Think/Know: Week 8

* I know that the risk/reward paid off against Cal, and I know that UCLA will have to keep betting
Kevin Prince said after his 163-yard rushing performance against the Bears that UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel and running game coordinator Jim Mastro mandated a 100-yard performance from their junior quarterback. More interestingly, he said that it was a reversal from the loss at Arizona, before which, Prince said, the mandate was to run with caution.
Now that we’ve seen how effective the Pistol can be with Prince in kamikaze mode, I don’t see how UCLA can go against that formula. The downside, obviously, is injury – and we all know Prince’s history in that department – but with Richard Brehaut’s return looking like an actual possibility and with Brett Hundley coming along and Nick Crissman in reserve, if Neuheisel is really coaching for his life here, he’ll have to continue to take that risk.
Prince was great in the run game, both in his handling of the offense and his execution – Cal defensive ends seemed to bite down every time – and he rightfully credit his performance as being the catalyst to opening the middle of the field for Derrick Coleman’s three touchdowns. He also said, “This is how the Pistol is supposed to look,” and that he felt like Colin Kaepernick out there. He’ll need to continue to be, if the offense is going to work. I’ve had my doubts about the Pistol working in the Pac-12, but if it can continue to look like that, you can’t really deny its effectiveness. However…

* I think UCLA can’t play that kind of offense without that kind of defense
What must just eat at Rick Neuheisel is that I’m sure in his mind, that exact kind of performance is what he expected all season long. And he might have gotten it, had the defense held up its end of the bargain.
So much of UCLA’s offensive success on Saturday came directly off turnovers – 24 of the 31 points, in fact – but even moreso, the Bruins were making stops behind the line of scrimmage. Obviously aided by the five takeaways – including three interceptions by Tevin McDonald in a conference player-of-the-week performance – UCLA controlled the clock and forced Cal into relying way too much on Zach Maynard, who faltered. Neuheisel thought he would get that kind of defense all season, but he hasn’t, and the Pistol has suffered because of it.

* I know UCLA is starting to develop some real offensive line depth
Given the Bruins’ recent history at the position, it’s kind of shocking to see that. In my three seasons on the beat, this is the first year that Bob Palcic had a well he could actually dig down into, pulling out Wade Yandall to replace Alberto Cid. The result? A game-changing 294-yard rushing performance.
A year ago, two years ago, UCLA did not have a Wade in which to turn. Now, you look at what the Bruins are building there, despite the graduation of Sean Sheller, Mike Harris and Kai Maiava, and it’s on the upswing. If Xavier Su’a-Filo returns as expected and plays at even 75 percent of his freshman-year form, UCLA is set at tackle with Jeff Baca and him, and Connor Bradford and Brett Downey should be serviceable backups. At guard, the Bruins return Cid, Yandall and Chris Ward, and Greg Capella should take over at center, with an improving Jacob Brendel as backup. If UCLA can hit on at least one of its other linemen from the class of 2011 – Ben Wysocki, Torian White, Will Oliver – plus continue to add one or two decent prospects and a couple decent projects a year, things will have moved out of threat-level orange.

* I think it doesn’t just start up front on one side
The defensive line, for reasons too many to discuss, played its best game of the season against the Bears. The plays in which Datone Jones moved inside, the unit looked very good. Aramide Olaniyan and Keenan Graham offered speed, and production, off the edge and Jones was able to use his strength in the interior and benefitted from Olaniyan’s edge rush. When Cassius Marsh returns for the Utah matchup in two weeks, UCLA would be better served not to revert to the old rotation.

* I think punting is winning…OK, no, but Jeff Locke is a winning punter
Rick Neuheisel gets ragged on for that punting is winning thing, but really, Jeff Locke has become almost indispensable for the Bruins. Forget the fact that UCLA has just one other punter listed on the roster in freshman walk-on Michael Leamy.
Locke’s back-to-back punts inside the Cal 5-yard line – the first to the 1-yard line, the second to the 3-yard line – set the Bruins up with the good field position they needed to tie the score at seven in the second quarter. He later had another punt at the Cal 5-yard line, and another that was returned to the 11-yard line, and let the Bears return just one of six kickoffs.
While Cal’s Bryan Anger – another phenomenal punter – won the individual battle with a 49.6-yard per punt average, Locke had those four inside the Cal 20-yard line, while Anger had three inside UCLA’s 20. His shoulder injury sent chills down UCLA fan’s backs and for good reason, but he should be fine for the Sun Devils.

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  • Mayor McCheese

    I said this last week before the game at the UB Tailgate and I will keep repeating it until DG gets the message. CRN and the revised Dream Team have done more than enough to justify another year at the helm. It has taken longer than anyone could have imagined to clean up the mess left by Toledo & Dorrell but that job has been completed and Rick has things going in the right direction. I feel the coming of Doahue era II.

    Rejoice!

