UCLA: Rick Neuheisel

Neuheisel, Bruins find a way to slip Texas

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Without quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA could not win. It didn't matter that Texas was beaten up and beaten down. It didn't matter that Hundley was just one guy. He was The Guy, the face of the Bruins, the biggest reason some touted them in the preseason as national title contenders. Moreover, to put it gently, the depth chart behind him was unpromising.

Backup Jerry Neuheisel? Son of Rick Neuheisel, the guy who was fired before Jim Mora built the Bruins into contenders? The guy who some suspected got a scholarship only because his dad was the head coach? No way.

So when Hundley was surrounded by trainers after going down with an apparent elbow injury in the first quarter against the Longhorns, you could sense impending doom. You could sense the Bruins, who had struggled to beat Virginia and Memphis with Hundley, joining teams such as Ohio State, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia and Michigan State on the slag heap of exposed contenders.

[+] EnlargeJerry Neuheisel
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsBackup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel got a hero's exit after leading No. 12 UCLA to a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Texas.
Texas thought the same thing.

"[Neuheisel and Hundley] are two different quarterbacks," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "One guy is up for the Heisman and the other guy is someone we've never heard of."

Yet there was Neuheisel eyeballing Diggs' cornerbacking counterpart, Duke Thomas, in man coverage against receiver Jordan Payton with three minutes left in the game, sensing his moment had arrived.

"As soon as I saw [Thomas'] eyes, I thought, 'Oh, my God, this might just work,'" Neuheisel said.

The Bruins were down four on Texas' 33-yard line and pretty much hadn't allowed Neuhiesel to throw downfield since he came off the bench, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone expected man coverage and decided Payton might get free with a double move.

In fact, Thomas appeared to bite on Neuheisel's pump fake, and the ball arrived soft and sweet into Payton's hands. Touchdown. After the defense forced a four-and-done, the Bruins hoisted Neuheisel onto their shoulders. They'd won 20-17 without Hundley to improve to 3-0.

"I felt like it was going to be a little bit of a defining moment for us," UCLA coach Jim Mora said of when Hundley went down.

While it might seem to some like an ugly 3-0 for the nation's No. 12 team, it was a dream come true for Neuheisel. Literally. He told his teammates that at halftime. He grew up dreaming of following in his dad's footsteps as the UCLA quarterback, imagining throwing winning touchdowns in his backyard. The general expectation from fans and media, however, was the redshirt sophomore would remain on the bench behind Hundley, holding for field goals and then backing up whoever won the job next year when Hundley was off to the NFL.

Yet a point of emphasis from Mora and the Bruins after their victory was never doubting Neuheisel.

"We all expected it," Payton said.

Said Mora, "His team fricken' loves him. There was never any doubt."

Well, there was and is some doubt. What's next, for one, is a big issue. Hundley's status is questionable, to say the least. Mora would only say Hundley would be evaluated by UCLA team doctors back in Los Angeles. While beating a struggling Texas team with a backup QB is one thing, the Bruins visit Arizona State on Sept. 25 after a bye week. That's an entirely different deal, a critical South Division showdown. Of course, in an unfortunate twist of fate, both teams could be without their starting quarterbacks, as Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado on Saturday.

Neuheisel, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, could square off with Sun Devils backup Mike Bercovici in a game with major Pac-12, and even national, implications. The Bruins, however, were still operating inside the 24-hour rule Saturday, which means their primary concern is enjoying the present, not refocusing on the next foe.

Neuheisel is his father's son. He looks and sounds like Rick Neuheisel, and he's quick with a quip like his dad. When he walked into the postgame interview room, he noted, "Holders don't get this kind of publicity." After the elder Neuheisel led the Bruins to an upset of Illinois in the 1984 Rose Bowl, he cracked wise during a postgame interview about the Fighting Illini band blasting music behind him.

"I just talked to my dad," Jerry Neuheisel said. "He said, 'You did it. It's kind of a Neuheisel thing.'"

On a day when UCLA's crosstown rival, USC, wilted at Boston College, the Bruins found a way to dig deep, overcome adversity and win. UCLA might not be a beautiful 3-0, but it is 3-0 and that's what matters.

