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Spaulding Roundup: Long Way To Go

In midst of the euphoria of last 48 hours we talked about slowing things down a bit last night. Apparently Coach Neuheisel agrees with us and hit on the same point yesterday:

Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, had a message for the giddy masses.

He was thrilled with his program, from the players to his coaching staff, but stressed that much more work is needed.

"It's way to early for us to be considering ourselves anything close to a finished product," Neuheisel said Tuesday. "We need to improve drastically, but I think we have the kids that will understand that, and buy into that, and do the work necessary to get it done.

"We're never going to beat anybody just by showing up. We have to play intelligent football."

Pressing matters include a trio of injuries to senior starters, a nonexistent running game and a leaky run defense, all of which must be improved before the Bruins return to the field Sept. 13 at No. 15 BYU.

Running game is going to be one of the main (among many) issues fix heading into next game. It will be interesting to see how many reps Dean gets in practice in the coming days and whether even “Jet Ski” and Knox are considered in the mix. I would think if Bell is not ready to go in next game, coaches will have one of the last two guys in the mix because it’s always good to have more than 3 backs lined up and ready to go.

The main concern with Carter right now is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. We didn’t see much of that in our last game. I wonder what Dean and other backs can bring to the table wrt to that skill because in Chow’s scheme tailbacks ability to catch it out of the backfield can have a discernable impact on the overall offensive game plan.

Dean, “Jet Ski” and Knox are part of a freshmen class that is already making its presence felt. Chris Foster from the LA Times has a report on the freshmen rising to occasion on Monday night:

UCLA's freshman class has been lauded and applauded. That it deserved such treatment seemed clear after the Bruins' 27-24 overtime victory over Tennessee that bumped the Bruins to No. 23 on Monday in the Associated Press poll.

Moore recovered a fumble and was mistake-free at safety.

Linebacker Sean Westgate returned a blocked punt for the Bruins' first touchdown.

Wide receivers Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario had key receptions during UCLA's two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

Tight end Cory Harkey, wide receiver Antwon Moutra and defensive back Tony Dye all logged playing time.

So the UCLA class of 2012 displayed its class in 2008.

"I'm amazed on a couple fronts," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "One, that the freshmen were playing so well. Two, that they had to be playing. It is always gratifying when young kids answer the call, that's what makes them so special."

Foster also noted a specific veteran move by Rahim Moore when he recovered a key Arian Foster fumble in the second half:

"I saw the ball bouncing and I could have picked it up and gone the other way," Moore said. "Instead, I fell on it. Maybe I could have gone all the way, but I would rather we had the ball right there than to take the chance of giving them the ball back."

Credit here goes to DeWayne Walker. As we have been reading during the Fall camp, Walker wasted no time in throwing the whole kitchen sink at Moore (part due to Moore’s talent and part due to the necessity arising from Lockett’s suspension). Walker treated him like a veteran from the get go and got him in a kind of mindset in which he had to embrace his responsibilities as a key cog in the defensive scheme. It will be interesting to see whether Lockett gets his starting assignment back when he becomes eligible to return.

As good as Moore was (along with Verner) our DBs will have to play even better in the next game as they prepare to face a prolific passer in Max Hall. More on that game in the coming days.

Lastly, we will end this roundup with a note re. reactions to some Fulmer post-game comments (which generated some discussion on BN here and here) after the game. From the OC Register:

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said after the game that his team would see tougher opponents when it enters SEC play.

Maybe, but the record indicates that the Pac-10 is 10-6 against the SEC in the BCS era, including 6-2 in games played on the West Coast.

That prompted USC coach Pete Carroll to say UCLA's victory “does make a big statement.”

Neuheisel stopped short of saying that.

“I don't usually pay too much attention to what coaches say after a game,” Neuheisel said. “I know he was very gracious when we met at midfield and I know he's got a tough schedule ahead. I'm concerned about our tough Pac-10 schedule.”

CRN’s comments pretty much diffuses any controversy that might have resulted from those Fulmer comments heading into next season. But it’s funny to hear about Pom Pom taking note.

Also along the same topic, before we finish closing the book on this year's UCLA-Tenn game, we need to note the class and grace shown by Tennessee fans from Rocky Top Talk. I already let Joel know in an email yesterday what a pleasure it was to go back and forth with RTT heading into Monday night’s game. They have built a wonderful community with some incredibly knowledgeable and classy bloggers over at RTT. I think the Vols will rebound from their heartbreaking loss (and we have had our share of those) and go on to have a great season. We will look forward to the same back and forth next season, when we get ready for Knoxville.

As for matters on hand – as CRN mentioned above while we are all enjoying the euphoria from Monday, we need to get back to reality and worry about how the team can build from the first game. Coaches and players still have lot of issues to fix and collectively we still have a long way to go.