We are going to start with a classic case of good news and bad news. I usually like getting the bad news out of the way first. So here we go. Kevin Prince "attempted" to practice yesterday. However, according to ESPNLA Prince "appeared to aggravate" his knee injury again:
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince attempted to practice Thursday but appeared to aggravate his injured right knee on his first play.
He then walked gingerly to the sideline and did not run another play, further jeopardizing his availability for Saturday's game against Washington State.
So that's the bad news. FWIW not seeing any of the other beat reporters including Jon Gold and Chris Foster report of that aggravation this morning, although they did report that Richard Brehaut continued to practice on Thursday. That brings me to the good news. According to Gold, Brehaut had a "nice practice" on Thursday "making several crisp throws."
That brings me to Coach Rick Neuheisel who remains non committal in terms of who is going to get the start at QB. Neuheisel corroborated Gold's report of a "pretty crisp" practice and called Brehaut's Thursday performance as "terrific". He actually said the practice was even "more crisp" on Thursday than last week but maintained that he hasn't reached any decision wrt to starter for Saturday:
Love hearing the band in the background. Anyway, as you can see from the comments CRN is "not ruling out Prince" even though he said "chances are diminished" that Kevin might be playing on Saturday. You can sense a little bit of frustration in his voice in terms of how this is leading to whole another series of feeding frenzy among media and fans.
I don't think this is one of those open and shut cases especially if Prince feels much better and ready to go by Saturday. There are good arguments on both sides in terms of whether Prince should start and continue to get acclimated in our new revolver offense as we need him to get "consistent." Plus Prince always has been rusty when coming back from missing game action and not sure we can afford that with two games to go towards a bye week.
On the other hand, there is also a reasonable argument in favor of going with Richard Brehaut and having him "game ready" as a starter for rest of the season, in case we need him later in the year. I have no idea which side of the argument I fall under. Times like this it's comforting to know we have two guys like Neuheisel and Norm Chow making the decisions based on their years of experience. They have my full confidence when it comes to making decisions on QBs.
As for all the concern trolling about how UCLA needs to open the passing game NOW Chow's comments remain unflappable re UCLA's recent commitment to run:
"It's a little different for me," Chow said. "But winning never gets old."
Even if runs ... and more runs ... are counter to his traditional philosophy?
"I don't have a reputation," Chow said. "All I care about is winning."
I don't' think it matters who starts at QB on Saturday. I think if UCLA fans are expecting the coaches to open up the passing game, they are going to be disappointed. I certainly expect Chow and Neuheisel to stick to our offensive strengths and build out our attack based on our three backs. If passing opportunities open up based on our running attack, then we will take our chances. Even the Washington State fans can see writing on the wall in terms of how the Bruins are going to come at them given the Cougars are ninth in the conference in rushing yards allowed, giving up "conference worst" 6.0 yards per carry.
The key factor for the game on offense is going to be pretty simple on Saturday (or every Saturday). It is going to be all about winning that battle on first down. If the Bruins can gain 4-5 yards or more on first downs with high frequency, putting us in manageable situations on second and third, we are going to have a good shot in controlling the tempo and getting it done. However, if the Cougars come out flying all over the field and get good stops on first downs and disrupt our rhythm, putting us in third and long situations, it could be an anxiety filled Saturday.
Seems like Cougars are determined to do just that as they are going all out in their practices:
For the second consecutive day the hitting was intense, with the defense selling out and taking the offensive player to the turf. And for the second consecutive day there were a couple small hurts that were attended to and turned out not to be serious. But it seems like a little chancy to keep it up, and, according to coach Paul Wulff, the Cougars will be in full pads tomorrow. "We're going to get after it again," he said. That's rare for a Thursday. Down right unheard of as far as I can remember in my four years here, but I will admit my memory isn't what it was before spending four years here. ... I asked Wulff if the hitting was serving its purpose, making WSU a more physical, better tackling team. "It's the only thing we can do," he said. "It better. There is no other way to do it."
Fortunately it appears that Neuheisel has gotten the word how hard the Cougars are practicing this week preparing for perhaps their "biggest game of the season" (at least to date). I am sure he is doing everything he can to impress upon his players the sense of urgency with which Cougs are coming down to the Rose Bowl. If the Bruins don't match that passion they are going to get hit just like the Longhorns did on Saturday.
Bruins are going to need consistent efforts from the entire team like they have been getting from Tony Dye:
Twice against Texas, Dye came up to stop receivers short of the first down on fourth-down plays.
"I went up to Tony and said, 'You know what, if we miss tackles, we know you're coming up to make the play,' " defensive tackle David Carter said. "If a guy is heading down the field, we know Tony is going to chase him down. He's Mr. Dependable."
Said Dye: "I usually don't like nicknames, but I'll take that one."
I always cringe a little when reading about safeties leading teams in tackles. However, Dye is one of those guys who always finds a way to get in a pile often just ensuring the plays are finished. Hopefully Dye's team-mates upfront will take care of business on Saturday so that he is playing the "closer" role in finishing up plays. For more on the Cougars make sure to read ESPNLA's scouting reports here and here.
Lastly, we will finish up with this AP wire story on this weekend's game which notes how UCLA players are "wary" of "good feelings" generated after Texas win (as Jet Ski and Ayers pointed out all on a sudden lot of guys want to jump on the band wagon). It also talks about a classic "trap game" this weekend:
The Bruins' next game is ostensibly the easiest on their schedule: a visit from hapless Washington State this Saturday. Yet it also looms as a potential trap game for the Bruins, who are determined not to stumble just when they've finally got a little momentum.
"There's huge amounts of improvement that can be made," Neuheisel said. "If we think we're good enough to just go and relax now and enjoy the backslapping, we're out of our minds. I think we have bright enough kids at UCLA to understand that."
Hope that is the case on Saturday.