"They never flinched," Mora said. "They never blinked. That's kind of what we are trying to become. And we're getting closer and closer every day."

Watch: Rick Neuheisel basks in son's win

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Sometimes a picture says it all. In this case: The pride of a beaming father.

Rick Neuheisel, fired from UCLA in 2011 after four seasons in charge of the Bruins, nevertheless still has a reason to root for his old school. Rick's son, Jerry, was forced into action at quarterback Saturday night against Texas after an early injury to star Brett Hundley.

Neuheisel, who came in with 11 career passes, finished 23-of-30 with no interceptions, 178 yards and two touchdowns, including the 33-yard game winner with three minutes left in the UCLA's 20-17 victory.

You can imagine the pride felt by his pops, who was glued to the TV in the Pac-12 Network offices in California as his son was lifted up by his teammates in celebration 1,700 miles away in Texas.

UPDATE: And now there's video, courtesy of the Pac-12 Network. Check out Rick as he nervously watches the final minutes:

We'll leave you with this. A father. A son. And about as UCLA as it gets.

Rick Neuheisel, Jerry NeuheiselAP Photo, USA TODAY SportsRick Neuheisel led UCLA to a 1984 Rose Bowl win. His son, Jerry, was carried off the field after leading the Bruins to a win over Texas.

Bye week offers no edge, Mora says

October, 25, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Conventional wisdom says that teams coming off a bye week have an advantage because they get extra time to prepare. UCLA Bruins coach Jim Mora isn't much of a believer in conventional wisdom.

"I honestly have never thought about that stuff," Mora said. "No coach that I’ve ever been around has ever thought about that stuff. It’s something that fans think about and pundits think about. It’s not something that football coaches worry about, at least none that I’ve ever been around."

UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) is coming off a bye week going into its game Saturday at Arizona State. But Arizona State also had some extra time to prepare, as the Sun Devils last played Oregon in a Thursday night game.

Mora was 2-2 after bye weeks as a head coach in the NFL. His Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-14, in 2004 and won at the Miami Dolphins, 17-10 in '05. The Falcons lost, 27-14, to the New York Giants after a 2006 bye week and when Mora took over the Seattle Seahawks in '09, Seattle lost at the Dallas Cowboys, 38-17, the week after their bye.

UCLA in recent years hasn't fared too well after a week off. The Bruins were 0-4 following bye weeks under Rick Neuheisel and were outscored, 191-41 in those games. Dating to 2001, UCLA is 7-9 following a bye week and location seems to be the determining factor. The Bruins are 7-3 at home following a bye and 0-6 on the road.

"I think it depends on how you handle it, who you are playing, where you’re playing and what your energy level is," Mora said. "I think the most important thing is that you execute. If you execute and you play hard and you play with good energy then you have a chance to win. If you don’t, you don’t. I don’t know that the bye necessarily matters."

Reason for hope and caution at UCLA

September, 10, 2012
There is plenty of excitement surrounding the UCLA football program after its 36-30 victory over Nebraska Saturday earned the Bruins a spot in the AP college football poll for the first time since 2008.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireUCLA's Johnathan Franklin leads the nation in rushing with 431 yards and has been honored as the Pac-12's offensive player twice in as many weeks.
While there are plenty of good reasons to believe the Bruins have, indeed, turned a corner and are headed for a successful season, there also is room for skepticism about the early triumphs of the team.

So, as the No. 22 Bruins prepare to take on Houston Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, we present the top five reasons to believe UCLA is on its way back, and five more reasons to be wary.

Five reasons to believe

1. Jim Mora: Mora is all business with this team and has instilled a sense of belief that the team seemed to be lacking in the past. He has the players trusting one another, as well as the coaching staff. He's running a very tight ship this season, holding players accountable for every detail, and will accept nothing less than 100 percent effort. The players respect him and have bought in, which means the Bruins should be competitive in every game.

