(Sports Network) - A couple of Pac-10 Conference teams sporting just a pair of league wins each clash on the gridiron in Seattle on Thursday night, as the Washington Huskies entertain the UCLA Bruins.
The Huskies have been a huge disappointment this season with a total of just three wins, although one of those did come against 18th-ranked USC on the road early last month. More recently Washington has dropped three in a row and four of the last five games, including an ugly 53-16 decision versus nationally- ranked Oregon on the road back on November 6th.
Meanwhile the Bruins, who are coached by former Washington head man Rick Neuheisel, have been hit hard by injuries this year and because of that have just four wins in nine tries. The squad did step up and take down Oregon State in a 17-14 final back on November 6 to snap a three-game slide and keep hope alive for a possible bowl bid if the winning continues, but it will be a stretch.
UCLA holds a 38-29-2 advantage in the all-time series with the Huskies, with the Bruins capturing 11 of the last 13 encounters. Last season UCLA held off Washington's comeback bid in Pasadena by capturing a slim 24-23 victory.
Taking on four nationally-ranked programs this season, the Bruins have not had an easy time of it and with losing starting quarterback Kevin Prince to injury the battle just became that much harder. Richard Brehaut has tried to step in and make the4 transition as painless as possible with an efficiency rating of 110.89, but the fact that he has more interceptions (four) than he does TD passes (two) in 107 attempts doesn't help matters. There's no single, stand- out receiver that Brehaut can lean on either because no one has more than 15 catches this season. In terms of ground coverage, Johnathan Franklin gives the Bruins their best option with an average of just 100 ypg, although Derrick Coleman has scored almost as many TDs (six-to-five) on a fraction of the carries and is averaging nearly 6.5 yards per attempt.
The loss of Patrick Larimore to a shoulder injury has really taken the punch out of the linebacking crew for the Bruins. In just seven games Larimore was responsible for five tackles for loss and, more importantly, three forced fumbles. Akeem Ayers has appeared and started in all nine games for the Bruins this season and has also been one of the players to watch on defense with his team-leading nine TFLs and four sacks, not to mention a pair of interceptions and two recovered fumbles. In terms of pass defense, at least in the secondary, there is still room for great improvement because at this stage UCLA has but four interceptions and that has greatly effected the squad's turnover margin which currently stands at minus-0.89 per game which is last in the conference and 113th in the nation entering the week.
So little has gone right for the Washington offense this season its almost sad to ponder. Quarterback Jake Locker, who many believed would have been the first QB taken in last year's draft had he decided to come out early, has been having some serious problems against the better defenses in the Pac-10. Granted, he's still averaging 209.8 ypg through the air, but he has just 14 TDs and has tossed six interceptions, not the sort of numbers that give pro scouts reason to tout you to their bosses. Locker has cut down greatly on his running in recent weeks as well, producing just 43 net yards on the ground over the last five games. Chris Polk continues to get the bulk of the carries, leading to 730 yards and four TDs, but the rushing attack is now ranked seventh in the conference and 75th nationally with only 143.3 ypg so it really doesn't scare anybody.
Twice this season the Huskies have allowed at least 53 points and in the last three setbacks the squad has been outscored by a combined 138-30 so even if Locker was able to string some scoring drives together for the Washington offense it wouldn't make much of a difference. At this stage the run defense is allowing a whopping 219.6 ypg and that has the Huskies ranked last in the league and 118th in the country. Because of all that action on the ground there are plenty of tackles to be made, which is why someone like Mason Foster is ranked first in the Pac-10 and second in the entire nation with an average of 12.67 tackles per contest. Certainly, if Washington put up more of a fight at the line of scrimmage Foster wouldn't be required to be involved as much as he is right now.
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