Just got done talking to UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, and he said he was encouraged how UCLA prepared and played against Fresno State.
“As long as they keep working like that, better things are on the horizon,” he said.
As for the play of quarterback Kevin Craft, Neuheisel said “I think it might have been his best game. …I’m hopeful his confidence grew.”
Hot-button talking points for the week will be a need to improve third-down conversions on offense, improvement on third down defense and to throw the ball down the field more.
Finally, he said an MRI showed offensive lineman Micah Reed has a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, but it is not a severe tear. Reed will not play against Washington State, but could return the following week at Oregon.
UCLA fifth-year senior defensive tackle Brigham Harwell spoke about why the attitude after the loss to Fresno State was one of optimism.
“The offense is getting a lot better and we’re getting better as a team,” Harwell said. “The offense did well. We knew from pregame the offense was going to do a lot better, and they did a great job. They took a huge step forward. They took like 10 steps forward this game, and we know this team is coming together. You can feel it.”
UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow spoke about quarterback Kevin Craft’s performance, and how much better he played than previous weeks.
“He managed the game really well and that’s what a quarterback is supposed to do,” Chow said. “He did a nice job.”
Craft was 11 of 20 for 150 yards, and also ran for 46 yards.
UCLA increased its confidence measurably along the offensive line by rushing for 234 yards on 38 carries, for an average of 6.2 yards per try.
There were some circumstances with it, like quarterback Kevin Craft’s scrambling (46 rushing yards) and the Bruins catching Fresno State by surprise utilizing running back Derrick Coleman with a direct snap a few times, one of which led to a 44-yard run.
However, the line also got its best surge of the season.
“I just think it’s coaching,” UCLA center Jake Dean said. “Norm Chow is the best offensive coordinator in college football. (Offensive line) Coach (Bob) Palcic works us every week, and is getting the best out of it. It’s slowly coming along. …We’ll build off this game and try to come out and do better against Washington State next week.”
I talked to several players about the large contingent of Fresno State fans at the game, and how upon coming out of the tunnel before the game the Bruins looked into the north end zone, which was a sea of red.
“I don’t like red,” UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price said. “I’m like a bull out there. In the paper (Fresno coach Pat Hill) said he was going to paint the Rose Bowl red, so they brought a lot of fans. I was ready for it.”
Bruins linebacker Reggie Carter was more diplomatic.
“I know Fresno isn’t that far so I was expecting to see a lot of Fresno fans,” Carter said. “They had that whole end zone. But to, it doesn’t matter if it was blue, purple, pink; I was still going to play the same way.”
It wasn’t a surprise when UCLA defensive tackle lined up at fullback for a few short-yardage plays since the Bruins first practiced it during training camp. However, Price, who also had an interception, said he enjoyed playing on the offensive side.
“I was already prepared for it,” Price said. “I”m going to wait for them to call it again so I can do it again.”
I will have more stuff from UCLA’s loss throughout the day, as well as an update from Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, after he watches film with the staff today.
Here is the game story and the notebook I wrote, the side bar from Ramona Shelburne and Steve Dilbeck’s column.
One thing I found interesting after the game was the good mood of many of the players. I’m still trying to figure out if it is because they felt good about some positives after two poor performances, or if there is something more to it.
UCLA lost 36-31 to Fresno State, but it didn’t keep Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel from grabbing the microphone and addressing the crowd afterward.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Neuheisel said. “We’re going to come back next week and get you a win. I promise you we’re getting better.”
Of course, Neuheisel knows UCLA hosts Washington State next week, and the Cougars are not a very good team.
After losing at home to Oregon today by a 63-14 score, the Cougars are 1-4, including 0-2 in the Pac-10. They have been outscored 129-17 by Oregon and Cal, and 213-47 against Division I-A (or whatever it’s now called) teams. Their only win was against Portland State.
Bruins offensive lineman Micah Reed has a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, bu the severity of it will not be known until an MRI is performed Sunday. Reed missed the last game with a partial tear of his MCL in his right knee.
Other than that, it was a benign injury day for the Bruins. Defensive end Korey Bosworth hyper-extended his left elbow, but returned to play.