Sunday, November 6, 2011
Neuheisel content with simply pushing forward
By Ramona Shelburne
The question was teed up perfectly for Rick Neuheisel.
The moment was his to seize.
After being buried five and a half feet deep by most of the local and national media following an embarrassing 48-12 loss to Arizona just three weeks ago, Neuheisel has resurrected his career and his team's season with two impressive wins over California on Oct. 30 and No. 20 Arizona State on Saturday night.
Instead of six feet under, the Bruins are over the moon and staring at a once-improbable berth in the inaugural Pac-12 Conference championship game if they can beat Utah, Colorado and USC in their final three games.
If ever there was a time for Neuheisel to gloat, to take a small bow, it was now.
He passed. UCLA still has three more games left, starting with a tough road game at Utah this Saturday.
"You may have had me dead and buried, but I certainly wasn't throwing stuff on top of myself," he joked on a conference call Sunday night. "I've been at this long enough to know that you're not as good as they say you are and you're not as bad as they say you are.
"I'm going to keep doing my best. That's always going to be it. But I do believe you can build things if you stay the course and you have a good plan and keep a very positive outlook and that's been the way I've operated my entire life."
He did however, allow the excitement from Saturday night's win to sink in deeply.
"You know the first game that I got to coach, against Tennessee, felt like that." Neuheisel said, when asked how badly he had yearned for a win like that. "Since that time it's been hard to have that kind of excitement. We've had some games here and there but that felt like genuine excitement last night.
"Hopefully there's more of that to come. But it'll only come because we keep busting our tails and understand this is a one game at a time process."
The Bruins won Saturday night because they ran the Pistol offense better than they have in years and did just enough defensively to keep Arizona State's explosive offense from breaking away.
Neuheisel attributed the Bruins' success on offense to the play of their offensive line and good decision-making, aggressive running and improved footwork by quarterback Kevin Prince.
"I think we're just seeing some maturation there," Neuheisel said. "It needs to for us to be successful.
"I think we've gone more to the run-action game, which means we're playing more off the run game and because of that the reads are a little more out in front of you because we're not trying to read the whole field in those places."
With Prince running effectively, the much-balleyhooed Pistol offense has finally begun to shoot straight.
"We've really worked at it and especially worked to find the balance in it," he explained. "The relationship between [offensive coordinator] Mike [Johnson] and [running game coordinator] Jim [Mastro] has started to come around where they kind of are playing off of each other and it's fun to see. I hope like heck we continue to get better at it."
Also: Neuheisel said he expects linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (hip pointer) to be "ready to go" but he'll officially be listed as questionable this week. Quarterback Richard Brehaut (leg) will return to practice, but it's not clear when he'll be able to play in a game again. Offensive lineman Chris Ward (ankle) remains questionable. Safety Dietrich Riley (head) consulted another doctor last week and is "less than questionable."