From Pauper to Prince

By Jon Gold
Staff Writer

This was the Kevin Prince that UCLA fans kept waiting to see.

This was the Prince that UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow kept waiting to see.

Above all, this was the Prince that Bruins wide receivers kept waiting to see.

After a middling 45 minutes, the redshirt freshman quarterback transformed from pauper to, well…

Two touchdowns, 198 yards and a 69-percent completion percentage in the fourth quarter, a princely effort in the team’s 26-19 loss at Oregon State on Saturday.

“The fourth quarter, Prince found confidence in the receivers, that’s what it was,” said UCLA sophomore wideout Taylor Embree, who caught one of those fourth-quarter touchdowns, a seven-yard grab that brought the Bruins to within two. “He’s not the kind of quarterback who doesn’t have confidence in himself, he definitely does. But I think we needed drives like we had at the end of the game for him to realize that just because there’s a defender close by or someone on us, if he just puts the ball up, we have the weapons to make the plays.”

Either UCLA did not appear to have those weapons early, or Prince was not willing to take those chances.

As the game progressed though, and an Oregon State lead grew from three points to six points to 13 and ultimately 16 points, Prince needed to take those chances.

Perhaps he needed to take them to save his job.

With true freshman quarterback Richard Brehaut breathing down his neck – Neuheisel insisted throughout the week that Brehaut would play in the first half, and he did, for one series – Prince finally let it all hang loose.

“I was kind of forced to do it in the fourth quarter there,” Prince said. “If we don’t make plays downfield – we weren’t gonna run the ball. Everybody in the stadium knew we weren’t gonna run the ball. It was up to me to make plays. I just put the ball up and let them go make plays.”

Now, Neuheisel wants him to do it earlier.

He shut down any talk of a quarterback controversy quickly – “He was not not my guy,” Neuheisel said – but he also talked about the need for Prince to be his assertive self more consistently.

“He certainly made some good throws, and it looked like he started to calm down,” Neuheisel said. “He made some plays when we had to have plays. This hopefully is a precursor to more consistent play as we go forward.”

Bumps and Bruises
UCLA sophomore center Kai Maiava suffered a hyper-extended elbow, but remained in the game. … Freshman guard Stanley Hasiak did not make the trip, for what UCLA officials deemed “personal health issues.”

News and Notes
UCLA is in the midst of its worst losing streak since closing 2003 with five straight losses, and it’s the first time the team is 0-5 in conference play since 1994. … Nelson Rosario’s touchdown catch with 8 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter was the team’s first offensive touchdown since 9:36 in the second quarter against Cal in Week 6, a span of more than 150 minutes.

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Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood

By Jon Gold
Staff Writer

UCLA knew Jacquizz Rodgers could run, and he ran.

The Bruins knew Jacquizz Rodgers could catch, and he caught.

They did not know Jacquizz Rodgers could pass.

He passed.

Rodgers threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brady Camp with just more than a minute left in the first half, and Oregon State relied on Rodgers’ legs the rest of the way as the Beavers eked out the 26-19 win.

On 2nd-and-8 from the UCLA 14-yard line with 1 minute, 12 seconds left in the second quarter, Rodgers lined up at quarterback for the “WildBeaver” formation – Oregon State’s version of the Wildcat – and faked a handoff to a receiver in motion. The momentary pause froze the Bruins defense, and Rodgers found a wide-open Camp at the 2-yard line before he strolled into the end zone.

It was Rodgers’ first career pass.

“That has been in the lab for a while,” Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. “It was another great-timed call by (offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf). Quizz told me a couple weeks ago that he was good up to 40 yards. We didn’t even need to have that arm today, but he threw a good ball, a nice, tight spiral.”

When Rodgers wasn’t throwing the ball, he was running it.

Rodgers had 112 yards rushing and 92 yards receiving, not so much bouncing off tacklers as deftly escaping their grasp. Rodgers had 75 yards on 13 carries in the first half and was not caught behind the line of scrimmage, displaying a downhill running style that has marked his maturation this season, as the diminutive back ranks second in the Pac-10 in rushing yards per game.

“I went against some backs like that when I was playing that were short fireplug guys, and they’re hard because they’re so strong,” UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said of the 5-foot-7 sophomore. “They’re not tall, lanky guys. A lot of times those guys are tough to get down. Sometimes in the holes you can’t see them. He’s a good back – he’s short, but he’s strong.”

So is his brother.

The “other” Rodgers brother, James – if there really is an “other” Rodgers brother – had 10 catches for 106 yards and added 28 yards on the ground, frequently running around the edge, as he did on his 17-yard, game-winning touchdown run.

“They’re very tough, being so low to the ground, having low centers of gravity,” UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “They’ve got very good balance; when you try to go up top, they’ll go under you and when you try to go out their legs, they’ve got very stronger lower bodies.”

But the Beavers were most impressed by Jacquizz’s arm, with the touchdown target Camp, exclaiming, “I can’t believe that actually worked.”

