Let's open with Rick Neuheisel setting the table for this game week:
"I love everything about this job. I love the planning. I love the strategy involved. I love the interaction with young people. I love recruiting. I like alumni. I even like emails from disgruntled alumni. I just don't like losing. The key is getting rid of that feeling as quickly as humanly poss. Were on to the next game; it's a great test for us. It's fun to think about playing the No. 13 team in the country in the rose bowl. We had a good game with us a year ago. They got us in the end. But our guys are going to respond in the exact right way. Every time we've asked them too, including being down 24-6 in this last game and battling back with a chance to tie it. I still feel good about our program. We're still relentlessly positive. We've just got to get better on both sides of the ball."
Well I can get on board with that. Look we have reflected a lot since the tough loss against Stanford this past weekend. There is nothing wrong with talking and discussing what we are seeing with our own eyes on the field. However, does that mean we are concerned with where we are headed under CRN? Of course not.
Given his over all body of work, seeing how he and his staff has gone out recruited talent in first two years, reconnected the program with the greater Bruin family, bring a sense of excitement around our practices and our games that never existed before, and having our guys fight in almost every game, there was never any reason to be worried about the program. All we have been doing is thinking things out loud and analyzing our issues in as much detail as possible (from all angles), instead of just going along with one sentence grafs we read in our local papers. In any event, I have no doubt that Neuheisel, Chow, and Bullough are doing their best to game plan every week what they think is the best chance for our guys to come up with W.
Of course it will really help them if they can get back their starting QB this Saturday. According to the Daily News CRN said Prince is scheduled to resume starting QB duties in practice today, which would his first real action since Tennessee:
"We'll give him a chance to get him back in there with the ones," Neuheisel said. "I've listed him at 'or,' because I'm not sure. I'd love to see him be right where he was when he left off. If that's the case, then yeah, Kevin's in there. If there's rustiness, and things worry us, then we'll have to make that decision, too."
If Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow don't believe Prince can go, they'll go with redshirt senior quarterback Kevin Craft for the third straight game.
Craft has been efficient in his 1-1 start, completing 35 of 58 passes for 390 yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, most of his passes have been short, high-percentage passes, and the Bruins failed to stretch the field against Stanford.
With Prince and his lively arm, the Bruins are counting on a change when he returns.
"The reasons we chose Kevin Prince in the beginning are still the reasons," Neuheisel said. "He's got a big arm, he can put the ball at all portions of the field. We need to keep working on some of that downfield throwing. He gives us a chance to do that."
Also, according to the LA Times, Prince will have X-rays taken today, which per their report is "expected to be a mere formality." Needless to say if Prince is able to return on Saturday it would be a huge boost not just for the team, I think it will lift the spirts of everyone in Bruin Nation. More after the jump.
"It's a combination of things. Sometimes protection is not quite holding up long enough to hit the ball downfield. Sometimes it's a pressure that you have to throw the ball hot rather than get the ball down the filed. Sometimes it's a quarterback seeing something else and taking something that isn't as big as a play as you might have had. We need to keep bringing focus to it.
"I feel that we've got the best play-caller in the business in the standpoint of calling his spots. I'm not going to second guess him. You don't have to go back very far to see plays that are very explosive."
"You have to be able to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically. Everybody just wants to see deep balls. Long throws in the air, it's exciting. It's a big play. It's like a play at the plate loves to see it and see what's going to happen to happen with the ball in the air. But you have to have the ability to make them play the entire field before you start seeing the heave and hoes."
I am assuming on this note the coaches are also going to be working with our wide receivers focusing on execution this week. While we have all talked about Craft's limitations, we need to think just as much about how our WRs let our passing game down this past weekend in Palo Alto. I sure hope Austin and Embree are practicing with a sense of urgency, we didn't see from them during this past weekend. If not, I'd like to see more of Rosario and Presley in the game, along with the speed component of Carroll and Thigpen out in the open field.
Our WRs and QB (whoever it is) will have their work cut against a Duck squad which has a pretty decent pass defense (ranked second in the Pac-10 holding opponents to 167.4 yards a game). Speaking of the Ducks, here are the game notes from the official site (unfortunately it looks like we are stuck with David Norrie again):
GAME 5 -- UCLA (3-1, 0-1) will welcome No. 13 AP/17 ESPN-USA Today Oregon (4-1, 2-0) to the Rose Bowl on Saturday to begin its Pac-10 Conference home schedule. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. on ABC with Terry Gannon and David Norrie calling the action. The UCLA /ISP Sports Radio Network (KLAC 570 AM, the Los Angeles flagship station) will broadcast the contest with Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens and Wayne Cook mikeside. That radio feed will also be carried live on Sirius XM Satellite Radio (Channel 121 on Sirius, 103 on XM). In addition, ISP produces a Spanish-language broadcast of all UCLA home games which can be heard on the Bruins website at uclabruins.com with Armando Aguayo and Mario Amaya.
SERIES WITH OREGON -- UCLA owns a 39-23 advatage in the series with Oregon which dates back to 1928. The Bruins lead the series 22-12 in games played in Los Angeles and the teams have split the 12 games contested in the Rose Bowl. The teams have also split the last four meetings, with each winning on its home field. Oregon captured last season's battle in Eugene by a score of 31-24. UCLA shut out Oregon 16-0 in the 2007 meeting in Pasadena. Coach Neuheisel is 4-2 overall, 0-1 while head coach at UCLA, against the Ducks.
Last season, the Ducks handed the Bruins a 31-24 setback in their first Pac-10 road contest of the season. Oregon scored first and tacked on seven more points to close out the first half up 14-0. UCLA began the third quarter with a touchdown drive, capped off by then-freshman running back Derrick Coleman's first career score. Oregon answered back and took a 21-7 lead with 6:11 remaining in the quarter. Kahlil Bell's two-yard run pulled the Bruins back to within 21-14 at the close of the third quarter. After the teams traded field goals, the Ducks led 24-17 wth just under three minutes to play. A 69-yard scoring run pushed the home team into a 31-17 lead with 2:22 to play. Quarterback Kevin Craft found tight end Jeff Miller on a short scoring pass with just under a minute remaining to close out the scoring. Oregon totaled 323 yards on the ground in the game, 170 coming from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The Ducks had just 42 passing yards. Craft was good for 288 yards passing, a career-best total, while connecting on 27 of 43 attempts, with one interception, one touchdown. The Bruins totaled 63 yards on the ground.
You can read rest of the notes here.
Needless to say the Ducks have come a long way and have made a remarkable turnaround since their dreadful opening night in Boise when they were throttled for 152 total offensive yards. Their offense has gone through a surreal transformation since then putting up 94 points and averaging over 500 yards in their last two games.
Masoli might be dinged up but he has playing with total confidence and their running back combo of LaMichael James (429 yards in 72 carries) and Remene Alston Jr (304 yards in 18 carries) seem to be clicking on all cylinders. The speed of these Ducks will present an immense challenge for a UCLA defense which frankly has had a lot of issue with handling speed in spread type of offense in recent years.
While we are all anxious about Prince's return, this will be a huge game for Chuck Bullough and our Bruin defense who left Palo Alto with lot more to prove rest of this season. I think CRN set the table with the right words and message yesterday. Let's hope his coaches and players respond in kind this week.