WESTWOOD—In the Bruins’ first two games of the football season the team has taken some pretty hard hits. Some teams struggle at the beginning of the season, especially when certain aspects of the game have changed offensively or defensively. The problem is that the Bruins didn’t get better between their first and second game, instead they got worse.
Kansas St. was a nice jab, but the 35-0 loss to Stanford was a resounding haymaker that has UCLA floored and looking for a way to stand up, even though the schedule doesn’t give the Bruins much room to breathe. Their next game comes against the high-powered offense of the Houston Cougars, led by their Heisman candidate quarterback Case Keenum. The Cougars boast three receivers that had over 1,000 yards receiving last season and an offense that lead the NCAA in almost every offensive category. The defense has a lot on its plate this week and veteran safeties Rahim Moore and Tony Dye will both be key in keeping the aerial assault of Houston bottled up.
Despite the disappointing start to the season, everything has not been all bad for the Bruins believe it or not. One of the major bright spots for the team so far has been the dominate play of the offensive line. Made up of all seniors, the offensive line has been imposing its will in the running game and gave running backs Jonathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones the opportunity to make huge plays on the ground. Against Stanford, Franklin twice broke for what looked like a sure touchdown, but was desperately tripped up by defenders trying to save a score. In the passing game the line has kept the jersey of quarterback Kevin Prince fairly clean and given him time to make plays down the field. Even with the consistency of the O-line Prince has for some reason struggled to find his receivers down field. On defense, Akeem Ayers has been a force at his linebacker position and when he rushes the passer, while Sheldon Price has clearly gained more confidence at corner and has been one of the reasons the defense has not given up too many pass yards.
The cause of most of the mishaps for the Bruins has not been lack of skill or effort, but attention to details: people not knowing where to line up, not knowing their assignment or not covering the ball in traffic. It is the ability to take care of the little things in life that lead to success, and during practice this past Tuesday and Wednesday, Coach Neuheisel has made attention to detail a top priority. He has stressed the importance of getting all the minute details taken care of and the message has seemed to be getting across to the team. Players have taken it upon themselves to turn everything around and make sure the season doesn’t get too far away from them.
Last week wasn’t indicative of the way UCLA plays football and the fans are dying to see the type of football they know the Bruins can play. A win can never be guaranteed but the fans should know they will see an entirely different team against the Houston Cougars.