2. The offense: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has brought in a spread formation that is able to utilize the speed and athleticism that litters UCLA's roster. The Bruins are showing explosiveness and big-play ability and rank No. 3 in the nation in total offense and No. 18 in scoring, with running back Johnathan Franklin out in front with a nation-leading 431 yards rushing. It's the type of offense that makes you believe UCLA is capable of staying close in any game and coming back from a deficit no matter what is happening with UCLA's defense. That has not been the case the past several years.

3. Brett Hundley: Success in football almost always starts with the quarterback and Hundley has thus far proved up to the challenge of leading the team. He's shown good decision-making and accuracy in completing 42 of 61 passes (68.9 percent) for 507 yards and six touchdowns, with only one interception. He's also a threat with his legs and has 121 yards rushing in 19 carries. He's only a freshman, so he's only getting better and that means the Bruins will be able to build around him for the next couple of years.

4. The schedule: In beating Nebraska, the Bruins have just cleared what is perceived to be their biggest hurdle of the early season. Next up are home games against Houston and Oregon State followed by a trip to Colorado. Sure, the Beavers appear to be a bigger challenge than previously anticipated. And, later, Arizona and Arizona State could be tougher tests. But at this point, it's conceivable UCLA could be 10-0 heading into its Nov. 17 game against USC.

5. The staff: Mora inherited some very good talent, but he also surrounded himself with a staff that knows the recruiting scene and can land top-level players. By bringing in recruiting aces such as Adrian Klemm and Demetrice Martin, to go along with Angus McClure, Mora has surrounded himself with some of the most tireless recruiters in the business. UCLA landed the No. 19 class in the nation this year despite having only two and a half months to recruit after the coaching pieces were in place. So, with the coaches given full years to work their magic, there is every reason to believe UCLA can keep landing top-notch classes.

Five reasons to be wary

1. We've seen this act before: In 2007, UCLA started 2-0 and rose to No. 11 in the country only to lose 44-6 at Utah and drop from the rankings before finishing 6-7. In 2008, the Bruins defeated Tennessee in Rick Neuheisel's UCLA coaching debut; many said then the Bruins had turned a corner. They lost 59-0 next time out and finished 4-8. Neuheisel was fired after the 2011 season with a 21-29 record. The Bruins need to show they can not only sustain the success, but keep getting better.

2. The opponents: The win over Nebraska means nothing if the Cornhuskers turn out to be an average team. Some of UCLA's most high-profile victories over the past few years have turned out to be mirages. The Bruins defeated No. 20 Arizona State last year and the Sun Devils ended up 6-7. A 2010 victory at No. 7 Texas seemed impressive until the Longhorns ended up 5-7. The 2008 Tennessee squad Neuheisel’s team defeated in his debut was ranked No. 18 at the time but ended the season 5-7. Rice isn't exactly a national powerhouse and the jury is still out on Nebraska. It could end up that the Bruins have started 2-0 against two bad teams.

3. The defense: As impressive as UCLA has been so far on offense, the defense has left something to be desired. UCLA has given up 24 points in the first half of each of its games and currently ranks No. 100 in the nation in rushing defense, giving up an average of 217 yards per game on the ground. The good news is that the coaches have made good halftime adjustments and have been able to shut teams down in the second half of both games. But the offense might not always be able to keep pace, which means a slow start defensively could prove costly.

4. Depth: The Bruins have been able to escape major injury woes the first two weeks, but they are a twisted ankle or a sprained knee away from getting awfully thin at some positions. The offensive line, which already has three freshmen starters, would have to do some midseason juggling if one of the starters were to go down. Middle linebacker is especially worrisome, as Damien Holmes already is starting there after having never played there before this season. Eric Kendricks is the other starter and is solid. But there is nobody with experience behind Kendricks or Holmes. The defensive backfield also would have to rely on inexperienced players should an injury hit.

5. The penalties: UCLA currently leads the nation in yards penalized with 233, and the Bruins are tied for eighth in number of penalties with 19. Those types of numbers are not exactly a recipe for success. They haven't hurt yet, but there were a few against Nebraska that could have cost UCLA the game. Mora said he intends to get the penalties cleaned up and has confidence the players will respond. They had better, because you can't keep giving teams 100 free yards a game and expect sustained success.

