SEATTLE — Hugh Millen's 31-yard touchdown pass to split end Lonzell Hill on the last play of the first half Saturday had the same stunning effect as a slap in the face. UCLA never quite regained its composure.
The aplomb with which the undefeated Bruins took the field and dominated the first half crumbled as Hill stumbled into the end zone with zeroes showing on the clock. Millen's two-point pass to flanker David Trimble added insult to the injury, and the Bruins couldn't seem to come up with a retort, even after thinking about it all through halftime.
Before a sellout crowd of 60,801 basking in the sun at Husky Stadium and about one-third of the nation watching on television, Washington came back to beat UCLA, 21-14, in the Pacific 10 opener for both teams.
Washington, which had lost its first two games of the season, went to 2-2 overall. UCLA is 2-1-1.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue was, of course, most concerned with his team's 0-1 conference record. "It certainly hurts," he said. "It puts us awfully deep in the hole as far as trying to win the conference race. But this is a young team, and as far as I'm concerned, the conference race is never over until the last day.
"The odds of coming back after a conference defeat are not very good. It's tough to have a conference loss at this point in the season."
But the Bruins have done it many times in the past. The Bruins are known for late-season rallies, just as they are known for late-game rallies.
But Saturday, the magic just wasn't there for them as the clock ticked away.
When Donahue took starting quarterback David Norrie out of the game with more than seven minutes to play--when it was time for the Bruins to take on that charmed glow--the moment turned ugly for the Bruins.
On third-and-three from the UCLA 24, junior quarterback Matt Stevens tried to stand his ground and get off that crucial pass despite the rush of middle guard Jim Mathews. He got the pass away, but the ball was hitting the ground at about the same time that Mathews pulled Stevens down in a spinning motion that twisted the quarterback's left knee around under him.
Stevens is expected to be out several weeks with the same kind of ligament damage that caused tailback Gaston Green to be left home in Los Angeles this weekend.
The Bruins had to punt, then, and Norrie didn't get back onto the field to try his hand at last-ditch heroics until the clock showed 3:15 to play. Plenty of time under other circumstances, but the Huskies were determined to keep the upper hand.
No one needed to ask when the momentum changed on this day. It was UCLA's game until the long ball that ended the first half, and it was Washington's game the rest of the way.
As Donahue put it: "We got 14 points in the first half; 14 in the second would have been enough to win it."
UCLA was leading, 14-3, when Washington's eight-point touchdown shook things up.
UCLA had won the toss and elected to take its choice of possession in the second half, leaving Washington to choose to receive the opening kickoff. That decision worked out well for the Bruins as the defense held the Huskies to no first downs, forcing the punt. UCLA defensive tackle Mark Walen set the tone by throwing tailback Vince Weathersby for a four-yard loss on the first play of the game.
UCLA scored a quick touchdown on its first possession, on a 26-yard pass from Norrie to split end Mike Sherrard. John Lee kicked the extra point, setting a Pac-10 record with 76 straight conversions, and the Bruins were on their way.
Early in the second period, Washington had a first down on the UCLA 13, and the Bruin defense held the Huskies to a field goal, a 31-yarder by Jeff Jaeger.
Later in the second period, UCLA sustained an 80-yard drive, keeping the ball on the ground until Norrie found flanker Karl Dorrell with a 26-yard touchdown pass on a third-down play to put the Bruins up by 11 points.
With 1:15 on the clock, UCLA kicked off to Washington feeling pretty good.
Six plays later, Millen found Hill open up the left sideline and made the perfect throw, leaving Hill only having to spin away from safety Craig Rutledge to cover the remaining five yards needed to reach the end zone.
Rutledge said he had no chance of doing more than getting an arm on Hill. "I was too far out of position to recover," he said. "I made a mistake trying to cover (David) Trimble coming up the middle, and I just couldn't get back to the outside fast enough when I realized the pass was going to (Hill.)"
Not much went right for UCLA after that. The Bruins received the kickoff in the second half and couldn't get a first down, much less a few points out of it. The very brief drive included a couple of sacks, an offside penalty and a little show of temper by Norrie.
The penalty and the temper were related. The TV cameras showed Norrie taking his helmet off and getting right up on the officials to make a point.