Let's start this Monday with another video on the team's trip to DC:
Looks like those guys are having a good time. No disrespect to friends from Idaho or Detroit but I think that looks like a little more fun. More on that topic below.
Anyway, let's talk a bit about the weather. If you are wondering it's another typical cloudy and cool December morning in Washington DC. It will get up in the 30s during the day time and hover in the 20s during the evening. Same deal tomorrow. Given the weather conditions Bruins have played over the years in Oregon and in Washington, this shouldn't be anything unusual, plus there will be no rain or snow in the stadium tomorrow (BTW does anyone know exactly why they have someone doing "weather" on Southern California tv stations? How hard is it to forecast 70-80 degrees every day?).
I think probably the most important weather related factor to watch will be to make sure Kevin Prince and his trainers are vigilant and do everything they can to keep him warmed up and ready to go. That brings me to the topic of team-health. It's looking pretty good:
Neuheisel said Sunday everyone should be healthy for Tuesday's game, including tight end Nate Chandler and offensive lineman Ryan Taylor. Chandler has been slowed by a strained quadriceps and Taylor by a sprained right foot.
"Nate Chandler will play in the game but he won't be ready to start," Neuheisel said. "Ryan Taylor is much better. I think he might set some time to maybe spell with (right guard) Nick (Ekbatani). He's also ready at the center position, should we need him. That's a huge boost for us."
Another guy who is feeling pretty good is apparently is Reggie Carter. Per the LAT he is going to play w/o a brace on his left knee tomorrow against Temple. He sprained his ligaments against Oregon back in October, which slowed him down a lot with a bulky brace:
"I feel healthy for the first time in a while," said Carter, who will play his final game for UCLA. "I've had that brace for seven or eight weeks. Temple likes to run the ball. It's my last chance to take advantage of it, and I'm going to make the most of it."
Carter leads the team with 72 tackles but felt limited on the field because of the brace. He led the Bruins with 83 tackles in 2008 but was considerably more effective in pursuing ballcarriers.
He had 5 1/2 tackles for a loss through the first five games this season, but only 2 1/2 in the seven games since the injury.
"It was hard for me with that brace," Carter said. "My lateral movement wasn't as good and I couldn't run at full speed. I'm definitely looking forward to flying around and making a lot of plays."
I guess Reggie must have made "dramatic' improvement in his health in a matter of 6 days because it was just a week ago he refused to practice in "tackling" drills during practice because of a "sore knee." I hope the time outs he took from practices will enable him to come out fresh and wreak havoc in the Temple backfield tomorrow evening. I am guessing there will not be any issues with Reggie's tackling at RFK. I hope not. More after the jump.UCLA will not be the only healthy team (relatively speaking of course) tomorrow evening. Temple has had their issues including shoulder injury to their star freshman running back. The Philadelphia Inquirer has a piece on Bernard Pierce, the Temple frosh who has rushed for more than 1,300 yards despite missing substantive action due to injuries and early season academic issues. Carter and co. will have to be in full alert mode to take him and his co-hort - Matt Brown - on tomorrow.
There is not be a lot of secret to the strategy (at least the mental part of it) Pierce and his team-mates have been devising for tomorrow. Temple Coach has done a good job of buttering up the Bruins (Lou Holtz style) this week. Golden is talking about just hanging in there for the first half:
"For us, it's going to be about feeling confident and competing every snap," Golden said. "When we've stepped up into this level, we never really felt like we were comfortable. When we stepped up our level of play to a BCS program with this kind of tradition ... for us, it's going to be, 'Hey, make sure you feel confident, like you belong. Make sure you're ready for this from the get-go.' When you play teams like this, if you're not ready from the get-go, it can be over by the half. When you play in this game, you have to feel like you belong."
That sounds like an admirable goal but I am guessing Golden is preaching something different. I am going to bet Temple is going to come out and rattle the Bruins right away with their version of smash mouth football.
It will be up to the Bruins to come out and be the aggressor instead of waiting to read and react against the Owls. Except for the cakewalk against the Washington State this year, we haven't had one game this season, during when both offense and defense started clicking from the opening drive. Hopefully the extra practices (notwithstanding the over the wall nonsense) and good health going into this game will enable the Bruins to come out with a great start. In terms of mindset, at least according to the coverage (and the videos we have been watching, it sounds like the Bruins are enjoying themselves in DC. The Washington Post has a nice writeup on UCLA's decision to come to DC:
"It's a long way from home, but for a bowl game, that's exciting," Neuheisel said. "To be in a city as magnificent as Washington, D.C., as much as there is to do in Washington, the challenge for me is to rein them in rather than worry about are they going to be focused for the ballgame."
UCLA's six wins provided bowl eligibility, and the Bruins had a choice of bowl games. They could have gone to Boise, Idaho, for the Humanitarian Bowl, or possibly Detroit for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and Neuheisel wanted to bring the team to Washington for Tuesday's EagleBank Bowl against Temple. [...]
"No disrespect to the Humanitarian Bowl, Little Caesars, or any other bowl -- we would have been excited to go anywhere," Neuheisel said. "But the opportunity to come to Washington, D.C., for our players, not only would it be educational, but really a chance of a lifetime. Especially considering how few have ever been."
And what this game means in terms of exposure for the Bruins in the East Coast:
Since Neuheisel returned to his alma mater last season, he has occasionally made stops in the Washington area for recruiting. Thigpen left the region for UCLA, and the Bruins also have a verbal commitment from Woodberry Forest linebacker Aramide Olaniyan, a Bowie native.
Although it's a recruiting dead period and UCLA cannot provide tickets to prospective players, the EagleBank Bowl bid grants the program attention in a region that does not receive significant exposure to the Bruins during the regular season. More important to the coach, it has given the current players an experience most had never received.
"You just see the big look in their eyes," Neuheisel said. "This city makes you proud to be an American."
Hopefully after tomorrow evening we are all going to feel proud about our American Bruins.