Doubtful that Howland's job is in jeopardy

March, 9, 2012
Ben Howland is probably safe for now.

The UCLA basketball team will miss the NCAA tournament this year, violating a cardinal sin among Bruin faithful for the second time in three years, and that in itself is a fireable offense, but Howland won't be fired.

Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard are the only other UCLA coaches since John Wooden to miss two NCAA tournaments in three years and neither of them lasted much longer after, but Howland isn't going to join that group.

Add in the fact that UCLA is a program under scrutiny because of a recent Sports Illustrated report that alleges Howland's coaching style and recruiting misses are responsible for a program in disarray--not to mention a team that has been absent from the national rankings in all but one week over the past three seasons--and you have a pretty compelling case that many UCLA fans wouldn't shed tears should athletic director Dan Guerrero hand Howland his walking papers.

But don't look for Howland in the unemployment line just yet.

Howland is under contract through 2015 and it would take upwards of $3 million to buy out his contract, so that alone is enough to keep him around. The well-heeled donors and high-powered boosters would have to pony up the cash and there just isn't much of an anti-Howland groundswell among the one percent.

Howland is also set to bring in a top-ranked recruiting class with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams already signed and Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker considering UCLA. Should Howland go, Muhammad and Parker would definitely be lost and Anderson and Adams would almost certainly ask to be released from their letters of intent.

With UCLA set to unveil a revamped Pauley Pavilion next season, it doesn't make sense to do it with the same team that just finished fifth in the Pac-12 conference plus some recruits they scramble to get after the current class heads elsewhere. And it definitely doesn't make sense to let some coach who has never coached at UCLA re-open the hallowed ground of UCLA hoops.

Guerrero has said he won't evaluate Howland until the season is over and as of now, the Bruins are a bubble team for the NIT and Howland said the team would accept an invitation to play, so Guerrero won't be making any decisions until after that and he will have to consult with chancellor Gene Block before making any decisions.

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Breckterfield, Tuiasosopo happy to stay on

December, 16, 2011
Inoke Breckterfield and Marques Tuiasosopo both expressed relief upon learning that incoming coach Jim Mora wanted to retain them as part of the new coaching staff.

Breckterfield, the first-year defensive line coach, will stay on in the same capacity under Mora and Tuiasosopo, an intern on Rick Nuehiesel's staff who was recently promoted to quarterbacks coach, will coach the tight ends under Mora.

"Not knowing what is going to happen is natural for anyone to wonder what is going to happen next," Breckterfield said. "And when he offered the job there is a natural feeling of relief."

Breckterfield's unit drew some criticism for poor play early on his season, but had a better second half and he said was happy to get he chance to stay on and continue to try and improve. Defensive lineman Datone Jones was happy to hear his position coach would remain aboard.

"I’m excited," Jones said. "He’s a great guy. He got his feet wet his first year and he’ll come back and do bigger things next year. Guys are used to him now and he’s going to get a lot of things in this program."

Tuiasosopo, a former quarterback at Washington and with the Oakland Raiders, will have some learning to do in his new role as tight ends coach, but he said he's not that concerned.

"One thing about being a quarterback, especially playing in the NFL, you get to learn about everybody," he said. "I’ve got some friends that still play tight end I can call to get some tips. It’ll be a fast learning curve, but I’m fired up for it."

Mostly, he said, he's happy that he's getting the chance to be a full time coach. He was an intern at Washington and at UCLA before taking on the quarterbacks coaching responsibilities two weeks ago when Neuheisel left.

"You never know how it’s all going to shake out so when coach Mora offered me the job, I was pretty excited," Tuiasosopo said. "When you work for three years as an intern and a strength coach then to get your first job at UCLA, that’s just a tremendous blessing."

Brehaut still hopes to play baseball

December, 14, 2011
Quarterback Richard Brehaut said he still intends to play baseball this spring, though he acknowledged that he hadn't yet cleared it with new coach Jim Mora.

