What happened?

A month ago there was a real buzz about UCLA football. The Bruins opened with three wins. Coach Rick Neuheisel was convincing anyone who would listen that his team was going places. The players had some swagger.

I’ll ask again, what happened?

The Bruins now sit in ninth place in the Pac-10, with a measly 3-4 record. They’ve lost their last four games. It’s the worst losing streak for UCLA football since 2003.

After the team’s latest 27-13 loss to Arizona on Saturday, I couldn’t help but get the impression that things are falling apart for Neuheisel’s team.

The offense has regressed. It’s almost as if the Bruin wide receivers are merely decoys. Quarterbacks Kevin Prince, Kevin Craft and Richard Brehaut throw mostly short passes to tailbacks and tight ends. The team has zero passing touchdowns in the month of October.

As my friend Tim said, “That is the opposite of good.”

Plus, certain young players seem to have hit a rut. Those guys who are supposed to be budding cornerstones of this program, guys like Prince and sophomore wide receivers Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario, seem to be slumping.

The defense isn’t so bad, but the Bruins aren’t as dominant as they’d hoped to be. In the past two weeks, the Bruins have had trouble containing speedsters on the edge ““ Cal burned them on the outside last week, and then Arizona tried all those reverses Saturday.

Before the year, Bruin defensive players were talking about being the best defense in the Pac-10. For now, that’s still just talk.

And there are problems off the field, too. Freshman wide receiver Randall Carroll is in some hot water after he criticized offensive coordinator Norm Chow on Twitter. The criticism came in a message from Carroll to Dietrich Riley, a high school senior whom UCLA is trying to recruit.

That type of thing only adds salt to the Bruin wounds.

The schedule sends UCLA to face Oregon State on Saturday. The Beavers have won two of their last three games and should be heavy favorites against the struggling Bruins.

So, whatever you choose to focus on, it’s tough to feel good about UCLA football. But, this is what happens when you follow sports. There are wild ups and downs. For UCLA fans, there are two good ways to look to handle it all.

First, you can think of what’s left to fight for this season. The Bruins could still reach a bowl game. They’ll probably need wins against Washington, Washington State and Arizona State. That could happen, if UCLA finds some sort of passing attack.

Or you can go long-term. Start looking at the recruiting sites. Maybe, in one or two or three years, UCLA football will add tons of great recruits, and the Bruin teams won’t melt down like this. Anything is possible.

The worst part though, whatever you choose to emphasize, is that there’s no way to answer the question on every Bruin fan’s mind ““ what happened to this team?

Neuheisel alluded to a “long story” last week after the Cal loss. I don’t know what to make of that.

I’m sure things tend to snowball when a team is losing. Players become frustrated. Coaches start to second guess.

And I think that’s where the fans are at, too. Really, at this point, after this dismal October, everyone is just scratching their heads.

E-mail Allen at sallen@media.ucla.edu.