Here we go again. In case anyone was feeling a little too cocky about this Saturday's game, that should stop today with news coming out of Spaulding Field. Looks like we are going to have yet another game week worrying about Kevin Prince's health condition. We all heard about Prince tweaking his knee during the Texas game and watched him brush off the trainer to throw a TD pass. Although Prince didn't suffer any damages to his knee (per MRI scan according to the LA Times), it appears that he was still sidelined during Tuesday practice due to swelling in his knee.
Prince right now is "day to day." According to Coach Rick Neuheisel there was no "structural damages" in Prince's knee:
Said Prince: "The last two days when I've woken up in the morning it's felt great. As the day goes on it gets a little stiff, gets swollen. I'm not too concerned about it, I think as we keep on going, as I keep getting treatment, it will get better.
"It's just been a day-by-day thing and I think it will continue to be."
Prince was asked if he could have played against Washington State if the game had been Tuesday.
"Who knows?" he said. "Adrenaline is a beautiful thing. Possibly, I don't really know, but like I said it's really stiff, really swollen."
I am sure the trainer and coaches are going to take outmost precaution (as they should) in this case. Still it's kind of a bummer because it seemed like Prince was just getting in rhythm in the revolver offense. In Prince's absence Richard Brehaut and Darius Bell took reps with the first team. Peter Yoon from ESPNLA posted the following tidbit from practice:
Backup quarterback Richard Breahut ran most of the first-team drills. He looked a bit rusty in the passing game with a few low throws but also threw some very nice medium-range balls. Darius Bell also got in significant work. He would be the backup if Prince can't go.
I hope Prince is feeling better by tomorrow. It would be cool to find out what Brehaut or Bell can bring to the team. However, I'd prefer for Prince to stay in rhythm in terms of game speed if his trainer and coaches deem him ready to go. During last two years Prince has always been rusty when coming back from injury, missing game action. If he ends up missing action this weekend, it will end up being a setback for the team.
Hope I am completely wrong on this but we will have to see how it plays out. Either way, at this point the Bruins cannot certainly afford to overlook Washington State, given the uncertainty at QB position this game week.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side, the guys are saying they are "starting to get comfortable" with their assignments after their tough debut with number of new starters against Kansas State. From the LA Times:
"My first year as a starter I was thinking a lot about everything but playing," Ayers said. "When you think, you really can't play fast. Guys who haven't been starting are starting to get comfortable and are not thinking as much, so they are able to fly around and make plays."
The Bruins may have just required the sink-or-swim moment delivered by Stanford. The Cardinal plunged UCLA into the deep end by rushing for 221 yards in a 35-0 embarrassment on Sept 11.
After that game, "There was a big emphasis on discipline and doing your job," Dye said.
Odighizuwa's playing time has increased the last three games.
"He's a strong guy, that has been here since day one," defensive line coach Todd Howard said. "It's just being young and learning my techniques and learning how to react.
"He's showing us more. There will still probably a little hesitation, but we're bringing him up to speed quickly."
Anxious to see what he can do this Saturday. If he can stop "thinking" too much and just start reacting with proper technique and natural athleticism, he is going to be a huge asset for our D through the conference season.
Speaking of emerging as "assets," the special teams has been in a "special" grove last couple of games:
UCLA's special teams have been magnificent the past two weeks, both games featuring key punt returns - Taylor Embree's 31-yard return against Houston, Josh Smith's 45-yarder against Texas - and impeccable coverage on punts, including a forced fumble by Westgate on a punt early in the second quarter against the Longhorns that led to a quick Bruin touchdown.
"When you play in big games, your kicking game has got to put you in a position to win," special teams coach Frank Gansz said. "Josh had a big return that put us in good position, the turnovers were huge, the one in early in the game set up the touchdown. The kids take a tremendous amount of pride in special teams, and it starts at the top with Neuheisel. He does a great job of emphasizing it and letting me do what I have to do to get these guys ready to play."
Bruins specials team has certainly given our guys a huge advantage last couple games playing at a different level than our opponents. Hope these guys can keep coming into every game hungrier than our opponents. They give the entire team an edge and their enthusiasm often seems to carry over into the entire sidelines. Hopefully they can keep it up.