UCLA's practice Wednesday was the last in pads for the week -- and for the season -- so that means it was the last practice in pads as Bruins for the 16 seniors on this year's squad.
"I was over there talking to my teammates and I was like, ‘Wow, this is our last padded practice at UCLA,’" senior defensive lineman David Carter said. "I was like, 'Dang, it’s crazy.' We’re sad, but we’re happy. After you’ve been here five years, it’s time for a change."
Offensive lineman Micah Kia, also a fifth-year senior, said the feeling was bittersweet.
"I’m not getting too mushy, but me and the older guys are looking back and starting to reminisce," he said. "It hasn't really hit me yet. Probably after the game it will. Right now my knees are sore, so I'm tasting the sweet a little more than the bitter."
Coach Rick Neuheisel said that even though he didn't recruit the seniors who are graduating, he would miss them and hopes to send them off with a victory.
"They are heart-and-soul guys and they’ve got a lot of adversity in their stories, but nothing would be sweeter than to win the city championship in their final game," Neuheisel said. "I know they want it desperately and I know the rest of the team wants to do it for them."
A few tidbits:
UCLA starts three true freshmen on defense and one on offense, which is a bit of a concern for any game, but especially in a game with the magnitude of USC-UCLA.
"We had a number of young players last year who got caught up in it and came out of assignments and came out of responsibilities because the stage was awfully big," Neuheisel said. "It’s important to learn how to do even at a young age."
Freshman Cassius Marsh, a starting defensive tackle, said he isn't quite sure what to expect in his first go-round in the crosstown showdown.
"I’ve just heard that a lot of guys came in as freshman not really having any hard feelings toward SC at all, but that after the first game, all that changes," he said. "It’s heated and everyone gets a little extra adrenaline and stuff like that. I’m excited to see what the game will be like, but I have no clue."
Neuheisel is expecting a full slate of recruits for Saturday's game and said he's convinced that the pomp and circumstance surrounding the grand city rivalry will work wonders in attracting interest. "Anybody who comes this weekend is going to say, ‘I’d like to be a part of that,’ " Neuheisel said. "I just hope they want to be a part of it on our side."
Receiver Nelson Rosario, recovering from a high ankle sprain, said he tweaked it a bit during seven-on-seven drills, but that it was nothing that would keep him from playing Saturday.
"We'll see how it is tomorrow, but it feels OK," he said. "This is a game I'm not going to miss."
Rosario had a career-high nine receptions, including a 21-yard touchdown, last week against Arizona State.
Marsh dressed for practice after sitting out Tuesday because of a concussion. He wore a red no-contact jersey, did some individual drills and some light contact, but mostly sat out during team drills. Still, he said he would be ready to play Saturday.
"It was just a small concussion, not too bad," he said. "It felt great today, I got to run around and do a little bit of contact. I’ll be back 100 percent tomorrow and be ready for the game."
Cornerback Andrew Abbott, also recovering fro a concussion, also wore a red jersey, but he participated in team drills and Neuheisel expects him to play Saturday.