Cougars lament missed opportunities in loss

THE OLD ADAGE is that teams do not win in college football with field goals. That was particularly true Saturday night as the Cougars could not overcome multiple red-zone failures en route to a 28-25 loss at UCLA. And just as significantly, WSU (3-2 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) seriously hindered its early season prospects with the toughest part of its schedule still ahead.

"We ran the football and controlled the clock," WSU coach Paul Wulff said in a postgame radio interview. "We just didn't hit the big pass play, which we didn't have to. If we capitalize in the red zone, it isn't a discussion."

Still, even without the early game points, the Cougars looked in position to capture their second consecutive conference road win when sophomore Andrew Furney connected on a 47-yard field goal with 5:49 minutes left. WSU led 25-20.

UCLA (3-3, 2-1) entered the game with several significant injuries -- and lost even more during the game -- as starting quarterback Richard Brehaut suffered a fractured left leg in the second quarter and multiple defensive starters exited.

But WSU's defense, which lost an eight-point second half lead in a 42-28 loss last year at the Rose Bowl, suffered another meltdown late this time. Two plays after Furney's field goal, quarterback Kevin Prince found wide receiver Nelson Rosario, who had 120 yards on three receptions, for a 58-yard completion down to the Cougars' 10-yard line. The Bruins then regained the lead when Prince hit Shaquelle Evans for a 7-yard touchdown pass. UCLA also was successful on its two-point conversion when Prince again found Rosario open.

Any hopes of another comeback similar to last week's dramatic 31-27 win at Colorado were eliminated when senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael was intercepted by Andrew Abbott with 2:01 left.

"I'm going to have to watch it on film," Lobbestael said. "I should've thrown it out of bounds. I've got to watch it."

Prince later converted a third-down pass to Josh Smith that enabled the Bruins to run out the clock and earn their fourth consecutive win against WSU. Coach Rick Neuheisel now is 9-0 versus the Cougars in stints at Colorado, Washington and UCLA.

This one is arguably the most significant since his controversial triple-overtime victory as UW's coach in 2002 in Pullman. A win would have put the Cougars in strong position to secure bowl eligibility with games against struggling Oregon State and Utah ahead.

"It's up in the air right now," said sophomore linebacker Sekope Kaufusi, describing his feelings during a postgame radio interview. "I can't even explain it."

After seemingly not making a big play in the first half, WSU had no problem with that in extending its lead to 22-14 early in the fourth quarter. Lobbestael threw completions on third down three times during the opening drive of the fourth quarter.

On the final one at the UCLA 21-yard line, he scrambled to avoid the rush and found redshirt freshman running back Rickey Galvin, who rushed down the right sideline untouched for the score. But sophomore Andrew Furney's extra point was blocked.

THE MOMENTUM WOULD NOT last long. The Bruins needed just four plays before quarterback Kevin Prince connected with Josh Smith for a 9-yard touchdown to cut the Cougars' lead to 22-20. UCLA's attempt on a two-point conversion failed when Prince's pass fell incomplete. It was characteristic of a back-and-forth second half.

UCLA immediately drove downfield to open the second half as a six-play drive culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by Derrick Coleman.

But WSU just as immediately responded with its own eight-play drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Lobbestael to senior wide receiver Jared Karstetter. That put the Cougars ahead 16-14.

It was one of the few times that WSU was successful inside the red zone, despite dominating the first quarter in a fashion not seen since it played the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Sept. 10. The Cougars outgained UCLA 120-13 and had possession for 12:09 minutes.

But they only had a 3-0 lead to show for it entering the second quarter as their first drive was stopped at the Bruins' 4-yard line.

Red-zone woes were a theme for WSU in the first half. The Cougars drove down to the UCLA 9 to open the second quarter, but again were forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal by sophomore Andrew Furney.

"When there were opportunities, we didn't capitalize on them," Wulff said. "We need to execute a little bit better when we get down there."

The Bruins did not gain a first down until 9:58 left in the second quarter when quarterback Richard Brehaut found Randall Carroll for a 14-yard gain on third-and-8. Brehaut left later on that drive with a leg injury, but replacement Kevin Prince was able to find wide receiver Nelson Rosario for a 41-yard gain down to the WSU 1. Two plays later, Derrick Coleman scored on a 1-yard run to give UCLA a 7-6 lead.

The Cougars then had little problem driving on the Bruins again, but failed to capitalize when Marquess Wilson dropped a difficult third-down pass from Lobbestael in the end zone. Furney then missed a field goal wide left, but WSU was given a reprieve on a questionable personal foul assessed against Joseph Fauria. This time, it was senior wide receiver Jared Karstetter who dropped a ball on third-and-goal in the end zone. Furney kicked his second field goal from 21 yards of the half to lift the Cougars to a 9-7 advantage.

That halftime lead was preserved when Prince, who drove down to the Cougars 15, was intercepted by sophomore Damante Horton with 26 seconds remaining before the intermission.

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME: Kevin Prince found wide receiver Nelson Rosario for a 58-yard completion down to WSU's 10-yard line that set up the go-ahead touchdown.

CATCH OF THE GAME: Rosario's snag led allowed UCLA a somewhat improbable come-from-behind win.

STAT OF THE GAME: Prince, who has struggled throughout his collegiate career, completed 8 of 13 passes for 173 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

MISLEADING STAT OF THE GAME: WSU dominated the time-of-possession battle -- the Cougars had the ball for 36:47 minutes -- but it was not enough for WSU to contain the Bruins late.

NEXT GAME: The Cougars return to Martin Stadium after playing three straight games on the road for their homecoming game Saturday against Stanford.

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