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Spaulding Roundup: No Time To Let Up

While we slowly started the process of putting the Tennessee game in the back burner, and pivot towards BYU, coaches were way ahead. One of the main storylines heading to next game will be how UCLA responds after its stirring win over Tennessee because the recent history is not good. Moreover, lot of folks outside Westwood are already gearing up (and hoping for) a thumping by BYU so that they can get their share of “I told you so’s” potshots against Neuheisel and the Bruins. CRN is aware of our recent history and as Dohn notes he is already doing what he can to get our players in the mindset so that they can avoid our recent letdowns:

Rick Neuheisel's UCLA coaching career is one game old, but he knows about past roller coaster rides the program experienced, the big wins followed by colossal losses.

"That can't be who we are," Neuheisel said.

Following Monday's emotional season-opening 27-24 overtime victory over Tennessee, the Bruins have a bye before traveling to No. 15 BYU on Sept. 13.

The extended time off should help the roller-coaster syndrome, but Neuheisel isn't taking any chances. He already addressed the topic Wednesday during a team meeting.

"Coach Neuheisel said we're not going to be a team that has a good game one week, and the next week go and flop off," Bruins fifth-year senior Brigham Harwell said. "We're not that good to do it. We don't have the talent on our team to show up and win. Last year I think we thought we could show up and win, and that wasn't the case. Our motto is to keep fighting."

A year ago, 11th-ranked UCLA lost 44-6 at Utah. In 2006, the Bruins upset No. 2 USC 13-9, then lost to Florida State 44-27 in its next outing.

Senior tailback Kahlil Bell's status is questionable for the Cougars with a sprained ankle, but he said he would talk to other team leaders about getting the message out.

"The leaders of this team are not going to let us go up one week, and down another week," Bell said. "It starts in practice. We have to practice like we did all camp, when no one thought we had a chance to beat Tennessee.

CRN also brought our players back down to earth by reminding in his own words that “we were lucky” against Tennessee:

"We can't walk out there and just get off the bus and expect to play and win. That isn't who we are. We can't be bulimic because we look in the mirror and see something that we aren't."

Neuheisel wasn't bummed out about being underrated Monday and he's not doing cartwheels now.

"We're going to be where we're going to be," he said of the big picture. "We know we've got lots of issues to face."

UCLA running backs, for example, averaged 0.9 yards a carry against Tennessee and the Bruins' already-depleted offense faces the rest of the season without key starters.

"Our kids know we were lucky [against Tennessee]," Neuheisel said.

Well, I am sure many here will somewhat disagree with our HC on that point re “luck” and argue luck tends to swing towards the way of the team that keeps fighting with relentless passion. Still the point remains that our team still has number of issues to address if it wants to avoid another humiliating defeat on the road following an emotional win. So it’s good to see CRN getting players to realize that despite the national buzz and the good feelings around our program, they just cannot expect to roll into the next game and expect a win.

One of the areas coaches are working on is to continue to develop our OL. The OL was serviceable Monday night providing adequate pass protection to KC, however it has a lot of work to do in terms of generating a running attack:

The Bruins gave up only one sack, as offensive coordinator Norm Chow's mandate was for quarterback Kevin Craft to get rid of the ball quickly throughout the game. Craft's mobility was also an asset, but the Bruins' line held its ground against the pass rush.

Pushing forward, on the other hand, the line was not up to the task. The Bruins gained only 29 yards rushing, averaging 0.9 yards a carry.

"I thought our pass protection was very good," Palcic said. "We struggled in run blocking. We had too many mental errors and technique flaws in the running game, but I am encouraged because I know that was the first college game most of those kids have ever played. They will continue to get better and we'll cut mistakes."

The biggest thing the line took out of the Tennessee game was experience.

"We had to get our feet wet in a hurry," Palcic said. "Playing against a Tennessee defense that is big, strong, physical and experienced is going to going to help us down the road. I could see the confidence grow in our guys as the game went along. I kept telling them, 'Keep it close until the fourth quarter and that's when we'll get them.'"

Palcic also had this to add about his boys in the OC Register:

"They have a tremendous work ethic," Palcic said. "Opponents better take their swings at us now, because we're going to keep getting better."

We will talk more about our running game in the coming days. It will be interesting to see the kind of defense BYU deploys against UCLA. Will they stack the box like Tennessee and once again dare Bruins to beat them with Craft or will they pull back their LBs, possibly allowing our OL to create some room for Carter, Moline and hopefully Dean. One encouraging note from the Dohn report linked above is that Bell’s “MRI was clean” and that “X-Rays were negative on his left ankle.” He was still on crutches yesterday and in a walking boot. However, there is a chance he could play against BYU.

While UCLA coaches are working away to improve our players on the field, (under CRN) they have also been busy putting together infrastructure making recruiting process – the life blood of program – efficient off the field. Dohn has a very interesting report on a new recruiting software tool, specifically customized for UCLA, allowing our coaches and administrators (from both Morgan & Murphy) sync their efforts much better than the past:

The system, put together by Atlanta-based Blue Chip Solutions, allows coaches to find information about prospective recruits by name, or position, or grades, or prospect rank, or whether offered a scholarship, or committed, or any category someone can dream up.

"It streamlines the process, but most importantly, it gets the information to the coaches so that they can make that (recruiting) phone call that much more important," Neuheisel said. "We have the ability to have the video. We can look at the different games that have been played, and talk to them about their game against Wilson High, or whatever it is, and let a young man know we really are paying attention.

"Let them know, hey, this isn't a cold-call atmosphere. We're tracking this very, very carefully."

The goal is to make the recruiting process paperless, while removing communication problems that crop up, which is especially relevant at UCLA.

The company's founder and CEO, Steve Kennedy, said, UCLA's is one of six Pacific-10 Conference teams (California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Washington State are the others) to use Blue Chip Solutions, but UCLA's system was designed differently because of the school's, to put it nicely, unique administrative structure.

"Before a coach can go out and recruit a kid, specifically at UCLA, there are certain admission standards that a kid has to be able to adhere to," Kennedy said. "Before we walked in there, admissions had their own database that allowed them to do what they had to do, but it was disconnected from the database that housed all the kids' information that the coaches were using over in the recruiting office.

"There's two islands of information we connected together, and then the third island is the guys that have to play watchdog on everything, which is the compliance department. They had their own separate system for doing things.

"So what we did special for UCLA was we wrote a program that joined those three different offices together into one database so everyone could see what each other was doing."

Read rest of the report here, which describes how the new system is allowing UCLA coaches to avoid situations like Brice Price from last year.

Guess the report was timely given the good news we heard about Ricky Mavray last night.

We can see how the efforts to improve this program is paying dividends both on and off the field. However, as CRN pointed out yesterday this is not the time to let up and rest of the laurels of one "lucky" win. Over the next 8 days, they need to maintain the same relentless (positive) tenacity they showed heading into Tennessee game, so that they can be competitive against BYU next Saturday.