Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

Recap and highlights: UCLA defense shuts down No. 13 Washington State, as Cougars lose first game of season

By Greg Woods The Spokesman-Review

PASADENA, Calif. — In the days ahead, when Washington State looks back at its 25-17 loss to UCLA on Saturday afternoon, the Cougars will likely lament a host of plays. Their offensive line looked porous, their decision-making questionable.

What WSU will regret most, though, will be its turnovers. The Cougars lost four in this loss, two via fumble from receivers and two via interception from quarterback Cameron Ward, who for one of the first time this fall looked vulnerable. He threw his first two picks of the season.

The Bruins turned four turnovers into 16 points, which explains most of the reason the Cougars suffered their first setback of the season. UCLA parlayed WSU’s second fumble, from freshman wideout Carlos Hernandez into a field goal. The Bruins turned Ward’s first interception into another three points. Then they flipped Ward’s second interception into a touchdown, taking a 25-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Cougars never quite escaped that spot, at least on offense, because their offensive line could not give Ward time to be himself. UCLA totaled six hurries. Ward had to scramble on what felt like every dropback. Eventually, the Cougars started drawing up quick passes for Ward, but even that could not help them break out of a slump that lasted the entire game.

Washington State’s best play of the game came on defense, which does a good job illustrating the outcome. It came from safety Kapena Gushiken, who at the end of the first half took a pick-six 88 yards into the end zone, giving the Cougars a 10-9 lead headed into the halftime.

From there, though, Washington State had serious trouble scoring. The Cougars got into the end zone late in the third quarter, when Ward lofted a pass over a corner blitz and into the chest of running back Nakia Watson, whose touchdown helped WSU leap ahead, 17-12.

From there, though, the Bruins had their way. Early in the fourth quarter, receiver Keegan Jones galloped 13 yards into the end zone, good for an 18-17 lead, and after Ward tossed his second pick of the game, Jones returned to action, sprinting 22 yards for a touchdown. That ballooned the Bruins’ lead to 25-17, the final margin.

Still, WSU had a chance. The Cougars got the ball back at their 27 with roughly 90 seconds to play. They had an opportunity to tie the game. That evaporated moments later when, on fourth-and-1, Ward was stuffed on a quarterback keeper.

That put an end to WSU’s hopes at comeback.

Pac-12 Network / Youtube

First quarter

14:02: WSU 0, UCLA 0: Cougars receive the opening kick and don’t get much going, gaining six yards before punting. Ward opens 1 of 3 passing.

The Bruins take over on their own 27.

12:59: WSU 0, UCLA 0: Offense off to a slow start? No worry, Lockett III picks off UCLA quarterback Moore on third down and returns it to the Bruins 19, setting the Cougars up in the red zone.

12:02 – WSU 3, UCLA 0: Bruins defense steps up after the interception, nearly picking off Ward and holding the Cougars to a field goal. Janikowski’s kick is good from 32 yards.

Ward opens 1 of 5 passing and has felt pressure from the UCLA defense.

6:43 – WSU 3, UCLA 0: Physical drive by the Bruins stalls in the red zone and UCLA’s Lopez pushes a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Moore was tagged for intentional grounding on third down, pushing UCLA back. The Cougars start on their 37.

4:14 – WSU 3, UCLA 0: Ward gets things going as the Cougars move all the way down field, but the Bruins step up again in the redzone. Latu lays a big hit on WSU tight end Johnson, forcing a fumble, which is recovered by UCLA on its own 8.

0:44 – WSU 3, UCLA 0: Back-to-back big plays by Gushiken, as the Cougars DB sacks Moore for a loss of nine on third down. Bruins punt 55 yards to the WSU 29.

Second quarter

14:40 – WSU 3, UCLA 0: Cougars having a hard time keeping hold of the ball as Hernandez is stripped, the second straight possession ending in a fumble. Bruins recover and start on their 37.

11:31 – UCLA 6, WSU 3: Bruins cash in on the turnover this time as Moore finds Loya in the back of the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Lopez hooks the extra point wide left.

UCLA goes on a 9-play 63-yard drive after the fumble. Bruins outgaining the Cougars 135-87 and are 5 of 9 on third down attempts.

10:20 – UCLA 6, WSU 3: Swarming Bruins defense forces another punt. UCLA takes over at its 18 after a 44-yard punt from Haberer.

Cougars need to focus on slowing RB Steele, who has 12 carries for 62 yards (5.2 ypc).

8:47 – UCLA 6, WSU 3: Jackson gets to the quarterback as the Cougars sack Moore for a 12-yard loss on third down. WSU starts on its 46 after a 45-yard punt.

6:46 – UCLA 6, WSU 3: Cougars opt for three-straight run plays to Watson, but its ineffective, like it has been all season. WSU gains five yards on the drive and punts to the UCLA 12.

5:09 – UCLA 6, WSU 3: Steele is stuffed on a third-and-1 rush attempt and the Bruins punt to the WSU 42. The struggle between the Cougars and Bruins defenses continues. 

4:55 – UCLA 6, WSU 3: Ward makes another bad decision and this time is punished, as Johnson intercepts an underthrown pass near the sideline. It’s Ward’s first pick of the season, though he should have had another in the first quarter.

Bruins start on their 35 after a personal foul penalty, a big change in field position, after the INT was returned to the WSU 22.

1:30 – UCLA 9, WSU 3: Lopez hits his first kick of the day, a 37-yard field goal, after missing from 47 and a PAT earlier.

