On Saturday night, the UCLA Bruins (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) held off a late rally from Washington State (2-8, 0-7 Pac-12), eventually slamming the door on the Cougars, 44-36.
Aside from a 30-point second quarter explosion from the Bruins, this game was closely contested throughout.
Wazzu managed to outscore UCLA in the third and fourth quarters, giving the Cougs hope until the Bruins' hands team recovered a last-ditch onside kick attempt.
With the win, UCLA maintained control of the Pac-12 South, setting up a showdown with crosstown rival USC for the division crown on Nov. 17.
For Washington State, the loss continues the saga of struggles in Pullman, as Mike Leach and Co. have some serious questions to answer.
Here are the winners and losers from the Bruins' victory on the Palouse.
Washington State QB Connor Halliday went off on Saturday, throwing a career-high five TDs in the Cougs' loss to UCLA.
The redshirt sophomore signal-caller was efficient and explosive, slicing up the UCLA secondary on 26-of-43 passing for 330 yards.
One untimely interception, four sacks and a lost fumble marred the evening for Halliday, but his overall performance was impressive, especially considering the volatile conditions in the pocket.
Halliday didn't start the game, but came in to relieve an injured Jeff Tuel with three minutes left in the first quarter. Tuel was shaken up on a hit from UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa and would not return to play.
After Odighizuwa was flagged for roughing the passer on Tuel, Halliday led the Cougars to a game-tying score, finding Dominique Williams for a TD on his first pass attempt.
Unfortunately for Wazzu, UCLA's pass rush was unrelenting. The Bruin front seven was busting into the backfield quickly and laying some punishing blows on Halliday.
But despite the constant pressure, Halliday did his job, standing in the pocket and delivering precision passes down the field.
Halliday proved his toughness and resilience in this game, mounting a furious second-half comeback to give the home team some hope. His strong performance in place of Jeff Tuel makes the QB situation in Pullman even cloudier, assuming the injured senior starter can return to compete.
Despite the final result, the Cougars have to be pleased with their performance in the passing game, as Leach's air raid rolled up 457 yards by way of the long ball.
Washington State will need to bring that potent passing attack to play this weekend when it visits a desperate Arizona State squad in Tempe.
When a quarterback has a good day, that usually means the opposing defense had a bad one.
That's not entirely the case in this one, as the UCLA front seven had a solid outing in Pullman.
But the Bruins pass defense was horrendous, giving up season highs in yards and touchdowns to two different Cougar QBs.
Jeff Tuel started the game and got things going quickly for Wazzu, picking up 127 yards on 11-of-14 passing before being knocked out late in the first.
Replacement QB Connor Halliday didn't skip a beat in backup duties, racking up 330 yards and five TDs with only one interception.
The UCLA secondary looked overmatched and out-hustled, as the Cougar receivers were finding open space, fighting for catches and drawing costly penalties all night long.
A late interception from senior SS Andrew Abbott killed a WSU rally, but that was the only highlight from the UCLA defensive backs.
If defensive coordinator Lou Spanos can't whip his pass D into shape, a date this weekend with Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee could spell disaster for the Bruins' Rose Bowl dreams.
The Wazzu QBs deserve a lot of credit for decimating UCLA's defense, but their 457 yards passing had to be caught by somebody on the other end.
Eight different players recorded receptions for Washington State, including standout youngsters Bobby Ratliff and Dominique Williams, who combined for 231 yards on 12 catches.
Ratliff and Williams both hail from the Inland Empire in Southern California, but neither showed much respect for their Los Angeles-based opponents.
Ratliff, a 6'2", 194-pound sophomore wideout, hauled in five passes for 123 yards, which averages out to a beastly 24.6 yards per catch.
Williams, a freshman with one career touchdown reception before Saturday, stomped on the Bruins secondary, grabbing seven balls for 108 yards and two TDs. The receptions, yardage and scoring totals were all career highs for the first-year star.
Williams also caught a crucial two-point conversion that cut the deficit to one possession with 1:31 left to play in the game.
If Mike Leach can maintain control of his locker room and find some consistency on defense, there is enough offensive talent in Pullman to make Wazzu a threat in the Pac-12 North next year.
Penalties continue to plague UCLA in 2012
Given the tumult in Pullman this week and the consistent lack of discipline exhibited by UCLA all season, the officiating crew figured to have its hands full when these two teams met on Saturday.
Needless to say, the Cougs and Bruins lived up to the billing of a heated contest, combining to draw 21 flags for 229 penalty yards.
