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UCLA FYI : Bruins want to take this seriously

November 14, 2009|Chris Foster

PULLMAN, WASH. — Always be wary of Cougars. That seems to be UCLA's approach for its game today against Washington State.

The Cougars are 1-8 overall, 0-6 in Pacific 10 Conference play, and have become such doormats that "welcome" could be stenciled on the jerseys. Washington State graduate Keith Jackson would certainly use a hearty "Whoa, Nellie!" talking about his alma mater's football team -- and not in a good way.

Consider: These Cougars rank near the bottom among the nation's 120 major-college teams in nearly every offensive and defensive category. They have lost 17 of their last 20 games and have only 12 conference victories in the last six seasons, including this one.

And they have injury issues too.

So why is UCLA linebacker Reggie Carter among the wary?

"It's not like we've been winning all year," Carter said of the Bruins (4-5, 1-5). "We are just coming off a five-game losing streak. Regardless of what people think, we have to go in and fight. Everyone knows that if we lose this game, it will really hurt our year, not that it isn't already hurting."

History isn't on UCLA's side. The Bruins have lost five of their last six in Pullman, including a 27-7 thrashing two seasons ago when quarterback Alex Brink and tailback Dwight Tardy helped push former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell into exile.

But Tardy, a sophomore then and a senior now, seems to underscore how bad the Cougars have become. Tardy rushed for 214 yards in the 2007 game. He has 302 yards rushing in nine games this season.

Adding to the Cougars' woes is that starting quarterback Jeff Tuel is unlikely to play after suffering a dislocated kneecap last week.

Still, Carter frets, saying, "You can watch them and look at their record. So what if they're not having such a good year? We beat Washington. Washington beat USC. A victory is never guaranteed."

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Adieu, Pullman

Carter is among a handful of UCLA seniors making their last collegiate trip to Pullman. The prospect does not bring tears to his eyes.

"I don't like that place," Carter said. "It is the worst trip. There is nothing there. It is 1 1/2 hours from the airport. It's cold and even the hotel is bad. Everything is rough out there, man. You have to be a strong person to go there. Hopefully, we'll go there, get the victory and run home as fast as we can."

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Home cooking?

The Cougars have played five of their last six games on the road, giving UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel another reason to worry.

"I think they are going to play inspired football," Neuheisel said. "They are home for the first time in 35 days."

Washington State Coach Paul Wulff concurred.

"We've played five of our last six games on the road, and those five teams were all ranked," Wulff said. "We're back home with an opportunity to play. It's a huge advantage for us."

The last time the Cougars played at home, on Oct. 10, they lost to Arizona State, 27-14 -- their closest conference game of the season.

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Almost a Locke

UCLA's Jeff Locke is among 10 semifinalists for the 2009 Ray Guy Award, which identifies the nation's top college punter.

Locke, a redshirt freshman, is averaging 44.57 yards a punt, which ranks second in the Pac-10 and No. 10 in the nation. He has put 14 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard-line.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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