Bruins hoping for another landmark win vs. Texas

UCLA’s stunning victory at Texas last year was the undeniable
highlight of coach Rick Neuheisel’s disappointing third season.

Neuheisel could really use another highlight when the Longhorns
return the visit on Saturday.

UCLA (1-1) hosts No. 23 Texas at the Rose Bowl after an
unimpressive start for a coach on the self-described hot seat. The
Bruins gave up 38 points in a season-opening loss at Houston before
grinding out a 27-17 home victory last weekend over San Jose State,
which won just three games in the previous two seasons.

The next game won’t break UCLA’s season, but a win could
certainly make Neuheisel more comfortable in Westwood.

”It’s a marquee program,” Neuheisel said Monday. ”And because
of the perception of our program, to come out and play a great game
against a marquee program and to find a way to win it will put at
ease those folks who are concerned about where we are. At least we
have to play as well as we possibly can. … I know Texas is as
motivated as we are, so it should be a whale of a ballgame.”

The Bruins’ motivation level has been tough to figure out for
weeks. Neuheisel wrapped up a practice last week by shouting at his
team: ”I can’t be the only one who cares!”

Neuheisel and his players shrugged off the exclamation as
coachspeak, but the Bruins then shuffled through the first three
quarters against the seriously undermanned Spartans last weekend
before surging in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps Tommy Lasorda can reach these Bruins: The longtime
Dodgers manager will speak to the team on Saturday at its hotel
before the game.

”I think we’ve got the right mettle in the program,” Neuheisel
said. ”I think we’ve got the right character in the program. We
just have to get them to play faster and play with the kind of
skill that they possess on a game-to-game basis. I think that we
can certainly play better, and we will play better this
weekend.”

Neuheisel still sees bowl potential in his Bruins, who have
better health and more depth than any team in Neuheisel’s tenure at
his alma mater. Nearly every potential starter is available with
the returns of linebacker Glenn Love and quarterback Kevin Prince
from injuries, along with center Kai Maiava’s return from a
one-game team suspension.

And though Neuheisel has nothing but praise for Texas coach Mack
Brown’s rebuilding superpower, UCLA also knows the Longhorns (2-0)
could be ripe for another upset. Texas is returning to the Rose
Bowl – the site of its loss in the BCS title game in January 2010 –
with inexperienced quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash running an
offense that barely beat BYU at home last week.

”Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their internal
situation, it’s a great opportunity to play a program like Texas,”
Neuheisel said. ”For our program to take a step forward and become
what we all hope to achieve, it’s a great opportunity.”

But Neuheisel must get back to work fixing a passing game that
managed just 145 yards against San Jose State. UCLA’s passing
offense was among the nation’s worst last season, but the Bruins
thought it was working again after a strong start against
Houston.

Neuheisel isn’t likely to name a starting quarterback this week.
Although Richard Brehaut has played most of the first two games
after finishing up last season as UCLA’s starter, Prince is
”healthy and ready to go” after injuring his shoulder and
incurring a concussion in the season opener at Houston.

Prince led the Bruins past Texas last season, running for a
touchdown and passing for another in UCLA’s 34-12 win.

”We took a step backwards in the throw game, which surprised
me,” Neuheisel said. ”I didn’t think we’d do that. We’ve got to
take a look.”