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Saturday, September 17, 2011
Neuheisel must pick a QB before its too late

By Peter Yoon

It's time for the quarterback shenanigans at UCLA to finally come to an end.

Coach Rick Neuheisel, who oversees the quarterbacks, needs to finally stop with the hemming and hawing and pick a player, either Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut, and stick with him.

In a season in which Neuheisel is being watched very closely by the people who sign his paychecks, he needs some form of consistency or he'll find himself in the unemployment line, but so far the quarterback play has been one big pile of inconsistent.

Neuheisel says he's waiting for either Prince or Brehaut to step up and play well enough to win the job, but so far they've only played poorly enough to lose it.

In UCLA's 49-20 loss to Texas on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, it was Prince's turn to lose his spot at the top of the depth chart.  He threw three first-quarter interceptions, all leading to Texas touchdowns and went to the bench with his team down, 21-0.

"After the way I played today, I don’t really deserve to be out there right now," Prince said. "Obviously, I want to go in the game and try to redeem myself, but I can't continue to inflict wounds on us."

Last week it was Brehaut who stepped into the starting role only to lose it. After shining in three quarters in relief of an injured Prince after a 38-34 loss to Houston, he led a lackluster performance in a 27-17 victory over shoddy San Jose State, then promptly was not invited back under center against Texas.

"I don’t think I played a great game against San Jose State and coach wanted to see what Kevin could do," Brehaut said. "I wanted to be the guy going into this game but like has happened before, they called his name first and I knew I couldn’t get down on myself."

But it's been happening too much. Since before training camp began, Neuheisel has refused to pick a starter, preferring to let the competition dictate who would play. Prince got the first nod starting against Houston, but then got hurt. Brehaut played well in relief and started the next game, but then didn't play so well and Prince was back in the saddle.

All the while, Neuheisel has remained coy, refusing to name a starter presumably to keep opponents guessing about the game plan. But he's also kept his quarterbacks in the dark.

"There was never really a definitive plan from him," Brehaut said when asked if he planned on getting in the game Saturday. "He didn’t really give us a lot like he didn’t give [the media] a lot."

And that doesn't give the offense a lot. UCLA has occasionally looked very good on offense, but other times it looks brilliant, on others it looks like a jumbled mess. Prince and Brehaut have different styles, different cadences to their signal calling, and different timing with their throws and different chemistry with different receivers.

"It didn’t work today," offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said of the question mark-at-quarterback plan. "As a coordinator, you’d like to see it end. But you’ve got to keep working through it."

Neuheisel said he started Prince on Saturday because the game plan was to run and try to control the clock, but after an eight-yard gain on the Bruins' first play, Prince threw a pass. Texas defensive back Carrington Byndum intercepted it.

Later, UCLA recovered a fumble at the Texas 19, then ran on first down for no gain and on second down for three yards then Prince threw another pass. Longhorns defensive back Adrian Phillips picked it off.

UCLA had eight running plays and seven passing plays and trailed, 21-0.

So much for that running and controlling the clock plan.

So now what is the plan for the quarterbacks heading into Pac-12 play?

Brehaut has played better in games than Prince so far. He hasn't thrown an interception, which counts for a lot. But Prince still has a better command of the offense and brings an added dimension with his ability to run. He had 26 yards rushing in three carries in the first quarter.

It's not too late. The Bruins can still salvage the season with a strong showing in Pac-12 play, which begins next week at Oregon State. A single starting quarterback that everyone can rally behind would certainly help that cause.

Neuheisel hinted he would be going back to Brehaut for that game against the Beavers, but made no mention of ending the rotating quarterback routine.

"I would say that [Richard] has surged to the lead, there’s no question," Neuheisel said.

Surged to the lead, he says, but not won the job.

Nobody has won the job. And that could very well mean that Neuheisel loses his at the end of the season.