Preview of the Washington Game

You wouldn't call this exactly a clash of titans, as struggling UCLA travels to Seattle to take on winless and hapless Washington, who are limping along with a lameduck head coach. The biggest drama is perhaps Rick Neuheisel's return to Washington, to play against the program that fired him as head coach...

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS:

-- UCLA travels to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies Saturday. The game is set for 7:15, and will be televised by FSN, with Barry Thompkins and Petros Papadakis calling the action.

-- Washington is in the midst of its worst season in memory, currently 0-9 overall and 0-6 in the Pac-10.

-- It's the 68th meeting between the two schools in football, with the series dating back to 1932. UCLA leads 36-29-2.

-- The Bruins have won six of the last seven games with Washington, while the two teams have split the last four games in Seattle.

-- UCLA beat Washington in the Rose Bowl last year, 44-31. UCLA ran for 333 yards, with Chris Markey (193) and Kahlil Bell (109) each going over 100 yards for the game. Both quarterbacks Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan were injured in the game.

-- The last time UCLA faced Washington in Seattle in 2006, the Huskies won, 29-19, scoring 15 points in the fourth-quarter to beat the Bruins.

-- Washington Head Coach Ty Willingham has said he'll step down at the end of the season. Willingham is in his fifth year at Washington and has yet to post a winning record for the Huskies. He's never finished higher than ninth in the Pac-10.

-- There are some well-known ties between the two programs. UCLA's Head Coach Rick Neuheisel for four seasons, from 1999 to 2002. He led the Huskies to a record of 33-16 and four bowl games, including one Rose Bowl. His best season was 2000, when he led the Huskies to a 11-1 record, a first place finish in the Pac-10 and a Rose Bowl victory. He left Washington after he was accused of betting in a pool for the NCAA basketball tournament. While the program was put on probation, Neuheisel was later cleared of any wrong doing. He then sued the University of Washington and the NCAA for unlawful termination, and won a settlement worth $4.5 million.

-- Needless to say, Washington and its fan have some strong feelings about Neuheisel. Many still resent him, and the troubles he put the program through, blaming the program's woes since then on him. Others in the Washington community still hold Neuheisel in high regard and remember the success he had with the program.

-- The Washington roster carries 30 players from Southern California.

-- Washington, like UCLA, has had to use young, inexperienced players this season. It has utilized a total of 12 true freshmen, which is the most in Washington's modern school history. Also, nine different true freshmen have started a game.

-- Husky Stadium, which dates back originally to 1920, seats 72,500.

-- The weather for Saturday calls for a high of 56 degrees and a low of 45 degrees, with variable clouds.

WASHINGTON'S OFFENSE V UCLA DEFENSE

Washington's offense has shown some flashes this year of being decent. Even with quarterback Jake Locker out, there have been times when redshirt freshman quarterback Ronnie Fouch (R-FR, 6-1, 203) has made the offense look good. But more often than not, the Huskies' offense has sputtered, turning the ball over or just not converting.

Since taking over midway through the Stanford game, Fouch has looked to find a rhythm to get the Huskies offense going. Fouch is averaging only 148 yards a game passing, and has thrown more than twice as many interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (four). Fouch started off well against Arizona State last weekend, as did the Huskies as a whole, even holding a second-half lead for one of the few times all year. But as soon as they took a 19-16 lead, they didn't score again. And their lone touchdown came off a throwback from freshman receiver Cody Bruns to Fouch. Otherwise, the scoring came from the foot of placekicker Ryan Perkins (JR, 5-10, 205), who kicked four field goals.

Fouch is the lone healthy, experienced quarterback for the Huskies, and he's also playing behind a beat up offensive line, that has given up 24 sacks, four last week.

Injuries at running back have been a common theme for the Huskies. That's a big reason they're averaging only 85 yards a game on the ground.

Receiver D'Andre Goodwin.
Starter tailback Chris Polk, the true freshman from Redlands East Valley, went down early in the season and was lost for the year. Another true frosh, David Freeman from Inglewood also got hurt early in the year. That forced the coaches to take off the redshirt of Terrance Dailey (FR, 5-10, 194), who leads the team with 240 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Johnson (SO, 5-9, 207), a product of Compton Dominguez, will also see some carries, and he had his best game of the year against USC, when he ran for 53 yards on nine carries.

