UCLA: Jon Embree

Five things to watch: Colorado at UCLA

November, 18, 2011

UCLA makes its living running the ball, but might be well-served to try and get the passing game going against Colorado. The Buffaloes have had several issues in the secondary because of injuries and suspensions and have used a different defensive backfield in each of the past five games. They rank No. 101 in the nation in pass defense and have given up 300 yards or more through the air in three consecutive games. UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has been up and down as a passer this season but against a struggling Colorado pass defense, it might be worth the risk of taking some chances.


The Colorado rushing attack hasn't been able to muster much this season with an average of only 110.64 yards per game on the ground, which is good for No. 104 in the nation. That doesn't mean much against a UCLA defense, which has allowed below-average running teams to dominate on the ground. San Jose State (No. 108 in the nation) had 202 yards rushing against the Bruins, Arizona (No. 117) had 254 yards rushing against UCLA, Arizona State (No. 75) had 201 and Utah (No. 79) had 224. UCLA is No. 95 in the nation against the run and must not allow another average team to run wild.


This game is a matchup of defenses that have had problems getting teams off the field and keeping opponents out of the end zone. Both are ranked in the bottom 13 in the nation in third down defense (UCLA is No. 115; Colorado is No. 107) and they are two of the nation's worst teams in terms of allowing first downs (UCLA is No. 108 in the nation, allowing 23.4 first downs per game; Colorado is No. 115 with 24.36 first downs allowed per game). Statistics such as those would point to a shootout looming, especially considering Colorado gives up 37.82 points a game and UCLA gives up 31.4. Colorado has given up 31 points or more nine times this season. UCLA has given up that many points five times.


There are all kinds of subplots going on in the game. Rick Neuheisel is facing the team that gave him his first head coaching job. UCLA receiver Taylor Embree is facing his father, Colorado coach Jon Embree, who is a close personal friend of Neuheisel. UCLA's Josh Smith and Kai Maiava transferred from Colorado so they will be facing their former teammates as will Colorado receiver Paul Richardson, who transferred from UCLA. Colorado will be trying to end a 22-game losing streak in games outside of its home state and UCLA is playing for bowl eligibility and to stay in the driver's seat for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. Add in the fact that it will be senior day--the last home game for UCLA's seniors--and it could become an emotional overload for many of those involved. Controlling those emotions will be a key to winning the game.


Although Colorado's rushing attack isn't all that potent over all, the Buffaloes feature one of the premier all-around running backs in the nation in Rodney Stewart, who is the school's all-time leader in total yards with 4,670. He has 742 yards rushing and 525 yards receiving this season, making him the only player in the nation with at least 500 yards in each category entering this week's games. He also has 239 yards in kick returns and is coming off of a 181-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance last week against Arizona. He also passed for a touchdown in that game, so it's pretty clear that he can do it all and the Bruins will have to stop him to have success.

Taylor Embree wants bragging rights

November, 16, 2011
Taylor Embree hadn't yet mastered the Pledge of Allegiance when his second-grade teacher asked him to recite it in front of the entire class. All eyes and ears were on Embree but he escaped the jam by improvising with something he knew well.

"I told her I didn't know the Pledge of Allegiance," Embree said, "but I could sing the CU fight song."

And the Colorado native did, leading his classmates through a rendition of "Fight CU." The UCLA receiver, though, claims he won't even think about humming the song Saturday when the Bruins host the Buffaloes at the Rose Bowl. As of Tuesday night, Taylor did not know whether his father, Colorado first-year head coach Jon Embree, planned on accompanying him for senior day festivities during pregame. Father and son are close -- they talk over the phone about six times a week -- but Taylor said he understands Jon has a job to do, which likely includes revving up the Buffs (2-9) before they take the field.

"We'll find out, but I know my mom is going to be nagging him to walk me out," Taylor said. "I told him I don't want him to use that as an excuse in the game. ... If he feels like he needs to get his team ready, that's fine. I'm just excited that he's even going to be on the field when I'm playing."

