UCLA wrapped up its practice week on a chilly Tuesday evening that should help get the Bruins ready for the Seattle weather they will face Thursday at Washington.
The forecast is for temperatures in the low 40s and a 50% chance of rain at game time, which actually plays into the Bruins’ hands. UCLA won games in the cold at Washington State and in the Eagle Bank Bowl last season and has developed a reputation as somewhat of a bad-weather team.
“But over the years UCLA has gone on the road—in my mind since I was a part of this program—and had some big success in bad weather,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Hopefully we’re up to the task again.”
The fact that several players arrived at the practice field complaining about the cold might not be a good sign, but at least long snapper Christian Yount was getting ready for possible rain. He was squirting ball and the ground under the ball with water before snapping to holder Danny Rees during practice.
The offense didn’t go as far as to practice with wet balls, but Neuheisel acknowledged that he’d rely more on the Pistol running attack if rain comes.
“We’ve been able to be successful without much in the way of throwing the ball and we’ll see if we can do it again,” Neuheisel said. “But usually wet doesn’t mean you can’t throw, it just means you’ve got to keep the ball dry. But the ability to run the ball becomes more important, no question.”
A few tidbits:
The Bruins have been using an aggressive substitution pattern in the defensive backfield, so much so that it is difficult to tell who is getting first team reps and who is with the second team. Aaron Hester, Andrew Abbott, Sheldon Price and Courtney Viney have all been playing at corner. Tony Dye and Rahim Moore are the first team safeties, but Dietrich Riley, Dalton Hilliard, Stan McKay and Alex Mascarenas have gotten an uptick in reps.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve developed some depth with attrition,” Neuheisel said. “Some other guys have had to step up and become really good players for us so we want to make sure we keep everybody fresh. We know that [the Huskies are] a big play offense. They’ve got a lot of balls down the field type of air show and it’s important that we stay fresh.”
Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian announced Tuesday night on his Twitter page that quarterback Jake Locker has been cleared to play.
Neuheisel never had a doubt. He has said all week that Locker would play.
Locker missed Washigton’s last game with a broken rib and even though he practiced this week, Washington remained mum on his status until Tuesday.
“That’s the biggest joke of all time,” Neuheisel said about an hour before Sarkisian's tweet. “The man is playing, I’m telling you. It’s just the way it is.”
Linebacker Steve Sloan practiced with the second team defense all week and Neuheisel said he would be in the rotation Thursday. Receiver Nelson Rosario had a nice practice Tuesday and also looks ready to go.