To put it in perspective, Locker is currently the Huskies second leading rusher, with 180 yards, and he hasn't played since September.

So to say the Huskies rushing offense is struggling would be an understatement.

One of the bright spots has been receiver D'Andre Goodwin (SO, 5-11, 175), whose 49 receptions are more than the second, third and fourth best receivers combined have. Goodwin has 632 yards, but he's only reached the end zone once. After Goodwin is freshmen Jermaine Kearse (FR, 6-1, 180) and Devin Aguilar (FR, 6-0, 195), who both have 18 receptions, for 284 and 222 yards respectively, but only Kearse has scored, doing so twice.

In fact, the Huskies only have six touchdown receptions this year, including the one to Fouch a week ago.

Bruns had his redshirt stripped midway through the year, and only has three catches, but was one of the standouts for the Huskies a week ago.

At tight end, freshman Kavario Middleton (FR, 6-5, 255) and Michael Gottlieb (SR, 6-5, 249) have combined for 20 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown.

Up front, sixth-year senior Juan Garcia (SR, 6-3, 305) leads the offensive line. Garcia is the lone Husky to actually have signed with Neuheisel, doing so in the spring of 2003, when Neuheisel was still the UW coach, though he never played for him.

The most experienced lineman, Garcia is playing his final home game, as is guard Jordan White-Frisbee (SR, 6-5, 368). The right side of the line for the Huskies features two sophomores, Ryan Tolar (SO, 6-5, 321) and Cody Habben (SO, 6-6, 316). The Bruins defense will look to get pressure on Fouch, who struggles when the pass rush gets to him, and they'll need their ends, Korey Bosworth and Datone Jones, to get in the backfield. Jones' inexperience won't hamper him as much this week against a younger offensive tackle.

The UCLA inside linemen, Brian Price and Brigham Harwell, also need to play like they did a week ago. Price, in fact, has looked brilliant the last two games.

Freshman safety Rahim Moore.
At linebacker, the Bruins' Reggie Carter had another solid game, and really, the front seven played well against Oregon State for the most part, neutralizing OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers for the majority of the game. Against a less-talented offensive line and running game, this should be an advantage against Washington.

In the secondary, Rahim Moore continues to show why he was so touted out of high school and has started every game as a true freshman. He had an interception and a fumble recovery against Oregon State. Alterraun Verner also had one of his better games. Michael Norris had a couple of meltdowns against Oregon State, but for the most part, has been steady in the secondary.

Advantage: UCLA. The Huskies offense is not clicking, and UCLA's defense, again, played fairly well against Oregon State, and held their own against Cal until a fourth-quarter collapse, not unlike a week ago. But Cal and Oregon State are two of the better offenses in the Pac-10, Washington is not.

The key will be getting to Fouch and shutting down the run. If the defense can continue to carry the load, and with less pressure on them this week against a low-powered offense, it bodes well for the Bruins.

UCLA OFFENSE V. WASHINGTON DEFENSE

This is where the game gets ugly. Neither unit has looked good in the last few weeks, but something has to give.

UCLA's offensive line has given up a slew of sacks (27 in all), but Washington has only sacked the quarterback seven times in nine games.

Washington is allowing 236 yards a game on the ground, but UCLA is only rushing for 78 a game.

The Huskies are giving up 234 through the air and the Bruins are throwing for 216. So that may be the advantage. Of course, it helps when quarterback Kevin Craft is throwing to the guys in blue jerseys. He's thrown 13 picks to only seven touchdowns. Of course, Washington has only picked off three passes all year.

So, like we said, this is where it could get ugly.

Linebacker Mason Foster.
Up front, the Huskies' defensive line is led by Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (JR, 6-4, 263) and Johnnie Kirton (SR, 6-3, 295), at end and tackle respectively. Teo-Neshiem has four of the Huskies' seven sacks, and has 5.5 tackles for loss. He's been the anchor up front. Kirton has 20 tackles and three tackles for loss.

