By Jon Gold
Less than a year later, UCLA is hoping to get in week five what it took a whole season to accomplish last year.
After a 24-16 loss at Stanford last week, the Bruins have a second shot at win No. 4, which would match last year’s total.
They wanted it last week.
They need it this week against No. 13 Oregon.
“Mentally, we’re just hungry to win,” sophomore offensive tackle Mike Harris said. “That loss, it hurt, it hurt real bad. This week, we’re focused on Oregon and hungrier for more wins. Nobody wants to feel that pain of losing again.”
It won’t come easy.
Though the Ducks will be without a several key contributors, they are riding four straight wins after a 19-8 loss to Boise State to start the season. Shifty quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who ran for 170 yards against the Bruins in a 31-24 Oregon win last year, is doubtful for the game. In his place, Nate Costa, the Ducks’ would-be starter last year before a season-ending knee injury.
Either quarterback will be a handful.
If the Bruins can get their hands on him, which they struggled mightily with last week against Stanford.
“A tackle is a tackle, just get the man down, regardless of how it is,” middle linebacker Reggie Carter said. “Everyone wants that perfect hit, that big hit. But you practice tackling and you thud up – and it’s never like that in a game. Guys are moving, a lot of open space. I can care less where guys hit him, in the face, in the feet -you get him down, you’ve done your job.”
It will be on a host of others to do theirs, as well.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince returns after a two-game, three-week layoff following a broken jaw suffered at Tennessee in Week 2. Prince has looked markedly better as the week of practice wore on, his confidence and timing improving by the day. Though the coaching staff has been coy about its decision, all signs point to Prince.
The rest of the offense has a bit of catching up to do, too.
UCLA converted just 2-of-10 first downs and rushed for only 95 yards, as the Bruins had drives of three, four, five and six plays all result in punts. Drive after drive stalled for UCLA near the promised land, as the Bruins settled for three Kai Forbath field goals and one Johnathan Franklin 1-yard touchdown run.
In the end, missed opportunities killed the Bruins – and they haven’t forgotten.
“It was very painful – we still think about it,” defensive end Korey Bosworth said. “The bad thing about football is you’re not going to get over that pain until next Saturday. It sticks with you all week. We have guys who can’t sleep because they’re thinking of it. It wasn’t thinking we couldn’t have prevented. That makes it weigh even heavier.”
Perhaps last season, mired in a down-up-down, 4-8 campaign, a loss could be shaken off.
Not this year.
Not for a team that started 3-0.
Not for a team that wants No. 4 so much.
“You’re on a losing roll and it’s like, ‘OK, we lost, move on to next week,’” sophomore safety Tony Dye said. “It’s on a personal level now. We really wanted that fourth win. That four is still in the board in our locker room. We gotta get that fourth win. It’s almost a personal angle. We gotta get that fourth win. I mean, that’s where we ended last year. We gotta get that four.
“It’s haunting us.”