As the roars ebbed and flowed Saturday at a renewed Husky Stadium, two players were a metaphor for the madness of the afternoon.
Terrence Austin, a spare, 5-foot-11, 162-pound freshman from famed Long Beach Poly High, was loose on a punt return, bound to put the screws to Washington's comeback hopes.
Trailing him doggedly was Washington's Greyson Gunheim, a 6-5, 265-pound defensive end, knowing he might make a difference.
The Gunheims of the world aren't supposed to win these battles, but he did, and so did Washington, chasing down UCLA 29-19 in the Pac-10 opener for both schools.
"If he [Austin] takes it in for a touchdown, it's a whole different ballgame," Washington punter Sean Douglas said.
This was the scene: The Huskies had cut UCLA's 16-point lead to 16-14, when, with 3:18 left in the third quarter, Douglas punted from the UW 24. Awaiting it at the east end was Austin, returning only his second punt of the day and his college career.
"Coach sent me out on the 30-yard line," Austin said. "We know the wind sometimes comes off the lake. This time it was coming toward the lake. I ran back the opposite way to catch it."
Douglas, who earlier mishandled a poor snap to lead to UCLA's only touchdown, boomed the ball 64 yards. Austin had to retreat to the UCLA 12 and catch the ball over his shoulder.
With the coverage lagging, Austin blew toward the middle and began angling left. But he began running out of gas "about 50 yards into it. I used all my energy trying to get out of the pack."
Meanwhile, Gunheim figured he ran about 50 yards downfield before circling back in pursuit of Austin.
"And I ran probably another 70 or 80 yards," Gunheim said.
Said Douglas, "Greyson's fast. He played running back in high school. He runs 4.6 or 4.7, especially when he's got something on his mind, a goal to get him."
Gunheim finally nudged Austin to the Bruins sideline at the UW 9. Then Washington forced UCLA to do what it did most of the afternoon, kick a Justin Medlock field goal.
If Austin scores a touchdown and UCLA kicks the extra point, it's 23-14 Bruins, again putting the Huskies behind by two scores.
"We had a chance to put something bigger on the scoreboard," said UCLA coach Karl Dorrell. "We didn't capitalize in a really critical time of the game when we should have."
The Bruins were a mess in the red zone, with drives that ended at the UW 11, 6 and 5. Ben Olson, the heralded freshman/graybeard, was 18 of 31, but for only 135 yards, or 7.5 yards a completion.
"We just couldn't get it together, and I take a lot of responsibility for that," Olson said. "It's one thing to just go out there and get pounced and lose the game, and know that you lost the game. But to know that you should have won the game, that's very tough to take."
Olson threw two interceptions, the latter a killer to linebacker Dan Howell that went for a 33-yard touchdown, ending the scoring with 6:02 left.
"Oh, yeah, I saw him," Olson said. "Typically, you want to put a little touch on it, and the ball just slipped and I threw it to him."
Olson said the crowd noise didn't bother him, but Dorrell noted, "He knew the atmosphere was going to be different from the first two games."
An earlier mistake was more subtle, but perhaps more lethal. Ahead 16-0 with about three minutes left in the half, the Bruins had Washington backed up at its 7 on third-and-11. Isaiah Stanback threw toward the sideline to Quintin Daniels, who dodged junior cornerback Rodney Van for a 17-yard gain. It launched a momentum-turning drive for a touchdown.
"Missed the tackle," lamented Dorrell.
"It extended the drive," Dorrell said, laughing bitterly. "I would say it was a big play. Those are mistakes you just don't make when you're in that situation."
As Dorrell spoke in an interview room at Edmundson Pavilion, a television above was showing USC's victory over Arizona.
No matter where he goes, he can't seem to escape the Trojans. But on this day, the Bruins had enough of their own problems, including Gunheim.