By Jon Gold
CORVALLIS, OR. –
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.