Taylor, who ranks fourth on the team with 13 catches for 152 yards, said he stayed up Monday night thinking about how cool it would be to add a football game to the list of things he's beaten his dad at. Billiards and video games? Check and check. Games of H-O-R-S-E? Check. The two stopped playing one-on-one basketball when Jon Embree, a tight end for the Buffaloes in the mid-1980s, realized his son could dunk.

Despite the importance of the home finale -- UCLA would move to 6-5 and become bowl eligible with a victory -- Taylor doesn't anticipate nerves to be an issue. But the senior knows emotions will intensify as kickoff nears, something UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel hopes his leading punt returner can control.

"It’s actually going to be one of those things that his family will look back on because it’s unique and it’ll be a positive memory," Neuheisel said. "He doesn’t need to worry about that portion of it, he just needs to make sure his last game at the Rose Bowl in a home uniform is a fantastic memory for him."

As for the song he knew at age 8?

"I'm going to be mad every time I hear that fight song at the game and I told my dad, too," Taylor said with a chuckle. "That song is going to be like a Trojans fight song to me. It's going to be annoying by the time the game is over."

First look: Colorado at UCLA

November, 15, 2011
So many subplots are in action this week as UCLA prepares to face Colorado Saturday at the Rose Bowl, but really the only one that matters for the Bruins is the chance to gain bowl eligibility and keep control of their destiny in the Pac-12 South division.

So Rick Neuheisel going up against the school that gave him his first coaching job and receiver Taylor Embree playing against his father, Colorado coach Jon Embree, and Josh Smith and Kai Maiava facing the Buffaloes for the first time since transferring from Colorado are really side stories.

ColoradoUCLA"We’re in it," Neuheisel said. "And we are excited about trying to stay in it."

The Bruins (5-5, 4-3) need to defeat Colorado (2-9, 1-6) to make that happen.

At first glance, it appears that it should be no problem. The Buffaloes are a rebuilding team that hasn't won on the road since Oct. 27, 2007--a span of 22 consecutive games. They are ranked No. 101 or lower in the nation in six major statistical categories and have given up 29 points or more in 10 of thier 11 games.

Still, Neuheisel said the Bruins can ill afford to look at those numbers and look past Colorado.

"We would be absolutely foolish to consider that anything other than motivation for them," Neuheisel said. "This is going to be a slugfest. This is going to be a team that plays with reckless abandon that has nothing to lose that’s going to come here excited. And we’ve got to match fire with fire."

Colorado is coming off of its best performance of the season, a 48-29 victory over Arizona. yes, that's the same Arizona that embarrassed UCLA, 49-12, on Oct. 20.

Colorado running back Rodney Stewart had a season-high 181 yards rushing in that game and also scored three touchdowns. The 5-foot-6, 175-pound senior is the school's all-time leader in career yards with 4,409 and his 3,486 yards rushing are second on the school's all-time list.

Stewart is also a weapon as a receiver with 36 catches for 525 yards this season and needs 77 yards receiving to become the 27th player in NCAA history with 3,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in his career. He also threw a touchdown pass last week.

(Read full post)

Football: Tidbits from Pac-12 media day

July, 26, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-12 Conference released its first-ever preseason poll Tuesday, with UCLA picked to finish fifth out of six teams in the south division. The meager expectations didn't appear to affect the presence at coach Rick Neuheisel's media day lunch table, as a hoard of reporters huddled around to hear what he had to say.

One out-of-town reporter, clearly baffled, looked at the large group and whispered to another: "All of this for a coach that went 4-and-8 last year?"

Some tidbits from the inaugural Pac-12 media day:

(Read full post)



B. Hundley392271315522
P. Perkins25115756.39
B. Hundley1596444.110
J. Payton6795414.27
D. Fuller594477.61