No. 17 UCLA won't look past Washington State this weekend
SPOKANE, Wash. – Quarterback Brett Hundley promised that the No. 17 Bruins won't be looking past slumping Washington State on Saturday to the following week's game with rival Southern California.
"This team, we really feel like every game is one week at a time," Hundley said. "We're on to Washington State, and then next week we'll be on to SC. But for right now, it's Washington State and that's all we're worried about."
That focus has served UCLA (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) well, as the Bruins lead the Pac-12 South after beating Arizona last week.
Washington State (2-7, 0-6) seems to be falling apart during a six-game losing streak that has prompted coach Mike Leach to describe some of his players as zombies and empty corpses. Star receiver Marquess Wilson is suspended for the UCLA game for storming out during a conditioning drill earlier this week. It's not clear when he will return.
The scene isn't nearly as stormy at UCLA, where first-year coach Jim Mora has the Bruins ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2006 season.
"These guys, ever since we've got here, have worked extremely hard," Mora said. "When you start to experience some success, I think you get anxious to get out there and do it again."
The Bruins rely on running back Johnathan Franklin, who has 1,208 yards this season and ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 133 yards per game. He is UCLA's career rushing leader with 3,873 yards.
Hundley, a freshman, has thrown for 2,478 yards and 21 touchdowns so far this season, giving the Bruins a balanced attack.
Mora is worried about Leach's Air Raid offense, even though it has yet to click in his first season at Washington State.
"This will be the third week in a row we're going against a team that likes to really spread the field and dish it off to a lot of different guys," Mora said. "Mike Leach does a really good job conceptually in the pass game of making you defend a lot of field, both vertically and horizontally."
"Even though that record doesn't really reflect it, you see that offense becoming what he wants it to become," Mora added.
It began snowing in eastern Washington on Friday, and the night game is likely to be played in 20-degree temperatures. Mora insisted his team is ready for that.
"It doesn't matter," Mora said. "We don't even address it."
Hundley also said that temperature would not be a factor.
"We can't worry too much about the weather," he said. "I should be able to get warm enough pregame that if I do need to take off, I should have the ability to run."
Weather is the least of the worries for Washington State, where Leach is still looking for his first conference win.
The Cougars have one of the league's best passing attacks, although they are averaging just 19 points per game.
With Wilson benched, quarterback Jeff Tuel will be looking for Dominique Williams, Gabe Marks and Brett Bartolone to catch balls.
The Cougars have plenty to play for, despite being eliminated from bowl consideration, Tuel said this week.
"I play to win, it's as simple as that," he said.
But the Cougars have been frustratingly inconsistent. They've played some of their best football against highly rated teams like Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. They stumbled badly in losing to Colorado.
"It's tough to put a finger on what makes this team play well some weeks and not well other weeks," Tuel said.
Last week they played their worst game of the season, losing 49-6 at Utah.
Afterward, Leach complained that the effort of some players was "bordering on cowardice."
"That could have been a zombie convention," he said of his team's play.
Leach was asked if the public criticism of his players might be counter-productive.
"Typically, if I am asked a question, I'll give an honest answer," Leach said.