LOS ANGELES (AP) -While Rick Neuheisel insisted there are no ``moral victories'' for the UCLA football team, he still gave the Bruins good grades for effort and improvement.
UCLA played Fresno State on even terms before losing 36-31 on Saturday.
``We certainly have things to improve on, but we're eager to do just that, improve,'' Neuheisel said Monday. ``The effort was such that it could have easily been a victory.
``We're not into moral victories at UCLA, I don't mean to intimate that. But I do see us going in the right direction.''
Tailback Kahlil Bell, who returned to the lineup against Fresno State after missing two games with a sprained ankle, agreed.
``The goal is to win and we didn't, but we did a lot of good things,'' said Bell, who carried 20 times for 73 yards and scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards against the Bulldogs. ``We put 31 points up on the board, finally had some touchdown drives, something we hadn't done in the previous weeks.
bing.''
The Bruins, off to a 1-3 start that includes an 0-1 Pac-10 mark in their first year under Neuheisel, host another struggling conference foe, Washington State (1-4, 0-2) on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
Neuheisel, asked what he found most encouraging about UCLA's latest performance, quickly replied, ``Our running game was much better.''
The Bruins, who gained a not-so-grand total of 156 yards on the ground in their first three games, netted 234 against Fresno State.
``Kahlil being back in the game helps us, not only from a talent standpoint, but certainly with the attitude that he brings with him,'' the coach said. ``Kahlil is kind of like that guy in the Monty Python movies who gets his arm cut off and says, `flesh wound.'''
Freshman Derrick Coleman rushed for 86 yards on 10 carries against the Bulldogs, but lost a critical fumble late in the game.
One area in need of improvement, Neuheisel said, is third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball.
UCLA's offense went 2-for-9 on third down against Fresno State, which was 6-of-14 against the Bruins' defense.
``We play a lot of great snaps on defense,'' Neuheisel said. ``We've got to play better on third down. We have three to four big plays a game that are killing us.
``Usually, as is always the case, it's one guy getting out of position and all of a sudden, there's a huge play.''
mes at UCLA were a roller-coaster ride that now seems to be leveling out a bit. The Bruins upset Tennessee in the opener, then were humbled in a 59-0 setback to BYU that was the school's worst defeat in 79 years. That was followed by a lackluster performance in a 31-10 loss to Arizona.
``Now we just need to kind of punch the door down and find ways to win,'' he said.
Bell believes that's coming.
``We're missing a lot of guys right now, but we're coming back from injury and we're getting better and we're going to get this rolling,'' the senior tailback said. ``We're going to get this thing turned around.''
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