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Houston: We Have A Problem

How about that for a cheesy title? Gotta amuse ourselves somehow.

Saturday after we finally walked out of the Rose Bowl following Rick Neuheisel's post game remarks to the few hundred left around sections 5-7, we were running into Bruin alums and fans who were looking for anything positive. One of them mentioned that perhaps the 0-2 start was just what we needed given how have stumbled in recent years with good starts or inspiring season opening wins. I have also seen references to the 0-2 start in 1998 (heading into Texas) sparking 20 win streak and the 0-3-1 start in 1983 ending up with a Rose Bowl victory. I myself brought up the 0-2 start in 1993 as well ending with a Pac-10 championship.

The 98 team lost heartbreakers to eventual Pac-10 champion Washington State and barely lost to Payton Manning led Tennessee at the Rose Bowl. The 93 team dropped a heartbreaker to Cal at the Rose Bowl, and dropped a 1 point decision against a powerhouse Nebraska team after freshman Skip Hicks left with an injury. I didn't follow the 83 Rose Bowl team but that unit was coming off a 10 win season. So at this point all of those comparisons are just laughable. Let's not even go there. If there are other more relevant analogies involving other UCLA teams from previous decades would love to hear from the elder Bruins around here but for now the only start this season is reminding me of is Neuheisel's first year in Westwood (and that example is not relevant given he had just taken over a mess from the previous coaching regime.

So what exactly can Neuheisel do to get moving things in the right direction against a powerhouse Houston offense (whose Heisman caliber QB - Case Keenum - got banged  up)? Well here was his Sunday diagnosis:

"Offensively, we have got to do a better job of throwing and catching and converting third downs. Our running game has been pretty good and can get better. But we have to do a better job of converting third downs and throwing and catching the football. Defensively, we can get better at some of our gap integrity. Our inside front seven have got to be in our gaps and playing efficient football in there."

That all sounds nice. However, unless the team improves dramatically in terms of execution and not shooting itself with mistakes none of this public analysis is going to matter all that much. More including the latest on the QB situation after the jump.

Neuheisel is opening up the QB spot this week during practices:

"We haven't made that determination yet. We'll see. We'll watch practice. The effectiveness of the quarterback position is critical, so we want to make sure we have someone out there who knows what he's doing and does it well. At the end of the day, as long as (Prince's) health is good, it comes down to performance. To date, the performance hasn't been what it needs to be."

I imagine this could get some people a little excited. Yet, I am pretty ambivalent about switching from Kevin Prince to Richard Brehaut. To be fair, none of us don't really know how Brehaut is going to respond if he gets the opportunity to start. All the action he has seen in a Bruin uniform has come in meaningless situations (mopup duties against San Diego State last year and Stanford on Sat night after Prince hurt his shoulder) or during tough situations when the Bruins were under duress (v. Oregon, Arizona State and Oregon State last year).

So perhaps the result could be a little different if Brehaut heads into the Saturday's matchup as the starter. He can't do any worse than what we have seen in the first two games placing UCLA 115th among 120 FBS teams (Houston is number 9 BTW).  The numbers overall are beyond ugly:

The Bruins have a passing efficiency rating of 68.52, which ranks last among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. UCLA is also among the bottom 10 in the nation in passing offense (100.5 yards per game), total offense (273 yards per game) and scoring (11 points per game). Neuheisel said he and offensive coordinator Norm Chow would evaluate starter Kevin Prince and backup Richard Brehaut this week in practice.

It really will not matter who starts on Saturday at QB if the Bruin WRs continue to look atrocious. Moreover, the production (relatively speaking here) Bruins have enjoyed in the running game via Jet Ski and Malcolm Jones will dry up fast if the Bruins cannot get any semblance of efficient game management from our QBs. The teams will be putting up 8 men front against our running attack soon enough forcing the offense to prove itself with its passing game.

FWIW Houston's passing defense in the early going (against Texas State and UTEP) has been pretty horrid on paper. It currently ranks 91st in the nation giving up 252.5 yards per game. Their run defense isn't so hot (at least on paper) ranking 61st in the country giving up 140 yards per game. If the Bruin offense put together any kind of credible performance on Saturday night, you'd think we had a shot in getting it together against these guys. However, it's just not clear how much fight there is left in this team.

We will of course get to the other side of the ball and try to gather lot more notes on Houston later this week. As mentioned above Keenum is banged up but they have a capable backup in Cotton Turner, who didn't lose much of a beat last week. Plus their running game is decent enough and should be more than capable against our front-7. Anyway, we would love to hear from other the kind of forward thinking post we saw from CPOBruin re. what the Bruins need to get done to improve rest of this season. While we all have ideas on what the Bruins need to do, it remains unclear whether our guys will actually get it done.