LOS ANGELES – Winless UCLA wants to be where No. 10 Washington is, contending for Pac-12 titles and berths in the College Football Playoff.
Though finding their breakthrough victory against the Huskies on Saturday night might be like the longest of long shots, the Bruins seem to have the right attitude necessary to achieve their long-term goal.
“We have to just focus on ourselves,” UCLA linebacker Tyree Thompson said. “I feel like we’re stopping ourselves right now, so once we get ourselves down it’s not going to be much of a challenge. Just focus on us.”
UCLA (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12) is in the first year of rebuilding under coach Chip Kelly, but Washington (4-1, 2-0) will provide a firsthand example that such reclamation projects can produce results. The Huskies went from a mediocre 15-11 record in coach Chris Petersen’s first two seasons to winning the conference and appearing in the CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl in his third season.
The commitment to make such a turnaround happen can be trying, Petersen said, but requires complete buy-in.
“You just got to stick to your script,” Petersen said. “Everybody has their way of what it’s going to look like, and there are hard decisions along the way. Sometimes you got to just keep recruiting your guys to get in. It can be hard on guys you didn’t recruit because things are a little bit different than how they were recruited in.
“It can be a tough process, and there’s not any one thing. It’s everything, and it takes time.”
Kelly, who never lost consecutive games in the same season during his four seasons as the head coach at Oregon, does not appear to be deviating from his approach while going through the longest stretch of his college career without a win. Practices dictate playing time in games, as redshirt junior Joshua Kelley showed in a 38-16 loss at Colorado.
The transfer from UC Davis turned a strong performance during UCLA’s open week into 124 yards rushing on 12 carries against the Buffaloes.
“It’s who has consistently been doing what he needs to do, so that’s a credit to Josh because he didn’t play very much against Fresno but instead of sulking and hanging his head, he went out and went to work and those last two weeks, he rose above those guys,” Kelly said.
Here are some other things to watch as Washington looks to end an eight-game losing streak to UCLA at the Rose Bowl:
Gains vs. Gaines
UCLA rushed for a season-high 151 yards against Colorado, but building on that success will be difficult against a Washington run defense led by senior tackle Greg Gaines that is allowing 3.59 yards per carry.
Huskies senior quarterback Jake Browning needs two touchdown passes to tie Southern California’s Cody Kessler (88) for seventh most in Pac-12 history.
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