Breathe deep, UCLA football fans, Rick Neuheisel has a plan.
And that plan is to let his players breathe deep.
After stating that he does not plan for a wholesale overhaul of his personnel despite a 31-22 season-opening loss at Kansas State on Saturday, Neuheisel said that he simply might have played his starters too many plays, and will try to work more players into the rotation.
If the second half of the game was any indication, they could use the break.
UCLA allowed 24 points and 272 yards – 180 to running back Daniel Thomas alone – in the final two quarters, watching a 10-7 lead slip away.
“The one thing we may want to do is try to give some guys a little more of a break,” Neuheisel said. “There are some young players that probably need to get a few snaps to keep guys fresh. There’s a reluctance to do that. We’ve got to grow up these kids fast so we can spell guys and keep them as fresh as possible.”
The Bruins might have just been outplayed on the first drive of the second half, when the Wildcats, faced with 1st-and-20 at their 10-yard line, marched 90 yards for a touchdown to regain the lead at 14-10.
But down the stretch, the fatigue set in, and players like Justin Edison – who played more snaps against Kansas State than he did all season last year, Neuheisel pointed out – started to fade.
Neuheisel balked at the idea of playing more situational defenses, simply stating younger players, including defensive tackle Cassius Marsh (Oaks Christian), needed to play more.
“Some games you can just go so many plays and you get a blow, so you can continue to go full-speed,” Neuheisel said. “But not so much the speed of the defense as a whole slowed down, but the concentration of the defense. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. We have to learn how to trust people, and these young players have to really work their tails off this week, so there’s reason to trust them.”