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla/2011/11/thinkknow-week-8.html#comments Glowbruins

    Good call on giving Locke some well-deserved props. The way he performed after that cheap shot he took was inspirational. I was especially impressed with his first kickoff after the injury, when he winced in pain, but still knocked it out of the end-zone. No one can question his fortitude.

  • MichaelRyerson

    I think it is very, very rare that a game turns on one play. Most of the time such a thing is being talked about is just so much hot air. Likewise, I think it’s rarely the case a season turns on the outcome of one game (unless it’s the last game of the season) but I view this upcoming game as the pivotal game of the year. Win this one, it changes everything about this year. Lose it, we take an enormous step backwards.

  • Rich (Bark like a dog….a big dog!)

    I know that the suspensions from the AZ game were a blessing in disguise, and shifting guys around on defense and letting some new blood get significant playing time provided for a much-needed pick-me-up for the much-maligned Bruins defense.

    I know that Neuheisel and Tresey should use this same exact lineup against the Sun Devils.

    I think that they will revert back to the same ol same ol, i.e. same ineffective players and schemes, that have proven so ineffective all season long.

    (please please please prove me wrong, CRN and company. Play some inspired ball, continue to be willing to change things up and play your best players, and defeat ASU soundly, at which point I will re-join the choir and once again sing the Bruins’ praises to the heavens. I don’t think a two-game win streak is too much to ask for at this point…)

  • Mayor McCheese

    Rick is playing Chess, keep the faith

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure I agree with you regarding his “punting”

    He got out”punted” a majority of the game…the field switch that the other punter created was much better.

    IMO>

  • Blitzed

    Lord, one win against a bad Cal team and suddenly people are back to being delusional. There is a reason ESPN doesn’t even have us making a bowl game. There is a reason Pat Forde went on DP today and said we need a coaching change. And it’s not because we just turned a corner.

  • MichaelRyerson

    fuck espn and fuck pat forde.

  • Anon

    yeah, this game was a battle of the awfuls. Prince comparing himself to Colin Kaepernick? Kaepernick had a QB rating of 150. He had a 65% completion passing. Passed for over 10000 yards over 4 years. Prince passed for what? 90 yards in his highlight game?

    Just keep winning and Neu and company will redeem themselves. Otherwise, can’t wait for the new regime and Hundley at QB!

  • Bruin Gold

    Yay for Rick Neuheisel!

    Rick said the players need to remember to never revert to their previous selves and to play like they played against Cal.

    Rick, himself, has to remember to coach like he coached against Cal as well – to NOT revert to the conservative coach he was for the past several games.

    “BTB” = back to back wins, baby = burn the boats = do or die = banzai!

    Go Bruins! If they win out their games, Rick is a lock to be rehired.

  • http://shoebox43@msn.com Long Beach Bruin

    the old speach worked again, we have to take up the
    slack for the player’s not able to play.and the
    change of player’s took up the slack and played an
    insipred football game,both sides of the ball,go BRUIN’S,if they can do it against A.S.who, they could
    very likely run the table. and thank’s for your lack of confidence John Gold you called the final score ass back ward’s!

  • http://shoebox43@msn.com Long Beach Bruin

    the old speach worked again, we have to take up the
    slack for the player’s not able to play.and the
    change of player’s took up the slack and played an
    insipred football game,both sides of the ball,go BRUIN’S,if they can do it against A.S.who, they could
    very likely run the table. and thank’s for your lack of confidence John Gold you called the final score ass back ward’s!

  • Amillennialist

    Why haven’t the coaches been playing the right players? In the right positions? Calling the right plays? *Demanding* the proper intensity?

    I hope that the last few years has been only a long, slow, difficult effort to change the culture of UCLA Football, and that the program has turned the corner. I would be ecstatic for Neu, his staff, and the players.

    Beat ASU! Go Bruins!

  • Bruin Gold

    Rick Neuheisel’s biggest problem is his loyalty to the older players and his tendency to want to be the good guy.

    Unfortunately, many of the older players have really bad attitudes and are poisonous to the program and have kept UCLA with a losing attitude.

    He has to play the guys he has recruited. These new guys have a great, winning attitude. They have dedication, are aggressive, and seriously want to win.

    He should have kicked the guys who were suspended off the team. He should have demanded the rest of the team play with dedication, intensity and aggression or they would be booted off.

    He played nice guy for too long.

    Hopefully he has learned his lesson now that UCLA FINALLY beat Cal. I was tired of seeing Cal win all these years.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Beating ASU or USC defines this season, as just wins over Colorado & Utah should not qualify us for a bowl game, even though finishing 6-6.
    You’ve got to beat at least one team with a winning record to go bowling.

  • Gutty Lil Bruin

    Agree with Mayor McCheese. Bowl game and 6-6 record are just the start. CRN is really getting them rolling. Lock him up for long term deal while we can still afford him.

  • cv

    That was a job saving win! He will get to a bowl and lose a close game to USC!