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Mike Leach: Washington State players ‘were babies on the sideline’ during second half of loss to UCLA

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 23, 2019, 7:26 p.m.

UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) scrambles out of the pocket as Washington State Cougars linebacker Ron Stone Jr. (10) strains for a tackle during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. UCLA won the game 67-63. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) scrambles out of the pocket as Washington State Cougars linebacker Ron Stone Jr. (10) strains for a tackle during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. UCLA won the game 67-63. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Jerry Neuheisel, an offensive graduate assistant at UCLA, gave the Bruins life when they didn’t have much of it midway through the third quarter at Martin Stadium.

UCLA wide receiver Chase Cota told the Los Angeles Times after a wild 67-63 upset win that Neuheisel, a former Bruins QB who’s also the son of ex-UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, was a beacon of positivity on the visitors sideline, “continually telling the receivers they were going to drive and score.”

“There was just something there,” Cota told the L.A. Times, “and we were all excited to keep playing and we just never doubted ourselves and it was fun.”

Washington State had no such figure on its own sideline and the Cougars lost their composure on the field and off it as the Bruins rallied back from a 32-point third-quarter deficit to stage an improbable upset on the Palouse.

In his weekly news conference, Mike Leach suggested the players on the home sideline were just as shellshocked as the 40,000 ticket-holders that showed up to watch an epic meltdown in person.

“I thought we were frantic, I thought we were frantic and segmented up,” Leach said. “We felt like UCLA should just go away and the game should be over. We’ve got to be tougher than that. I thought we were kind of babies on the sideline, to be honest with you.”

The Bruins, of course, did not retreat to their cave when Anthony Gordon threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Patmon with 6:52 to play in the third quarter, bumping WSU’s lead to 32 points at 49-17.

UCLA scored the game’s next four touchdowns in less than five minutes to close the deficit to 49-46 and the Bruins scored seven of the final nine TDs to secure their first win of the season and just the fourth of Chip Kelly’s tenure in Westwood, California.

Leach reiterated Monday that his team softened up when it grabbed a four-score lead in the third quarter.

“I think there were some guys that got satisfied and got sloppy,” Leach said. “They got satisfied, looked at the scoreboard, which is precisely what we tell them not to do, and then they got sloppy and soft.”

Meanwhile, a UCLA team Leach had praised in his news conference a week earlier, got into an offensive groove for the first time all season, scoring 50 second-half points and rolling up 426 yards in the second half.

Speaking about UCLA, Leach called the Bruins, “an extremely talented team even though they’ve been somewhat dormant up to this point. They’re very talented and I don’t think there’s a player on their roster the whole Pac-12 didn’t try to recruit. So they’ve had some very positive things for them, sitting there waiting to emerge from the beginning of the season.”

The Bruins were thoroughly rewarded for their victory when the Pac-12’s weekly awards came out. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson won Offensive Player of the Week, setting a school record for total offense with 564 yards and accounting for seven touchdowns. Running back Demetric Felton won Special Teams Player of the Week for his 100-yard kickoff return touchdown and receiver Kyle Philips earned Freshman of the Week after returning a punt 69 yards for a touchdown.

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