and home against Washington State are now required to achieve eight wins.
“We’ll go play good football the last two games,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll see if that’s good enough to win. I can’t guarantee victories, but I do know that this team will get up off the mat.”
They’ve been there plenty.