Bruins going dancing with the Ducks

PORTLAND –

They are coming off a 50-0 loss to their despised cross-town rival USC … their coach has just been fired … and now they head to Autzen Stadium, louder than a henhouse at feeding time, for a Pac-12 Conference championship game in which they are expected to be throttled.

And yet there is almost an eerie calm among UCLA football players.

Despite more turmoil inside the program than a Colombian soap opera, the Bruins are paying no heed.

They may be more than four-touchdown underdogs against Oregon, No. 8 team in the country, but so what? There is a game to play, and it is a welcomed reprieve, a three-hour block on what is supposed to be a frigid Friday night, a brief slice of the week in which nothing else matters besides the guy in front of you, though with the Ducks frantic pace, he might already have blown by.

“Towards the end of the year, with school and everything – and especially this year, with the highs and lows and coach Neuheisel getting let go – I’m really thankful I have a game on Friday just to get rid of all the other BS,” junior middle linebacker Patrick Larimore said. “There’s a ton of it.”

Mired in a coaching quagmire – with interim head coach, and soon-to-be-former offensive coordinator, Mike Johnson taking over for Neuheisel following the game – and muddied by the recent walloping by the Trojans, the game is nothing if not a relief to the players.

Even if Oregon is trying to ruin their fun.

And the Ducks have surely trashed a lot of dreams this season, piling up touchdowns like logs on a fire, as their 45.9 points per game rank third in the country. With a host of offensive stars and a rhythm only rivaled by Kool and the Gang, the Ducks are going to try to pounce on UCLA much as they did last season in a Week 6 matchup, which Oregon won at Autzen Stadium, 60-13.

“They don’t do a heck of a lot of things; what they do, they do well,” UCLA defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said. “The whole key to their tempo is they get people misaligned six, seven times a game, and all of a sudden it’s, ‘Bam, there’s a 30-yard gain,’ then, ‘Bam, a 25-yard gain.

“It’s imperative to get lined up first and foremost and once you’re lined up, now you have a chance.”

Larimore, who suffered a shoulder injury against Oregon and missed the rest of the year, likened UCLA’s defensive gameplan as dancing with the Ducks.

But with Darron Thomas and LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas, the Bruins better be afraid to let Oregon take the lead.

“It’s about dancing with them – you watch teams that slow them down, and they just kind of mirror them and try to get off the field eventually,” Larimore said. “If you try to attack, somebody is going to miss a tackle in space, something is going to break. There’s just too much speed and too much field.”

UCLA found that out the hard way last season, and problems were compounded by an offense that continually stepped on its own feet.

With junior quarterback Richard Brehaut in just his second career start, UCLA was outgained 582-290, despite maintaining a 17-minute advantage in time of possession over the quick-strike Oregon attack.

This year, with junior Kevin Prince retaking the reins, it’s no time for the Bruins to be wallflowers.

If Oregon wants to dance, let’s dance.

“The point spread is 30-something points? Whatever,” Prince said. “It is what it is. We’re going to go up there and have fun. We’re going to go up there and play loose. We know we can’t go out there and be tight because we’re playing in Autzen in the first Pac-12 championship against a great team in Oregon.”

With a bowl bid wrapped up by way of an NCAA waiver even if the team is to lose – and a Rose Bowl berth in the offing if they somehow find a way to win – UCLA is hoping to play with reckless abandon. For Neuheisel, at least, there is no tomorrow, and the players and coaches know that. It made preparation for the game a relatively stress-free affair.

Let everyone else worry, for once.

“If you look at it right now, what are there, six teams in each division?” Tresey asked. “Well, there are five teams that wish they were playing tonight.”

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  • Anonymous

    Very nice article, thanks Jon. Just FYI, it should be “Colombian,” not “Columbian.”

  • Coach Rick Neuheisal

    Greeting from cold, gray, Oregon. How in the heck does Chip Kelly and Phil Knight convince these California kids to come up here? Rural, cold, gray ,depressing. I’ve been out of Cali for less than a day and I think I already have seasonal affective disorder.

    Anyways, on to the game… I know we’re totally screwed here but at least the players carried me off the practice field where my greatest victories were had. I wish the Bruins nothing but the best in their pursuit of my replacement. With Coaches Rodriguez, Leach, and possibly Sumlin off the board, looks like if it’s not Coach Petersen, we’re down to Belotti and ??? Coach Gary Barnett? Remember those days? Barnett was the hot prospect and we took a run at him and I believe we ended up with my ol pal, Karl Dorrell.

