Cougs' gamble doesn't pay off

PASADENA -- It was a gamble Paul Wulff figured he had to take. Wulff, though, didn't figure it would backfire on him and the Cougs. Even worse, the WSU coach never guessed the decision would end up paying major dividends for UCLA and alter the course of the game.

Tied at 28 early in the fourth quarter, Washington State had a chance to take the lead again with fourth down at the UCLA 1. A field goal would have been the safe bet, and in hindsight probably the better one at the time, but Wulff rolled the dice despite having almost an entire quarter to play.

"We had the ball on the one-foot line. I figured the worst-case scenario if we didn't get it, that they would have to go 99 yards," Wulff said.

The worst-case scenario occurred, leaving Wulff and the Cougs shaking their heads with what ifs.

After UCLA stuffed the Cougars on the goal line, the Bruins responded with a drive that changed the Cougars' fortunes and sealed the outcome.

Johnathan Franklin, who ran wild on WSU, rushing for 216 yards and a touchdown, carried the Bruins on his shoulders as they drove those 99 yards — 73 of them coming on one of Franklin's runs — before quarterback Richard Brehaut scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 35-28 lead with 10:08 remaining.

It took the Bruins only 7 plays to drive the length of the field in three minutes, 43 seconds. And WSU was never the same.

Still, Wulff said it was the right call to make.

"We struggled stopping them, so I just felt that we needed a touchdown," he said. "To grow this team, we have to have some accomplishments. I just felt a touchdown was needed."

The Cougs never scored again. Instead, the Bruins added a last touchdown when running back Derrick Coleman, who ran for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns, scored on a 4-yard run with 3:04 left.

"This game was ours to lose and that's what we did," said linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who tied for a team-high 11 tackles with Chima Nwachukwu. "We didn't stop them as a defense. Bottom line is that was our game and we just gave it away."

"We came so close and for it not to happen is disappointing," said running back James Montgomery. "We had a chance to take it in, but unfortunately we didn't make it."

Forrest Lee is a freelance writer in Long Beach, Calif. He also is publisher and editor of, a lively blog featuring commentary on sports, media and Vegas.

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