“Excited about beginning the season 2-0, excited about a lot of the good things that happened over the course of two weeks. Also excited about the challenge of fixing the things we need to fix. The Tennessee game was a great team effort in a tough place to play, and it was as advertised in terms of an arena.”
On the challenges this week:
“Kansas State coming in this week is a huge challenge for us. I know that there will be people saying that I’m just trying to motivate my team. But it is going to be a very, very important game for us. We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to break in a new quarterback, at least from the standpoint of this season. Those are great challenges, and ones we are looking forward to.”
On his lack of changing expectations:
“I said before the Tennessee game, whether we win or lose, we have a lot to improve upon. We’d be crazy, absolutely crazy – certify us – if we think we can waltz through anything. We have too many young players, too many things that have to be pointed out and addressed.”
On what he expects from the Wildcats:
“Maybe like Tennessee, they haven’t used their whole package yet, and we were exposed a little bit in our protections and people are going to copy that stuff. Coaching is a very plagiaristic business. There’s going to be a lot of copying the game plan.”
Here’s what Rick Neuheisel said after Sunday’s conference call with LA reporters…
On the risky call to go for a pass on 3rd-and-9 that culminated in a safety and Prince’s injury:
“They were out of timeouts so if you make a first down, the game’s over. The risk was, ‘Kevin, you’re not throwing this ball unless a guy is wide open, you’re not going to fumble, and if you can’t (find anything), I understand and we’ll punt and take the 30 yards of field position.
“Had you told me I was going to lose my QB, I think I would’ve gone with your QB sneak.”
On choosing between Craft and Brehaut
“(Offensive coordinator Norm Chow) and I will talk and watch practice and go from there. You’ve got an experienced player in Kevin Craft who has played a lot of football. You’ve got a kid who played pretty well in a brief stint against SDSU. We have a lot of confidence in Richard Brehaut – he was a big-time recruit and he’s proven he belongs at this level. He didn’t look nervous (against SDSU), he went out and he played well. And I’ve seen enough good things from Kevin Craft to know we can go out and play fine.”
On whether UCLA can move forward with Kevin Craft as quarterback, after a disappointing 2008:
“This is a different edition of UCLA football. We’re going to weather it. We weathered the Aaron Hester injury a week ago. I think these guys are resilient.”
ESPN’s Ted Miller writes:
“Redundant questions are part of the game, and a veteran coach like Rick Neuheisel knew entering the week that he was going to field a bevy of inquiries about how his young UCLA Bruins would handle the intensity of 100,000 fans at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium.
Neuheisel’s responses included two two points: 1. It’s going to be fun; 2. It’s not that big of a deal.
‘A lot is made of it. It’s going to be no secret to our players that it’s going to be loud,’ Neuheisel said. ‘I don’t think making this seem like this is a mountain we have to climb is the right way. We address it. We deal with the practical things in terms of snap counts and trying to make checks as an offense.’”
Long ago, Rick Neuheisel realized he had two good quarterbacks competing for one job, and that one was a redshirt freshman and one was a true freshman.
Long ago, Rick Neuheisel realized he had the luxury of holding one of the two back a year, keeping Richard Brehaut’s redshirt, putting him a year behind Kevin Prince in eligibility.
Long ago, Rick Neuheisel realized he would not.
What seemed like a hasty decision, giving Brehaut reps in Saturday’s 33-14 victory over San Diego State, was actually well-thought out and debated over.
“I made it well before the game,” Neuheisel said. “I made up my mind that he’s too good of a player, and we’re going to keep him coming along. I just believe that good things are in store for him. We’ll try to get him in the game as often as we can.”
Added Norm Chow: “I don’t think we burned any redshirt year. We need him to play, we need him to get experience. You never know when you’re going to need a guy.”
Early last week, Brehaut was told he would be called upon if the time came during the season opener, that he would not simply ride the pine this decision because he could.
“It’s been an ongoing situation,” said Brehaut, Scout.com’s No. 9 recruit out of Los Osos High. “(Neuheisel) never told me straight up I’m not redshirting. You never know with the quarterback situation how things are going to go, if guys are going to get hurt. He’s always told me, ‘Stay ready, if I can get you in the game, I’m going to.’ The opportunity came about, and luckily I was prepared.”
Brehaut entered the game with just less than five minutes to play and connected on both of his passes for 39 yards, including a 30-yard pass to Nelson Rosario.
Brehaut said he was well-prepared, having been informed of his possible playing time early. He went about his business in practice all week, just as he has done throughout camp, with the possibility of a redshirt looming overhead.
“I knew in the middle of the week last week,” Brehaut said. “I don’t think it changed my approach. I’ve always been working out here like I’m the one guy. If something happens and I’m that No. 1 guy, I need to be ready. You never know what can happen. What if KP went down? What if Kevin Craft goes down? Then I’m in there like Craft last year. I have to prepare, no matter where I am on the depth chart.”
The decision is not without its controversy, though.
Brehaut came to Westwood as a highly touted recruit, and after Prince won the starting job, it seemed clear that the newcomer would redshirt. Now, though, the two will compete for playing time throughout their careers at UCLA.
“I have to realize that I always have to put in that work,” Brehaut said. “Kev knows his stuff. He got that redshirt where he knows everything down pat. I just have to work extra hard to make sure we can keep that competition up. If we are both at that high level, it’s only going to be better for the position.”
In the meantime, Brehaut will take any opportunity he can get.
“Right now, no, I don’t think I have to catch up,” Brehaut said. “(Prince is) above the bar a little bit on me. I have a base for all the schemes. But I have to get better at the little details, with every single thing I have to do.”
On Tuesday’s practice:
“It was a pretty good practice; like all install days, they have their rough spots. For the most part, I felt the guys showed good focuses and are mindful on the level of their opponents.”
On using Damien Thigpen immediately:
“He’s got that kind of gamebreaking ability. We have to find ways to give him chances. I could tell you how, but then I’d have to kill you.”
On Courtney Viney:
“The guy just finds ways to make plays. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but you can’t tell him that. That’s why small people can play this game, because they don’t know they’re small and won’t buy into the thought they are. Courtney was ‘Johnny on the Spot’ the other night, and we needed him.”
On blasting crowd noise over the speakers later in practice:
“Gotta get time to talk things through as you learn the plan. I expect that we can settle them down here shortly. We’ve done that before around here. It wasn’t a completely novel idea. But human nature is, when you’re trying to concentrate and you learning new things, you want quiet. It’s like being in an automobile when you’re lost; first thing you do is turn off the radio.”