The top defender for the Huskies is linebacker Mason Foster (SO, 6-1, 229), who has 75 tackles and nine for loss, plus a sack, and one of Washington's three interceptions.

Foster has been a stabilizing force for the Huskies, one of the few standouts this season. His success is even more dramatic since he was one of the least heralded recruits Washington signed two years ago.

The linebackers have been the best unit for the Huskies, with Trenton Tuiasosopo (SR, 6-2, 243) (whose younger brother, Tyler, is a walk-on at UCLA) totaling 51 tackles and Donald Butler (JR, 6-1, 242) racking up 41.

The secondary has been a makeshift unit for much of the year, with several players trying to be fit into Ed Donatell's defense, and it's struggled in coverage. Plus, they're not doing a good job taking the ball away.

Nate Williams (SO, 6-0, 207) has been the most steady Husky in the defensive backfield. He has 55 tackles, one of the three interceptions and a forced fumbles. Tripper Johnson (JR, 6-1, 210) is a 25-year old walk-on who had played baseball and starts next to Williams at safety. He and true freshman Johri Fogerson (FR, 6-2, 190) have split time.

Out with an injury at corner is Byron Davenport, who played at UCLA when he was Byron Velega. So starting at the corners are Matt Mosley (SO, 5-10, 180) and Quinton Richardson (R-FR, 6-0, 200). Richardson has the third and final pick for the Huskies.

UCLA's running game has tapered off since the Fresno State game. And this would be a good time to get it revitalized. Who carries the load, though, remains to be seen. Kahlil Bell isn't really 100% physically. Derrick Coleman and Raymond Carter haven't gotten many carries of late and Aundre Dean's situation has been gone over ad nauseum.

This would be the time to try and get something going on the ground.

If not, UCLA is dependent on the roller-coaster passing game of Craft. When Craft is on, like the second half of Tennessee and Stanford, he can make plays. When he's not, like the other 7 games, it's not pretty.

Receiver Dominique Johnson.
The big receivers of Dominique Johnson and Taylor Embree will have a sizeable advantage against Richardson and Mosley, so Norm Chow will probably try to exploit that.

The offensive line this week will welcome back Micah Reed and Scott Glicksberg, with Reed stepping in at center to get most of the reps over Jake Dean. The tackles will be two freshmen, Jeff Baca and Mike Harris, with Darius Savage at one guard and either Nick Ekbatani or Sonny Tevaga at the other.

Advantage: UCLA. Since neither unit is very inspiring, it was tough to give one side the edge. But at least UCLA's offense has mustered a few impressive drives, and against some decent teams. The real key is Craft. If he plays within himself, which is easier said than done, the Bruins have a chance to score early. If he doesn't, then it, as usual, puts more pressure on the defense.

Still, we think the Bruins' offense, as poor as it may be, is better than Washington's defense.

Washington's Special Teams are as dismal as the other units. They are last in the Pac-10 in kick-off return and field goals, ninth in punt returns and 8th in punting.

Prediction

While the storyline is about Neuheisel's return to Seattle, none of the players on the Huskies ever played a game for him, and only one even signed to play for him. So the emotions won't be as high on their end as it would have been had he just left Washington.

There are some things riding on the game for Washington, however: It's their last home game of the season; they'd like to send off Willingham with a last win at home; they'd like to avoid going winless for their first time in decades.

The psychological edge, though, has to go to UCLA. The Bruins are playing for the future, while the Huskies are just trying to get the season over and get out of town. If UCLA could beat Washington and Arizona State on the road in its next two games it would definitely be something to build on – and sell – in terms of the program moving forward.

The Bruins, while they're not very good, are better than Washington. The Huskies, though, have had a tendency to keep things close with teams much better than they are, so it'd be surprising if UCLA ran away with this.

The Husky fans haven't had much to be fired up about this season, but the only thing to motivate them at this point might be to go out to Husky Stadium to root against Neuheisel.

UCLA 14
Washington 7


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