Brehaut had an agreement with Rick Neuheisel that allowed him to play baseball as long as he did not miss any of spring football practice. He balanced both by skipping baseball practices and games when they interfered with spring football, but was a member of the Pac-10 champion baseball team. He did not appear in a game.

"I’m definitely playing so I hope he’s OK with it," Brehaut said. "That’s something I’ll have to sit down and have a talk with him about. I proved that I can do both and be successful this past year so I hope that he understands that and the feeling is mutual."

Asked what he would do if Mora was not OK with it, Brehaut said he would have to think long and hard about that situation.

"If he forces me to make a choice, I’d definitely have to sit down and have a long talk with my family about that but that’s something that is in the future and I’ll talk to him about that so we’ll see," he said.

Post-Neuheisel, pre-Mora era begins

December, 11, 2011
In two weeks, the Bruins went from team coached by a guy who had been fired to a team not coached by the guy who has been hired.

It's how the bizarre world of UCLA football has turned in recent weeks, but one thing we know for sure is that Sunday marked another phase in the strange season as the Bruins practiced for the first time in the post-Rick Neuheisel era.

Neuheisel was fired Nov. 28, but stayed on and coached the team through the Pac-12 championship game Dec. 3. The Bruins took last week off and returned with Mike Johnson, the team's offensive coordinator, as interim coach even though the school hired Jim L. Mora as a permanent replacement Saturday.

Mora is expected to arrive on campus Monday, but it's unclear exactly when he will assume coaching duties, so Johnson is in charge until he does.

"It’s a unique situation," quarterback Kevin Prince said. "These past two or three weeks have been really weird so you kind of just go with a flow and just do what you’re told."

Practice under Johnson had a slightly different look and feel. The team began practice with special teams work, which under Neuheisel had come at the end of practice. The tempo was also much quicker.

Also, run game coordinator Jim Mastro was not present. Mastro is under consideration for a position on the staff at Washington State and was thought to be meeting with new Cougars coach Mike Leach this weekend. Mastro is expected to be back with the Bruins this week and remain at UCLA through the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31.

The fate of the rest of the coaching staff remains to be determined. Mora said he would meet with the staff when he arrives and discuss the possibilities with each coach individually. Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said the coaches are simply doing the best they can while they await word on their futures.

"I think we were all in agreement that we want to work with these guys, get them better, keep them focused and help them improve so when the new staff comes in we’ve done everything in our power to make sure they are ready," Tresey said. "We're all aware that it's difficult to keep your job when a new guy comes in especially if you don't have a relationship with him."

In the meantime, the Bruins set about their business by using a training-camp approach to their first bowl game practice session.

"We’re going back to the basics, especially the first week," Johnson said. "We’re going back to the fundamentals and the technique of what we do and we want to make sure we do those things properly. Sometimes during the season you get away from those things."

The players didn't know what to expect coming to the field on Sunday. Most of them have had only Neuheisel as a head coach at UCLA, so the different order of drills and pace of practice caught them a bit off guard. And, of course, they missed some of Neuheisel's quirks.

"It’s obviously a little different and strange to not have coach Neuheisel out here saying 'It’s a great day to be alive and be a Bruin,' and stuff like that but it’s fine," quarterback Prince said. "We all like coach Johnson and respect the way that he wants to run practice so it was a nice little change up. You do it a certain way for so long, it’s nice to kind of change it up and do things a little differently."

Jim Mora is a change of pace for UCLA

December, 10, 2011

And so UCLA’s coaching search is over after 12 days.

Now, will the decade-long mediocrity end?

Jim L. Mora will take over the UCLA football program, and while it may seem like it took forever to hire Rick Neuheisel’s replacement, 12 days really isn’t all that bad -- especially when you compare that with the amount of time UCLA’s football program has basked in the company of second fiddles and also-rans.

Jim Mora Jr
Jerome Davis/Icon SMIJim Mora has zero UCLA ties. And, in the end, that may be a good thing.
True, Mora isn’t exactly the splashy, big-name hire many UCLA fans were hoping to land, but there are reasons to believe his hire makes a lot of sense.