“We’d drawn that one up for quite a while in practice,” Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield said. “It was just a matter of (offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf) calling it. We went to it and it worked. The first time we ran it, Quiz was terrible at it, but he practiced it a few more times and was finally throwing some spirals.

“I told him are you trying to take my job, or what?”

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UCLA falls to Oregon State, 26-19

By Jon Gold
Staff Writer

Russian chess grandmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower must never have faced a 16-point deficit on the road in the Pac-10 against a team clad in orange-and-black on Halloween, of all days.

Tartakower must never have watched an offense continually sputter until finally finding itself 50 minutes into a 60-minute football game.

Tartakower must never have had to rely on a redshirt freshman quarterback and a pieced-together offensive line and sophomore wide receivers.

So, when he uttered that etched-in-time quote – “Moral victories do not count” – he must not have been staring down the tail end of a five-game losing streak.

But down 19-3 and with an offense that had only mustered 164 yards through three quarters, UCLA rallied back to tie Saturday’s matchup with Oregon State, before ultimately falling to the Beavers 26-19, after Beaver wideout James Rodgers scored on a reverse with 44 seconds left.

If there was ever a time for a moral victory, this was it.

Or not.

“I don’t even know what the hell that is,” UCLA senior linebacker Reggie Carter said. “That sh*t don’t mean nothing. Ain’t no such things as moral victories. There’s victories and there’s losses. We just took a loss.”

The Bruins were in no mood to pat themselves on the back after falling to 0-5 in Pac-10 Conference play for the first time since 1994.

Perhaps for good reason: UCLA allowed more than 450 yards for the third straight game, watching the Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James, dance around tackles like Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain.”

There was no rain in Corvallis, but the Rodgers’ sure were slippery.

Jacquizz Rodgers, the younger brother who won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors as a freshman last season, had 112 yards rushing and 92 yards receiving.
James Rodgers, the older brother who leads the conference in receiving, had 10 catches for 106 yards and 28 yards rushing.

It was his touchdown with under a minute left – after UCLA tied the game on a Kevin Prince-to-Taylor Embree 7-yard score and ensuing Prince-to-Johnathan Franklin two-point conversion – that spelled disaster for the Bruins.

Rodgers took the handoff from quarterback Sean Canfield and followed a cavalry of blockers, running almost untouched into the endzone.

“They just kept going up front and the receivers did great blocking which allowed us to keep driving,” James Rodgers said. “We just stuck with it and we knew had to come down here and make a good drive. We practice on this two-minute offense all the time and it came into play today.”

The Bruins were only in position to suffer a soul-crushing loss after the late-game heroics by Prince, who finally showed glimpses of confidence early in the fourth quarter, when the UCLA offense scored for the first time in more than nine quarters.

Prince appeared harried, tentative and almost scared for three quarters, as the limp Bruins managed only 164 total yards. Prince had just 125 yards going into the fourth quarter, willing to settle for short gains rather than test the defense.

Finally he threw caution to the wind and the ball into it, connecting on 9-of-13 passes for 198 yards in the quarter, with touchdown passes to Embree and Nelson Rosario, on a 58-yard score that pulled UCLA within eight points.

“I wouldn’t say we were scared, but I think some people are just hoping for someone to make a play instead of us wanting to make a play,” Rosario said. “Then we realize it’s time that we have to, and that’s when stuff starts clicking. It’s all a mindset. We have to go out there and tell ourselves that we have to make this play, and it will come.”

But it needs to come sooner, if the Bruins are to break out of their current slide, their first five-game skid since 2003.

It needs to come sooner, if UCLA is to get back into the bowl hunt, as the team needs to finish 3-1 to even be eligible.

It needs to come sooner, or else all the team can keep hoping for is positive progress instead of tangible wins.

“To be honest with you, there’s no such thing as a moral victory to me,” sophomore safety Tony Dye said. “The only stat that ever matters is the wins and the losses. We came out with another ‘L’ today. It’s heartbreaking to get so close.”

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Post-game thoughts

* A loss is a loss, and a team on a five-game losing streak ccan’t afford a moral victory, but if there is one, this was it.
* Kevin Prince learned in the fourth quarter that he can try to win rather than try not to lose. Taylor Embree told me he thinks Prince learned to trust his receivers in that fourth quarter, when he threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
* The 19-3 deficit might be just the thing UCLA needed to mature as a unit offensively. Now, they just have to keep that sense of urgency alive going into next week.
* This is a team that can. They might not. But they can.
* The defense continues to give up to much underneath, and unless they tackle better, it’s going to continue to kill them. A poor-tackling team turns a 2-yard hitch into a 6-yard hitch, and those four yards are devastating.
* Running the ball three straight times in the red zone on the first possession of the third quarter? Norm Chow said this: “People don’t understand. Tell me what the coverage was? Do you know what the coverage was? None of you know what the coverage was. The coverage necessitated that we run the football. That’s all it was.”

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