PASADENA, Calif. – Could Washington State do it two consecutive weeks?
Could the Cougars rally late and win their second consecutive Pac-12 road game?
Not this time. And they probably shouldn’t have had to.
Marshall Lobbestael was intercepted by UCLA backup cornerback Andrew Abbott near midfield with 2 minutes, 1 second remaining to help the Bruins hold on for 28-25 victory Saturday night before 64,217 at the Rose Bowl.
“It didn’t feel good,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “Any time you think you’re controlling the ball game (and) they get some big plays to score late on you, it’s tough.”
Last week Lobbestael found Marquess Wilson for a 63-yard winner with 1:10 left in Colorado. But UCLA wasn’t about to get beat deep, so Lobbestael tried to find Isiah Barton for a first down on a third-and-5.
“The receiver was trying to wiggle him, make room to get open and Marshall saw the flash,” Wulff said. “He tried to throw it, it was just one of those things, (he) got ghosted.”
As Barton left, Abbott stayed and the pass came right to him.
All UCLA had to do was get one first down to drop WSU to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Pac-12 play. Backup quarterback Kevin Prince did that with a third-down pass to Josh Smith and the Bruins were 2-1 in the Pac-12, 3-3 overall.
The Bruins, who struggled on offense in the first half, took the lead thanks to 6-foot-5 wideout Nelson Rosario.
Trailing 25-20 and less than 5 minutes left, Rosario got behind cornerback Damante Horton and gathered in a 58-yard pass from Prince with one hand.
“It was one-handed great catch,” Wulff said. “A couple of their big receivers made the plays when they had to make them.”
Three plays later Prince, who was 8 of 13 for 183 yards in relief of starter Richard Brehaut, who broke his leg in the first half, found Shaquell Evans for 7-yard score. When Rosario went high to catch the two-point conversion, the Bruins had their three-point final margin.
That edge could be traced back to the first half.
With UCLA not allowing anything over the top, the Cougars were methodical on offense, putting together three drives of more than 5 minutes and 50 yards. Yet all they got out of them were three short Andrew Furney field goals.
“We knew we were going to have to hit check downs, work the flats, the crossing routes, underneath stuff,” said Lobbestael, who finished 28 of 40 passing but for just 235 yards, breaking a string of three consecutive games throwing for more than 300 yards.
No one exemplified that more than Wilson, who caught a career-high nine passes, but for only 83 yards. Without the big-play threat, WSU had to execute near the goal line. It didn’t often enough.
“When we get inside what we call the score zone, we’ve got to put points on the board,” Lobbestael said. “We didn’t execute very well down near the end zone.”
“We just sputtered,” Wulff said. “We missed opportunities there. I was happy to at least get points out of it, but looking back, we needed to get touchdowns.”
While the Cougars were getting field goals, the Bruins were not getting much, as WSU stuffed their running game before halftime.
“All week long coach (Chris Ball) reminded us before every practice how many yards they had last season,” said defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi of the 437 rushing yards UCLA posted in last season’s win.
But even though WSU limited the Bruins to 170 yards on the ground, the Bruins’ Rosario made up for it, gathering in 120 yards on just three receptions.
Although running back Johnathan Franklin finished with just 110 yards, he had four runs of more than 10 yards, including a 37-yarder.
It was actually WSU, which finished with 154 yards on the ground, including 88 on 16 carries by Rickey Galvin, which controlled the tempo.
“We wanted to control the clock and we did a lot of what we wanted to do, because we didn’t want to put our defense in the position where (UCLA) could wear us down,” Wulff said.
The Bruins didn’t. But WSU’s big plays – a couple of long runs by Galvin, an 8-yard touchdown pass from Lobbestael to Jared Karstetter, Galvin’s 21-yard scoring catch that gave WSU a 22-14 fourth-quarter lead – were more than offset by UCLA’s big plays.
“We could have won that game,” said defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi, who set the tone on UCLA’s first running play, stuffing Franklin for no gain. “I didn’t think they were better than us. They just executed better than us.”
They executed with their backup quarterback, Prince.
Brehaut, who took over the quarterback duties after Prince had a three-interception start to the Bruins’ loss to Texas, tried to run around left end midway through the second quarter. He collided with Damante Horton and got up limping. Then he went to the turf. Brehaut was helped to the sidelines and left the field a bit later on a cart, with what was reported as fractured left leg.
On came Prince, met with some boos from the scattered crowd. They turned to cheers in the fourth quarter as he led UCLA back.