There was a brief moment during Wednesday's practice when some of UCLA's defensive players were standing around.
A play had just been completed and everyone was in the process of regrouping for the next one. They obviously weren't doing it fast enough, or with enough enthusiasm, for one teammate.
"It's too quiet out there," yelled one player from the sideline. "This isn't a funeral."
The player lighting the fire underneath his teammates was sophomore safety Rahim Moore.
Moore is one of the few players on the UCLA squad whose actions on the field have met with positive results. His seven interceptions perhaps give him the right to speak out at practice when he doesn't see something to his liking.
In actuality, Moore is the type of player who will speak up regardless of how many interceptions he has. He's the type of player who will do his best to set something straight no matter how many victories and losses his team has.
If there is anyone in this program right now that reminds me of the kind of energy and passion AA brought during Howland's rebuilding years it's Rahim. We have heard countless about the "it" factor this season (when talking about our QBs). Well Rahim is definitely has "it" and its encouraging to hear him gettin vocal and taking leadership responsibilities of this team. I think next season he will be the clear cut leader of this defense if not the entire football team. It is telling to see him fight so hard to keep the spirits up of a struggling football team because it is going to be that much sweeter when UCLA puts it together in his senior year in Westwood. More after the jump.We are going to need our defense to feed of Rahim's enthusiasm through tomorrow. Looks like they will have to battle through more injuries as Jerzy is now out indefinitely with plantar fasciitis (same injury that hurt Michael Roll two years ago). Per the Daily News Neuehisel and Bullough will work in a combination of senior Jess Ward, junior David Carter and sophomore Justin Edison to replace Jerzy:
"Jess Ward has got to become a big-time guy in there, as well as Justin Edison and David Carter, obviously," Neuheisel said. "All I know is it's a day-to-day thing for Jerzy, but it can be anywhere from days to weeks."
The loss of Siewierski adds insult to the various nicks and bruises the UCLA defense feels all over the field. Senior cornerback Alterraun Verner dislocated a toe against Arizona last week in a 27-13 loss, senior linebacker Reggie Carter still is limping around with a sprained knee and senior defense end Korey Bosworth is hampered by sore ribs.
Neuheisel said the Bruins have to push all that to the side and lead with their hearts against an Oregon State ffense led by Jacquizz Rodgers at running back and steady Sean Canfield at quarterback.
"They have to be willing to risk," Neuheisel said. "There has to be some risk before you're able to achieve. Risk means you put it all out there that this can happen, rather than get yourself in a cocoon so you don't get hurt emotionally.
"You have to be able to let it all go and go out there and play free."
Well it is going to be interesting to see whether the defense plays "free" against Oregon State tomorrow afternoon at Reser. We all know what we want our guys to do. Play aggressive and play with nothing to lose early on and put pressure on the Oregon passing game. It would mean the coaches (Bullough) will have to let the reigns loose a bit and get out of their base defense to take chances.
We all have to brace for a tough Saturday in Corvallis tomorrow. Last time UCLA lost 5 games in a row was to the end the 2003 season under CTS. It just might be the worst moment in the history of UCLA football in last 50 years as the team will be coming with a 0-5 record and last place in the Pac-10 conference (kind of like what we experienced in Lavin's last season and Howland's first season). Add to those potential gloomy numbers we are heading into Corvallis with an offense that has scored as many TDs (2) as our defense in last 3 games. And at this point no one out there is picking us to sneak out with a victory.
So things are not looking up to say the least. Yet none of us are planning to go anywhere. I know I will be here reading up on my Bruins, writing up game day roundups, and then checking the game threads to read updates from those who will be listening to the radio telecast or be at the game. I have seen enough sports in my life time to observe how sweet victory tastes for those who stay with it through the lowest of lows. Just think back to Howland's first season in Westwood when we ended the season losing 14 out of our last 16 games. If you were following the team back then on a game to game basis you know exactly how you felt inside while watching this:
UCLA Comeback Against Gonzaga From The Band Section (via BBRVideos)