Among the penalties were personal fouls, plenty of pass interference calls and some unsportsmanlike conduct, including a shoving match between UCLA RB Jordon James and WSU CB Daniel Simmons.
The Bruins were flagged 12 times for 123 yards, though one very meaningful call was blown by the referees.
Early in the third quarter, safety Stan McKay was trailing behind a play when a Washington State defender came flying into the picture to unnecessarily block the UCLA reserve.
The force from the hit sent McKay tumbling into another Wazzu defender, prompting the officials to call a personal foul against UCLA, giving the Cougs first down in the red zone.
Three plays later, Halliday found Dominique Williams for an 11-yard score, sparking some life into an otherwise deserted and demoralized Martin Stadium.
But regardless of the injustice of that play, the Bruins still failed to show the discipline and focus of a great team.
If UCLA can find a way to cut back on penalties, the Bruins have a legitimate chance to knock off USC and win the Pac-12 South on Saturday. But if the high-stakes rivalry matchup finds the Bruins stuck in their old ways, the Trojans will take advantage and paint the Victory Bell red for another year.
While the UCLA secondary was struggling to keep up downfield, the Bruins' defensive front was doing everything possible to disrupt the WSU attack.
Led by DE Cassius Marsh and LB Anthony Barr, the UCLA front seven shredded the Cougs offensive line, tallying six sacks and countless other hits and hurry-ups.
Marsh, a 6'3", 275-pound junior, was unstoppable in Pullman, recording five tackles, 2.5 sacks and a blocked field goal. Marsh also forced a fumble, which was recovered and returned for a touchdown by LB Eric Kendricks.
Barr, a junior in his first season on defense, has improved week-to-week and is really showing his next-level potential from the linebacker position.
On Saturday, Barr tallied eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and a safety, establishing himself as blitzing machine with the pursuit and tackle skills of a polished veteran.
The 6'4", 235-pound menace also blocked a punt, the second of the night after LB Jordan Zumwalt did the same in the first frame.
Senior DE Datone Jones got in on the action too, recording three tackles and a blocked field goal. Jones' block was monstrous, as the 6'4", 275-pound giant bulldozed through the Cougar line and batted the kick away with ease.
UCLA CB Sheldon Price was Johnny on the Spot, grabbing the loose ball and returning it 68 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Kendricks was also a force in this game, recording 15 tackles, including 10 solo stops, to go with his 40-yard scoop and score.
The play of the front seven was huge for UCLA, as the Bruins ended up winning by a slim eight-point margin.
If the D-line can continue to be disruptive and pressure the passer, UCLA will have a good chance to win the remainder of its games.
The inability of the Wazzu offensive line to protect the quarterback was huge on Saturday, as the Bruin defenders managed to break down the pocket on almost every play.
Starting QB Jeff Tuel was sacked twice before being injured and removed from the game in the first quarter, while backup Connor Halliday took four sacks and a few bone-crushing hits in relief.
The Bruins dominated the trenches in every phase of the game, blocking two field goals and two punts on special teams. And while the protection team is not technically part of the offensive line, it still falls into the category of big men protecting against the bull rush.
The Washington State passing offense has shown flashes of excellence, but without consistent protection from the O-Line, the Cougars are destined to waffle in mediocrity.
UCLA's special teams play was huge in Pullman
When a team blocks two field goals and two punts, you know it had a solid day on special teams.
But the bevy of batted balls wasn't the only highlight for the Bruins in Pullman, as the special teams battle proved to be a major factor in UCLA's victory.
In addition to the four blocks, the Bruins caused a turnover in punt return coverage when Stan McKay charged down the field and put the wood to Teondray Caldwell, forcing a fumble which ignited a UCLA run.
In the kicking game, true freshman Ka'imi Fairbairn was a perfect 6-for-6 on extra-points attempts, while senior punter Jeff Locke booted five punts for an average of 46.6 yards. Locke also downed three punts inside the 20-yard line, including one inside the 5-yard line on a 57-yard bomb.
UCLA also recovered an onside kick attempt with just over a minute remaining in the game, securing the one-possession victory in Pullman.
The Bruins were nearly perfect in the third phase of the game, except for one lost fumble by kick returner Kenny Walker.
Walker coughed up the rock after being de-cleated by a Wazzu gunner, but at the end of the day, the true freshman did his job. Walker returned four kicks for 95 yards, which works out to a hefty 23.8 yards per attempt.
If UCLA can build off of this performance and continue to minimize mistakes on special teams, it would be a big boost to the Bruins' BCS aspirations.