The Bruins were off from practice on Monday, but that did not stop the news coming from the football program and around the upcoming game against the Texas Longhorns. Coach Neuheisel spoke with the media yesterday, going over the remains of the San Jose State game and looking at the team's status heading into the week.
On the San Jose State game, Neu simply stated that the team did not play well enough on either side of the ball; that the team was not playing fast enough. Considering the level of athletes on this team (and guys like Randall Carroll on the bench), the statement is not simply a critique of athleticism or pace, but of a team playing too cautiously, without the skill and instinct that got these players to UCLA. Neu stressed the need for the team to play faster, it is one of his main concerns with the team and something that he is trying to figure out how to fix.
On his decision to punt on 4th and 2 from inside Spartan territory during the Bruins' first drive on Saturday, Neu told the media that his decision was based upon that early series not being a critical moment of the game. I get that against San Jose State, that series (or any series, really) should not be a critical moment, but we really should not have been playing, or making coaching decisions like we are playing against San Jose State. If an early drive against SJSU is not a critical moment, what is? Would Neu go for the 1st down against Stanford? Against Texas, or Southern Cal? As this game went on, I hope that dawned on Neuheisel and the staff, but starting off a game without that sense of aggression or even trust in your team to gain yards on a physically outmatched opponent is not helping to build confidence in the team, whether internally or from the alumni and the fanbase.
"My thinking is I’ve got two quarterbacks and I’ll let you know when it’s appropriate as who is going to be in," he said. "Both will be ready to play. I’ll need to know if Kevin is healthy before he’d be considered to be the starter."
Kai Malava is back from his 1-game suspension, but is not guaranteed to get his starting spot back, looking at a competition in practice this week after Greg Capella filled in admirably at center on Saturday. Glenn Love's shoulder has healed, and is also expected to be available to play against Texas.
Peter Yoon wrote a piece on Kip Smith, his early struggles and that his perfect performance against San Jose State is helping to rebuild his confidence. While Kip had been struggling with his confidence for a while, an attempted change to his mechanics did not help matters.
Smith has been struggling with his technique ever since the spring, when inconsistencies led the coaching staff to tinker with his form. They tried to gain accuracy by getting Smith to chip at the ball instead of power through it, but Smith struggled and has fixed things by going to a hybrid of sorts.
"I was kicking kind of like an eight iron or a nine iron," Smith said. "Now its more like a five or six."
But the biggest change came in his mental approach. Doubts and thoughts of missing "aren’t in my head anymore" he said. And he plans on approaching each kick with the calm mindset that it's a kick he has made a million times.
In other news, Tommy Lasorda will be speaking to the Bruins at the team hotel before Saturday's game. As noted last night, the lack of a post-game speech by Coach Neuheisel after last week's SJSU game was a pre-planned decision that Coach Neuheisel had reached with "his superiors", feeling that the talks had become a distraction. And for what must have been the 50th time in the last 4 years, Rick confirmed (starting at 9:15 into the presser) that he did not have input into the decision to run, or anything else to do with the creation of the "Monopoly Ends Here" newspaper ad that Morgan Center ran after his hiring in early 2008. Just to get that out of the way. Again.
Like the Bruins, the Longhorns have been experiencing some issues at Quarterback. Unlike UCLA's injury-fueled woes, Texas has been struck by the simpler flaw of substandard play at the position. Garrett Gilbert, first seen nearly two years ago replacing an injured Colt McCoy in the BCS Championship game (played at the Rose Bowl) has lost his starting job to sophomore Case McCoy after a pair of bad games to start the year - and a less than impressive 2010 campaign. Technically, Colt's brother is the Longhorns' co-starter, along with freshman signal caller David Ash, with Gilbert knocked down to the #3 slot on the depth chart. The BON folks tab McCoy to get the majority of snaps for Texas on Saturday; while a brief read points to Ash having the better arm, he does not yet have the playbook fully in his grasp.