    Good luck, see you in the unemployment line.

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla Jon Gold

    Thanks for the head’s up! I called the copy editor to correct it, but he knew, too. Apparently I’m the only one who doesn’t. Thanks again

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Sweet, Jon!
    What a great tune to be humming now while balancing the checkbook …
    “Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight!”

    May UCLA do the same at Autzen.

  • Surrender Monkey

    The spread is what, 30something points? I can’t bear to watch. I hope we aren’t wearing those terrible jerseys. And are they going to say all those awful things about us on TV?

  • Coach Rick Neuheisal

    @schadjoe: UCLA inquired about Boise State coach Chris Petersen but the school has been told he will not be a candidate.

    Here we go again… By the way, by keeping me on payroll Ole Miss and now Texas A&M are also in the mix for hot coaches like Sumlin. Maybe you guys will end up rehiring me… I did just get carried off a field afterall.

  • FIGHTONtoVICTORY

    So much for Petersen! mmmm I love the taste of your sweet tears of envy. Mmmm yes let me drink and swim in your tears.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Dan Guerrero’s backup plan: Jerry Sandusky.

  • Trojan 70

    This could be a very difficult day – Peterson turns you down and you lose by 60, oh my…

  • 420

    Leech crossed off list sumlin crossed off list and now Petersen crossed off the list who’s left to hire for the HC job looks like no one what’s this job FIRE DAN!!!! What r we gonna wait till february to hire bye bye season tickets till we fire Dan he sucks as AD can we rehire RN back Jon whos left to hire now sad sad day missed out on sum top coaches go bruins fight fight fight

  • Gutty Lil Bruin

    Firing CRN was a mistake. Maybe we can beg him to come back and give him a few more years and more money to keep him around. With Hundley at the helm next year, we would be right back in the race for the PAC 12 South championship. CRN had us set up for next year and would get us at least to 7-5, another bowl game and could compete with SUC for at least 3 quarters of a game. Thats all we can ask for. Anyone else is going to take 2 steps back.

  • http://paulm Ley

    Actually UCLA has been in contact with Coach Petersen since before the USC game. Just because they hire a friend at your job wouldn’t keep you there if there were bigger things on the horizon. It sure is funny how USC scabs patrol a Bruin site but then again if I had to drive through south central just to get to campus I would be jumping to the sunny side of town too!!! Go Bruins.

  • The Ghost of Rick Neuheisel

    Heard on ESPN Mike & Mike:

    “and Number 8 Oregon plays number… number… number nothing UCLA”

  • The Monopoly Is Over Here

    Yes, Petersen not coming to coach the gutties! You lose again!

  • BE REAL

    The problem with this SC-ucla thing over the years, is that at least back in the day, the bruins were a national Top-5 basketball school, and the Trojans are a national Top-5 football program

    If only the two schools had not been so good at their respective sports it would not have spawned this acute jealousy that developed into abject hatred for each other.

    lawyer john

  • Trojan Conquest

    I would love for the Bruins to win tonight. Rick should have been fired immediately, or let him coach throughout the bowl game.
    I would love for UCLA to become a great team in football. I heard Tony Kornheiser on PTI say that if UCLA and USC could become relevant, the Pac 12 could rival the SEC.

  • uclabrruin1989

    Jon i’m usually a fan but why no posts on the coaching search? interest is PEAKING at this very moment and you’re seemingly MIA. what’s up with that?

  • ender

    @TC

    Kornheiser’s right, especially now with the megastar coaches/contracts/TV networks we have. The Pac-12, in my opinion, is the only one that can put an end to this whole “SEC is best” BS. USC is holding up its end of the bargain, sanctions be damned. The onus has been, and still is, on USC to step up.

  • ender

    @ub1989

    Either we really didn’t have a backup plan, or Guerrero might have enough brain cells to be cooking up something big that needs to be kept quiet.

    Time will tell. Patience.

  • EDD CHINA

    Come on people, back up Jon on twitter!!

    @DanWetzel tried talking smack about UCLA and Jon responded to him. Suddenly loser Wetzel “doesn’t care”! What? Then why tweet about UCLA to start with!!

    http://twitter.com/#!/DanWetzel

  • W.E.B. Dupree

    Mr. Gold, when are you going to answer the last round of questions? My proposal for employing an “open casting call”/reality show approach to find UCLA’s next coach is starting to look like the ONLY option for the Bruins. You’ve got to pitch it to the insiders NOW!

