If focus and effort are any indication, the Bruins showed very little affects of their loss to Stanford, their first day at practice. If anything they were mad and more determined with the squandered opportunities to become the team they think they are capable of. UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel met with the media after Tuesday's practice.
Neuheisel: "Very pleased with the first practice just for the anticipation for the Washington State game. I think our guys came to work. I am pleased that the weather held off and we were able to get a great day of practice out here and looking forward to what promises to be a big time game on Saturday Night against a hot team in Washington State."
Why have you had so much success against Washington State over the years?
Neuheisel: "Like most times you go and play them and you have a good team and they play well. I don't have any answer for that other than there have been some great games. When I was at the University of Washington, In played them three times in seasons when Washington State had 10 wins. It has been a great contest each year from a standpoint of just lining up and playing in usually pretty darn good games."
Is that as big a game Washington/Washington State as UCLA/USC?
Neuheisel: "It's a big game. You would have a hard time finding folks in the Palouse that would say otherwise, but obviously we're proud of our rivalry here in Los Angeles, as well."
That you have been able to handle WSU all these years, what sort of edge does that give you going into this game?
Neuheisel: "All those games in the past, are in the past. It's all about this game and this particular UCLA team against their particular Washington State team. I know that they are riding high. I know that their confidence is brimming because it has been lean for them over the last several years and they have believed in Coach Paul Wulff's mantra that this thing was going to turn so this is going to be an inspired team that is going to come in. A number of them are from Southern California and they're excited to play in front of friends and family. It will require everything that we can muster up and we are looking forward to that kind of game ourselves."
Why did you feel the other night the need to run around the room and kind of pump guys up? What was different about that?
Neuheisel: "I don't know, characterizing running around. I talk to my players post game almost every time. In this particular deal, I was wanting them to realize that we are not far away. I know there is demoralization that accompanies defeat, but it was important to me for them to realize that we are going to go back to work. We are going to fix the things that we can fix and we are going to get to play again as soon as next Saturday and we are going to play a whale of a ballgame. Now all we have to do is practice to do just that."
Were you concerned about the psyche?
Neuheisel: "I wanted them to realize that all was not lost. The game was gone, but the season is still there and I was inspired by the way we responded at the end of the first half. The way the locker room felt at the halftime. I was inspired by a lot of the play until obviously the turnover that changed the complexion of the game, but I still think great things are in store and I want them to believe as well."
How did you go about picking the players to talk to?
Neuheisel: "I really didn't pick them. I was just walking around trying to talk to everybody."
What is your biggest concern about the mounting injuries?
Neuheisel: "The thing that I think about the injuries is we are getting better. A number of guys are coming back. The other thing, you always look for signs, people are trying to get back and are working hard to get back because they believe that we are going to turn the corner and hopefully as soon as this Saturday Night."
Neuheisel: "Well obviously, I rarely question another coach's decision. I mean he has two fine quarterbacks. I know that and we regardless of who is in there."
Can you talk about Nelson Rosario being a possession receiver? Neuheisel: "He's a big target and he has made a number of plays. We would like to get him running instead of always coming back for the ball, but he's an accomplished player and I believe that he can have great game this Saturday and a great second half of the season."
Neuheisel: "We are working through that. We still have confidence in Taylor. He was trying to make a play. Wanting to be a guy the team can count on and was trying to make a spin move on a defender before he caught the ball and unfortunately it got away, but we don't lack any confidence in Taylor Embree."
What is the situation with placekicking and extra points?
Neuheisel: "I was having so much fun. We are working through that. Kip Smith was out kicking a little bit. I don't know where he stands for the week. We will have to wait and see. At least he was actually kicking a football and that is movement in the right direction. We will continue to address the options as we go further into the week."
Is there a possibility that Tyler Gonzalez kicks extra points?
Neuheisel: "Yeah, at this point anything is possible. I can't rule out anything. We will continue to check that out."
Are going to have a crew come out here and check out more potholes out here? After what happened to Josh Smith?
Neuheisel: "Josh bobbled a ball. We were actually on the grass field at the time and he was just trying to bobbled it and there is a place over there where you are rarely going to be that we have a turf square where we have an electrical thing or a water thing or something down there and he caught it with his foot, but fortunately no ill affects."
Jamie Graham, how is he contributing and where is he right now?
Neuheisel: "Jamie was very helpful in the game on Saturday Night and obviously with his experience and having played in this defense with this terminology the catch-up is pretty quick. He will be important again for this Saturday.Night"
Are you thinking about more explosive guys back there returning punts?
Neuheisel: "There is always that thought and again it gets down to reliability of fielding the punt. We have had Shaquelle Evans back there and we have certainly worked with both Josh Smith and Jordon James and Jamie Graham has also returned punts so we will continue to try and figure out what's the alternative for us."
Can you think of any other team that you have has this much winning success against than Washington State?
Neuheisel: "I don't know if I have played another team as many times as I have played Washington State."
So these are the guys you own then...
Neuheisel: "No, no, no, those are your words. These are spirited games and this is a new one. A new chapter and in that series."
When you guys talk about things that need to be fixed. Defensive line is is having its problems. Is that a technique issue?
Neuheisel: "Are you talking the lack of sacks?'
The lack of sacks, the lack of tackles for loss...
Neuheisel: "We are addressing those things. We would obviously love to get the ball back, but truthfully in the games that we have played with the exception of the Oregon State and the San Jose State game, we have played some really experienced quarterbacks that have done a nice job getting the ball out of their hands. You have to be prudent as to when you go and apply pressure and when you try to make it hard to find holes in your defense."
When you are looking at the film, you are not seeing any problems with technique?
Neuheisel: "I have not and I have looked carefully. Obviously I would love to fix ourselves if there was something to fix, but we could get a little cleaner and a little tighter in the games and somethings of that nature, but we are not far away and I believe we will play better defense as we keep going."