The Huskies saw what we saw. An odd game in which both offenses stumbled around in the first half and then engaged in a track meet in the second.
Senior receiver Anthony Russo may have summed up the 44-31 loss to UCLA best, saying, "(The offense) didn't come through in the first half and the defense didn't come through in the second half. We can't do that. It has to all come together."
Some post-game reactions:
On offense, coordinator Tim Lappano found hope in scoring 31 points even though there was disappointment with the running game – other than Jake Locker – and inconsistency with the passing game.
"I think he loosened up in the second half, made some really nice throws, some good reads," Lappano said. "We never quit in the second half. We moved the football, scored 31 points and we executed really poorly. If we execute better then we should put up more points, 40-45 points. But I was proud that they didn't quit. They kept going in the second half. We were in the game 10-10 at halftime. I'm still not happy with our running game. I don't think we're generating near enough run without Jake. We've got to get that fixed somehow. We've got to get our tailbacks going and help that out a little bit. I'm not sure how good we did against their man cover. Without looking at the film we weren't separating the way I thought we would. We did at times, but I don't know how consistent we were in their man coverage."
Russo said the receivers were confident they could get past the Bruins, and told the coaches, who apparently listened.
"We kept telling the coaches to go down field because we felt we can go by these guys," Russo said. "They started giving up the plays and we made plays."
As always, Locker took the down parts of the offensive performance on himself.
He said the interception returned 60 yards for a touchdown was just a bad pass, unrelated to any timing problems with little-used target D'Andre Goodwin.
On the 21-point second half, he said, "I think we just got into a rhythm. As an offense we got comfortable. I thought we executed our offense a little better in the second half and it equated to points on the board. I felt like we didn't do what we needed to in the second half."
THE RUNNING GAME
The other offensive concern was the running game, and especially the performance of Louis Rankin, who rushed for 42 yards – his third straight game held under 50.
However, neither coach Tyrone Willingham nor Lappano seems to think Rankin is the problem. Willingham said he considered replacing Rankin, but decided not to. Lappano said he considered going to another back only to give Rankin a rest.
"It's never one person and that's what we see," Willingham said. "We've got to get better execution up front. We've got to get better execution from Louis. It's everything. We've got to give him some opportunities. … It's difficult sometimes when you're not having success to get him in rhythm."
"It doesn't look like there's a lot of room in there," Lappano said. "I haven't seen a lot of big seams in there and I've got a pretty good seat."
Rankin wasn't among those made available for post-game comments.
On the other side of the ball – interestingly -- defensive coordinator Kent Baer didn't see much wrong with the play of his defense.
"In the second half, it was the drive to start the second half and the long run – that's it," he said. "Other than that, hey, (UCLA's player are) on scholarship too. They're a good football team. That's what I see. … Other than the long run, I thought we got some things stopped. Other than at the end of the game, we couldn't get the ball back."
As for that long run – a 72-yard touchdown by Chris Markey – Baer said somebody on defense "didn't fit the run right. I don't know who did. You can't give that up."
Linebacker E.J. Savannah said the Bruins' one-two punch of Markey and Kahlil Bell finally wore down the Huskies.
"I think it was that duo, how they kept swapping them in like that," Savannah said. "Our dudes were getting tired and they just stayed fresh."
Finally, cornerback Byron Davenport said he was happy to get back into action after his long-term hamstring injuries. Especially against the school he transferred from.
"It was like a home game," he said. "I was excited. It was fun."
Davenport started on the nickel defense, but replaced Matt Mosley in the base defense in the second half. Vonzell McDowell, who had started the first three games at corner, played only on special teams.
"I was supposed to play like nickel and some other packages," Davenport said. "But at halftime we made a few adjustments, they asked me if I felt good and I said yeah, and I played more after that. It was cool. I didn't expect to play as much as I did."
He was asked if he expects to start next week.
"We'll see," he said. "I'm not sure. Hopefully, things will be good. I hope I'm with the ones, depending on how I feel and how the coaches think I'll help the defense."
Finally, Savannah said he and the rest of the Huskies expect to beat USC next week, even if no one else believes they will.