UCLA players and fans could look at the scoreboard Saturday and call it progress.
The Bruins were actually in the game after halftime. They even had the ball in the final three minutes with a chance to damage Arizona's season.
So that the No. 15 Wildcats had to sweat a little before walking off the field with a 29-21 victory at the Rose Bowl could be looked on as a step forward.
"That was an earned victory," free safety Rahim Moore said. "We fought. We slapped. We showed we are capable of doing something."
One locker over, the other side of the coin was flipped.
"No, we lost," cornerback Aaron Hester said. "We can't have any moral victories."
An eight-point loss was better than the 60-13 debacle at Oregon last week, or the 35-7 trouncing at California in the previous game, but what ails the Bruins seems to call for more than a placebo.
UCLA, in losing its third consecutive game, again showed an inability to defend. Arizona rolled up 583 total yards, 390 of which quarterback Matt Scott accounted for personally.
That was undercut some by Arizona mistakes — Scott fumbled once and also had a pass intercepted deep in UCLA territory — and by UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut's two long touchdown passes.
The Bruins (3-5 overall, 1-4 in Pacific 10 Conference play) had the ball with a chance to go ahead, trailing, 26-21. On fourth and 11 at the UCLA 19, with 2 minutes 23 seconds left, Coach Rick Neuheisel decided not to punt, even with three timeouts remaining. Brehaut's pass fell incomplete.
Neuheisel defended his decision, saying, "Certainly, you can kick right there and hope you can stop them in three downs. If you don't, the game is over."
Defending the UCLA defense was harder. The Bruins have given up more than 500 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2005.
"You guys ask the same questions every week and we keep saying the same things," senior defensive tackle David Carter said. "We are going to fix it."
As to what needed fixing, Carter said, "I don't know. If I knew, I'd fix it."
Neuheisel praised the effort but bemoaned the execution. That had a parrot effect in the locker room.
"There's nothing we need to change, it's about our execution," Brehaut said.
Carter added, "We failed at the execution."
But Hester made it clear: "We've got to get it right, whatever the problem is. I'm not sure what we have to do, that's up to the coaches. But we've got to get it right."
Scott completed 24 of 36 passes for 319 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner for a 7-0 lead. Scott also skirted many would-be tacklers for 71 yards rushing.
The Wildcats (7-1, 4-1) led, 19-7, at halftime but could have had more. Twice they settled for Alex Zendejas field goals.
"Honestly, I didn't think there was any way they could stop us in the first half," Scott said. "We made mistakes."
The Wildcats had touchdown drives of 80, 80 and 85 yards. Arizona had 264 yards rushing, with Keola Antolin running for 111 yards, including a two-yard touchdown.
"They might have got 500 yards, but those were earned 500 yards," Moore said.
Still, it was the fifth time this season that the Bruins given up more than 200 yards rushing, all in games they lost. It was also the third time they have given up more than 300 yards passing, two in games they lost.
Carter said, "We're going to figure this out."