  • http://paulm Ley

    Since things are so quite it bodes well for UCLA like @ub1989 says, something is a brewing and until Petersen speaks a ESPN source is usually worthless and they had the Bruins and Leach together last week from one of there so called sources!!!

  • Smoke Foster

    Jon is not speaking about the search since he knows Petersen has accepted but is trying to keep it under wraps! An inside source told him but asked him to keep quiet or else no more inside info!!

  • Anonymous

    Jon is not speaking about the search because there’s a FREAKIN’ GAME TONIGHT! He’s doing his reporting job so chill out and best wishes to our Bruins!

  • http://www.yahoo.com BruinRob

    I feel the same way as everyone else, Jon please do your job and update us with the coaching search, c’Mon dude!
    Foster, it would be sweet if it were true.
    I also don’t believe what ESPN says. I read the article in the Boise Tribune and all it says is, the new AD is not willing that Petersen leaves and that Peterson is excited about a new football facility scheduled to be completed in 2013, and nothing else. So, until Petersen himself say he’s not interested, I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.
    Go Bruins! Beat the ducks!

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the Daily News have Furlough Fridays.

  • sonicboom926

    The BSU AD is on record that he was not giving UCLA permission to speak with their coach who is under contract. Welcome to the Jim Mora, Jr. era. Good luck.

  • ender

    Sorry, meant to say

    “the onus was, and still is, on UCLA to step up.”

    I need to read my posts more carefully.

  • Trojan Conquest

    “The BSU AD is on record that he was not giving UCLA permission to speak with their coach who is under contract.”
    The way to get around this is to talk to Petersen’s agent.
    Don’t get too excited about one or two coaches. Nobody was happy about hiring Pete Carroll, and I think he was a 4th or 5th choice. I believe Bellotti and Erickson were 1 and 2. I thought ASU hired a better coach that year when they hired another Boise State coach, Dirk Koetter.

  • Huitzilopochtli

    I don’t want to make any false connections, but can someone help me make sense of the following?

    BSU has a game on Saturday right? Does the local media not talk to Petersen during the week? I am just curious why I can’t find any quotes whatsoever from Petersen regarding the rumors. Even a quote like “We’re just thinking about Saturday’s game”.

    Since the man has a position where he has to speak to the media (unlike an out-of-work coach that can dodge calls), I find the silence to be a bit strange.

    Is it possible that the small market media (local) that covers BSU knows his plan to leave and is keeping the news in for the good of the team? By “small market” I am more suggesting a family-like atmosphere where he tells a few reporters and out of respect they are not reporting it yet.

    Again, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, just politely asking if someone is more familiar with the BSU program and why the lack of quotes on the rumors.

  • Anonymous

    I James Franklin of Vanderbilt or Larry Fedora from Southern Miss are both excellant candidates, both are fresh football minds & rising young stars on the Coaching Horizon.

  • Lifelong Bruin Fan

    Huitzilopochtli: I agree with you. I am taking the relative silence about Petersen’s status except for the ESPN “news” to be a good sign that something is still possible. If Petersen was definitely not interested, he or his agent likely would have made a statement by now. At least that is my interpretation.

    However if I am mistaken, since we really fumbled the ball with Leach and that ship has sailed, among others I would like us to consider Patterson at TCU. His record speaks for itself.

    Go Bruins beat the Ducks!!

  • Lifelong Bruin Fan

    Maybe there is still some hope….

    @SPORTSbyBROOKS
    SPORTSbyBROOKS
    I was told today Petersen’s main focus, above all else, is his family. As of this moment, I have heard Petersen-UCLA may still be in play.

    https://twitter.com/#!/SPORTSbyBROOKS/status/142701971470680064

  • Semi-Pro

    I believe Patterson just signed an extension this year to coach until 2018. He is not on the market.

  • The Big Woof!

    I will not count any Petersens before they are hatched.
    I think our chances are 1 in 20 at best.
    I hope DG is out exploring many other possibilities.

    If I’m wrong and we get CP I will happily eat crow instead of chicken, but I really think too many of you are thinking with your hearts instead of your brains.

    Mr. Guerrero: I would like to see a new coach hired ASAP.
    This Sunday would not be too soon.

    Also, why half the time are my submissions incorrect?
    Maybe the Captcha’s are unreadable by anyone without 20-15 eyesight?

  • The Blur

    Totally agree with Huitz. The silence out of Boise is eerie. It might be a long shot, but the I believe they’re worried.

    I’ll have patience with the hire. If it takes 3 months, it’s cool with me so long as we get the right guy. Now I’m not sure if I can wait that long, but I’ll judge the result rather than the process.