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.”