Bruins nearly had a touchdown pass to Ryan, who tried to scoop a low pass in the endzone, but it was ruled incomplete after a replay review.

1:05 – UCLA 9, WSU 3: Cougars offense is going to need some major adjustments at halftime. WSU goes three-and-out and punts to the UCLA 29.

Ward nearly gave away a pick-six on a screen pass on first down.

0:07 – WSU 10, UCLA 9: Gushiken saves the Cougars half with a stunning 88-yard pick-six. After a miserable half on offense, WSU will go into the locker room with the lead.

Ward is 9 of 22 for 92 yards and the Cougars have eight carries for 22 yards. WSU has three turnovers, which set up both of the Bruins scoring drives.

Third quarter

13:38 – WSU 10, UCLA 9: Cougars defense starts the second half strong and forces a three-and-out. WSU starts on its 38 after a 12-yard return by Hamilton.

12:16 – WSU 10, UCLA 9: Cougars still can’t get anything going as Ward is pressured on third down and throws it away. Kelly was injured on second down.

UCLA starts on its 20 after a 47-yard punt.

10:15 – WSU 10, UCLA 9: Bruins stuffed again and punt after a three-and-out. WSU starts on its 29. 

8:44 – WSU 10, UCLA 9: Cougars stuffed again and punt after three plays. UCLA starts with great field position at the WSU 43.

Ward was sacked for a 10-yard loss on first down.

7:29 – UCLA 12, WSU 10: Lopez nails a 32-yard field goal to give the Bruins the lead.

Sturdivant tried to haul in a touchdown pass on third down, but it was ruled incomplete after a replay review.

5:17 – WSU 17, UCLA 12: Ward flips a pass out to Watson in the flat, who takes it in for a 9-yard touchdown. First offensive touchdown of the day for the Cougars, who had a 4-play 74-yard drive.

Earlier on the drive, Ward completed a 39-yard pass to Hamilton on the seam, who fumbled but was quick to recover. UCLA linebacker Bryant-Hamilton was ejected for a targeting hit on Ward.

2:50 – WSU 17, UCLA 12: Cougars get a big play on special teams, as Hicks blocks the Bruins’ 33-yard field goal attempt. UCLA drove to the Cougars 15, before opting for a field goal on fourth-and-4.

1:35 – WSU 17, UCLA 12: Cougars punt after another three-and-out. UCLA starts on its 25.

Fourth quarter

13:28 – UCLA 18, WSU 17: The Bruins pick up a fourth-and-6 conversion and go on to score a touchdown on a 13-yard run by Jones. Moore’s 2pt try is no good. UCLA finally converts in the redzone, improving to 4 of 7 scoring trips on the game.

13:20 – UCLA 18, WSU 17: Ward tries to throw across his body back to the middle of the field and is picked off by Oladejo on the first play of the drive. Bad decision by Ward, who is 14 of 30 for 157 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on the day.

Bruins start on the WSU 36.

11:45 – UCLA 25, WSU 17: Jones runs for a 22-yard touchdown on a similar play he just scored on. Cougars will need to quickly come up with an answer on offense. 

9:45 – UCLA 25, WSU 17: Cougars and Bruins trade punts and WSU takes over at its 36.

4:19 – UCLA 25, WSU 17: Cougars’ Jackson gets a big sack on third down and WSU will have another chance on offense. WSU starts on its 28 and has punted after three-and-outs on its last two possessions.

1:33 – UCLA 25, WSU 17: Cougars decide to run Ward on fourth-and-1 and are stuffed. Bruins will run out the clock and win the game.


Washington State will take the field for a noon kickoff against UCLA at the Rose Bowl today. It could mark a strong step toward the Cougars returning later this season.

The game between the No. 13 Cougars (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) and Bruins (3-1, 0-1) will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.

Both teams are coming off bye weeks, after WSU beat Oregon State 38-35 in Pullman and UCLA fell at Utah 14-7.

The Cougars have shot up the college football rankings with wins over two top 25 teams in OSU and Wisconsin. So far, though, WSU has mostly had the advantage of playing at home.

The Cougars are on the road for the first time since beating Colorado State 50-24 in the season opener. UCLA has been solid on its home field with routs of Coastal Carolina and North Carolina Central. 

The Bruins are favored by three points, according to VegasInsider.

Series history

For two teams sharing the same conference, the Cougars and Bruins haven’t played often over the past decade. Today’s game will be the fourth meeting in the last 10 years, the most recent being UCLA’s stunning 67-63 comeback in 2019

With UCLA leaving for the Big Ten, it may be the last for a long time. The Bruins hold a 40-21-1 all-time record dating back to 1928. 

Team stats

Scoring WSU UCLA
Points Per Game 45.8 32
Points Allowed Per Game 25.5 11
Total Yards 532 456
     Yards Passing 406 251
     Yards Rushing 126 205
Yards Allowed 382 264
     Pass Yards Allowed 250 186
     Rush Yards Allowed 132 78

Individual leaders

PASSING Att.-Comp. Yards TD Int.
Cameron Ward (WSU) 105-141 1,389 13 0
Dante Moore (UCLA) 47-86 849 8 2
RUSHING Carries Yards TD
Nakia Watson (WSU) 35 128 2
Carson Steele (UCLA) 41 272 2
RECEIVING Receptions Yards TD
Josh Kelly (WSU) 2 336 5
Michael Sturdivant (UCLA) 12 279 2

Game preview

More on the Cougs