First, he has no UCLA ties in his past. Second, he is a defensive-minded coach. Third, he has no noteworthy experience as a college coach.

That bucks the trend of the past three UCLA coaches who are seen as the holy triumvirate of mediocrity. Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell and Neuheisel were all Bruins assistants at some point before they became head coach; Dorrell and Neuheisel were UCLA players.

Mora has no such ties, unless you count the one year his father spent as a UCLA assistant in 1974. But Mora was 13 at the time and probably not all that in tune with UCLA’s football culture.

That makes him the first football coach without a UCLA playing or coaching background since Red Sanders left in 1957. A fresh perspective may help rid the program of the-way-it’s-always-been-done attitude, and that would be a good thing because the way it’s always been done isn’t working.

Over the last 13 seasons, with Toledo, Dorrell and Neuheisel leading the way, UCLA is 80-78 -- just beyond perfectly average.

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Grades: Oregon 49, UCLA 31

December, 2, 2011
Kevin Prince completed 13 of 26 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He was hot and cold, however, missing badly on several passes and making other that were nice. Nelson Rosario had six catches for 98 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown catch at the end of the game.

Derrick Coleman broke one long run, but the Bruins never really seemed to get their ground game on track. they had 160 yards, which is 30 yards below their season average, but coughed up the game with three fumbles on running plays. Oregon turned those into 21 points.

A very average day for both lines. the defensive front four had some standout moments and hurried the quarterback effectively, but gave up way too much against the run. On offense, the line gave up four sacks, equaling the season-high they gave up last week against USC.

You can't get a very good grade when you give up 571 total yards, including a season-high 352 on the ground. The Bruins did score a defensive touchdown on Patrick Larimore's interception return and held Oregon to six of 17 third down conversions. Unfortunately Oregon converted four fourth downs, including two for touchdowns.

Another solid night of punting for Jeff Locke, who averaged 48.2 yards on four punts and put two inside the 20. His kickoffs were a bit shaky, however. Tyler Gonzalez drilled a 44-yard field goal on his only attempt. Taylor Embree had his best punt return of the season, but Josh Smith couldn't get going on kick returns. Punt coverage team was outstanding, but kickoff coverage gave up a big 40-yard return.

This one has nothing to do with game strategy, play calling or schemes, but rather class and integrity, which is how Rick Neuheisel has handled a very difficult week. He's as genuine a person as you'll find in the coaching profession and we don't have the heart to send him out with anything less than a perfect grade.

No Chris Petersen? What's Plan B?

December, 2, 2011

UCLA had a short list of candidates it was considering to replace Rick Neuheisel. Officially that list had about four names on it: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Houston's Kevin Sumlin, former Oregon coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Bellotti and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones.

There were other names floating in the ether. Cincinnati Bengals assistant Jay Gruden, former UCLA assistant Tom Cable. But Gruden probably isn't leaving the NFL and Cable's probably more interested in UCLA than they are in him.

In reality though, UCLA's list was Petersen and ....

So where do the Bruins go from here after ESPN.com's Joe Schad reported that Boise State denied them permission to talk to Petersen?

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Outgoing UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel joins SportsCenter to talk about his time at the school and preparing for the Pac-12 Conference championship game vs. Oregon.

Five things to watch: Pac-12 Championship

December, 1, 2011

It's the swan song for coach Rick Neuheisel on the UCLA sideline, so emotions are sure to be running high for the Bruins. They would like nothing more to send their leader out with a victory. Neuheisel teared up after his team carried him off the field following his final practice and you can only imagine how emotional he will be after the game is over and there is no more UCLA football for a former UCLA walk-on quarterback whose dream job was to coach UCLA. If the Bruins should somehow pull off the miracle, it would make for a storybook ending and that's something to which Neuheisel is no stranger and true to his relentlessly optimistic character, he is holding out hope that UCLA can, indeed, catch lighting in a bottle.

