PULLMAN, Wash. -- There was a running theme following UCLA sweating out a 44-36 victory over Washington State on Saturday night.
“I’ll tell you about this football team tonight, they’re 8-2,” Bruins Coach Jim Mora said.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone concurred, saying, “Eight-two, that’s where you want to be right now.”
Even senior cornerback Sheldon Price was onboard.
“We’re 8-2 and we’re just going to enjoy being 8-2 right now,” Price said. “It was an ugly win, but we’re 8-2, and that’s all that matters.”
Price was right on both counts. UCLA does have an 8-2 record and it was ugly. In fact, if the Bruins were playing anyone else Saturday, they might be 7-3.
UCLA took a 44-14 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter, then watched as its sins nearly caught up with the team. The Cougars, who are 2-8 this season, scored 22 consecutive points.
The Bruins secured the game only when Jordan Payton snagged on onside kick attempt and hit the ground in the fetal position -- clutching the ball -- with 1 minute 30 seconds left.
The sigh of relief was evident. The Bruins play a winner-take-all game against USC at 12:05 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl for the Pac-12 South Division title and a berth in the conference title game. The UCLA-USC game will be shown on Fox.
“They are not always going to be beautiful,” Mora said of victories. “We’d like them to be. Sometimes they’re ugly. As long as you win, and take the mind set going forward that you’re going to learn from mistakes, then these game can sometimes be good for you.”
There was a lot for the Bruins to learn.
--UCLA had 126 yards in penalties.
--The Bruins turned the ball over three times.
--Washington State had 524 yards, 457 of it passing.
“There wasn’t a guy in that room satisfied with the way we finished that thing,” Mora said. “The mind-set of these kids is that it’s not OK just to win. They want to win a certain way.”
Mora cited two things. The penalties, which too often kept the defense on the field, and the turnovers.
UCLA was flagged 12 times. Washington State nine for 103 yards.
“There were a lot of flags tonight, there sure were,” Mora said.
Asked if there should there have been, Mora just laughed.
He said, “There was so many third- and fourth-down penalties that kept us on the field on penalties and extended drives.”
It left Mora with a stark assessment.
That was not the prettiest thing in the world,” Mora said.
But the Bruins are 8-2.
Photos: UCLA vs. Washington State
Damien Thigpen doesn't play against Cougars
T.J. Simers: Terry Donahue doesn't want to talk about it