After losing to No. 4 Arizona State, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 13 Michigan, the UCLA Bruins would rather not play at Husky Stadium today.
“I really enjoy playing against good competition, but I enjoy beating them, too,” first-year Bruins coach Bob Toledo said.
The No. 25 Washington Huskies (3-2 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-10) are 6-1/2-point favorites against the Bruins (2-3, 1-1) in a 3:30 p.m. PDT game that will virtually eliminate the loser from Rose Bowl contention.
The Bruins, who lost on the road to Tennessee 35-20 and Michigan 38-9, are coming off a 42-34 loss at home to Arizona State last Saturday. They blew a 34-21 lead after three quarters.
“We’re disappointed, but we’re not discouraged,” said Toledo, Terry Donahue’s successor at UCLA.
Washington was beaten - and beaten up physically - at Notre Dame, 54-20 last Saturday. The Huskies are hoping to bounce back at Husky Stadium, where they are 36-4-1 in their last 41 home games.
“There’s probably not a better atmosphere to play in,” Toledo said. “It gets so loud. That’s why you have a home-field advantage and there’s no question Washington has a home-field advantage, probably the best in the Pac-10.”
Still, UCLA was able to win in Seattle 25-22 in 1990 against a Washington team that went to the Rose Bowl and finished 10-2.
UCLA will be facing a banged-up Washington team. Tailback Rashaan Shehee, who scored three touchdowns in a 38-14 win over the Bruins in Pasadena last year, is out because of an ankle sprain he suffered in practice before the Stanford game.
Corey Dillon, who started the season as Shehee’s backup, will make his third straight start.
Washington’s offensive line will be without guard Bob Sapp and tackle Mostafa Sobhi, while cornerback Jermaine Smith won’t be able to start, all because of injuries suffered in the Notre Dame game. Inside linebacker John Fiala, the Huskies’ leading tackler, is sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery this week.
UW coach Jim Lambright will try to solve his team’s punting woes by going back to Geoff Prince this week. Prince replaces Hamid Sarshar, who had a 17-yard punt at Notre Dame. Huskies punters are averaging only 32.8 yards per punt this season.
The UW defense that surrendered 650 yards to Notre Dame will be facing impressive UCLA sophomore quarterback Cade McNown, who passed for 395 yards against Arizona State, including three touchdowns in the first half. In addition, the Bruins have the Pac-10’s leading rusher in 215-pound junior tailback Skip Hicks, who is averaging 101.2 yards on the ground in five games.
The Huskies spent this week trying to convince themselves the debacle at Notre Dame was just another loss.
“You can’t really look at it as a destructive thing toward our program because it’s not,” tight end Cam Cleeland said. “We’ve got to take it as a learning experience.”
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