Speaking of lightning, the Oregon offense has been described as just that. It's a mile-a-minute, machine-gun spread they have dubbed "The Blur" because it moves so quickly. The Ducks rarely huddle and get to the line of scrimmage and run a play about every 20 seconds. And they are devastatingly efficient. Oregon ranks last in the country in time of possession at 24:46 per game, yet is third in the nation in scoring at 45.9 points per game. Of the Ducks' 68 touchdown drives this season, 38 have lasted two minutes or less and 12 have taken a minute or less.

Part of the reason Oregon has had so much success with the fast-paced offense is because it has the athletes to make it work. Running backs LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas are all speed burners who have helped Oregon rank No. 5 in the nation with 291 yards rushing per game. Because each is equally dangerous, the Ducks are able to rotate them in and out and keep them fresh, though James is clearly the leader as he leads the nation with 147 yards rushing per game. Thomas is so valuable that he's been starting at receiver just to get him on the field. He's also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Eugene, Ore., is home to several notable beer makers, but what the Ducks have brewing at Autzen Stadium is enough to make opponents feel drunk. Oregon has had 81 consecutive home sellouts, a streak that dates to 1999. Their fans are not shy, either, turning their home field into one of the most difficult places to play in the country. When USC defeated Oregon it ended a 21-game home win streak for Oregon. That isn't much of a confidence booster for UCLA, which is 2-10 on the road over the past two seasons -- a span that includes a 60-13 loss at Oregon last Oct. 21.

UCLA is a 32-point underdog in the game and because of that is approaching the game as if it has nothing to lose. Nobody thinks the Bruins deserve to be in the game because they finished second in the Pac-12 South, so they intend to play with controlled abandon. Neuheisel, who won't be coaching another game for the Bruins, said he might pull out a few surprises from deep in the playbook. UCLA normally plays a conservative, ball-control game so don't expect anything too crazy, but seeing as how Neuheisel really has nothing to lose in this game, don't be surprised if he does have a trick or two up his sleeve. Pulling off the upset would be the greatest trick of them all and wouldn't that be some way to go out?

An emotional last practice for Neuheisel

November, 30, 2011

An emotionally taxing week ended in tears for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel as the realization that he'd just coached his last Bruins practice caused him to well up during his post-practice interview with reporters.

UCLA players lifted Neuheisel to their shoulders and carried him off the field singing the UCLA fight song. He shook hands with and hugged several players before meeting with reporters and trying to keep things normal by giving a practice update.

Less than a minute in, asked to describe the tribute by his team, he lost it.

"It’s meaningful when you work to create relationships and you want desperately for them to achieve what they are capable of achieving," he said, fighting back tears. "And despite the fact that we didn’t win enough games, I think they are achieving as people. And I’m extremely proud to be a part of this team and looking forward to hopefully a grand finish."

UCLA will play Oregon Friday in the Pac-12 championship game and Neuheisel, fired on Monday, is sticking around to coach one last game. The team leaves for Oregon Thursday morning and will have a walkthrough but Wednesday was their final full practice.


Bruins Beat: And they play on

November, 30, 2011
Oh by the way, UCLA has a game this weekend.

Amid all the commotion surrounding the firing of coach Rick Neuheisel this week, it’s easy to forget the Bruins are preparing to play Oregon Friday in the Pac-12 championship game.

UCLAOregonYes, the team with the coach who just got fired is playing for a championship. And that fired coach isn’t really fired until after coaching the team in that game. Those are just some of the bizarre circumstances hovering over the inaugural Pac-12 title game, which is otherwise known as the Kinda-Sorta Bowl.

UCLA is the team that kinda-sorta has a coach and kinda-sorta qualified to play for the championship in a game it kinda-sorta has a chance to win.

Well, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch. UCLA probably has as much chance to win as Sonny Corleone had at the tollbooth.

But that only adds to the bizarreness of a title game that probably isn’t exactly the scenario the Pac-12 had in mind when it split into two divisions and created a title game.

“It’s a strange situation all together because in all honesty we’re really not supposed to be here and our coach got fired so he’s not going to be here,” UCLA receiver Randall Carroll said. “I guess it’s a real crazy situation.”

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B. Hundley368259301921
P. Perkins23013786.07
B. Hundley1485483.78
J. Payton6389614.27
D. Fuller574287.51