One more day until it is showtime for the Bruins. UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel is pleased with how the team prepared for the big stage that the Bruins will occupy on Thursday Night in front an national TV audience. For the last time until the game, Neuheisel met with the press after Tuesday's practice.
Neuheisel: "I am pleased with the week of practice. There is still more to be done in anticipation for a big game on television and so forth, but I like the focus and the intensity and if we can keep that going and work as hard as we worked physically and mentally here in the next couple of days we're going to be ready to play, hopefully our best football game and that's really what I think it will take to play a team that is feel like they are on the ropes and feel like they need to come out and play inspired football and I think they will play that way. It is an exciting challenge and one we're looking forward to undertaking."
How do you feel about the spotlight of a Thursday Night game?
Neuheisel: "It's exciting. You come to be involved in big time college athletics to be in that spotlight. Unfortunately we haven't faired very well the last couple of times out on Thursday Night, but this gives us another chance and can hopefully atone."
Is the tradeoff worth it? The increased exposure, but yet when exposure is not very good.
Neuheisel: "You can't worry about that. If you took that approach you would never do it. The bottom line is it is time for us to show up and play a great game. Hopefully we have that in us."
What do you think a key component to success this Thursday is for your team?
Neuheisel: "All games are kind of the same with respect to you have to take care of the ball. You have to a great job on defense to keep them out of the end zone and all those different factors, but for us it is matching the intensity and not being dazzled by a crowd or getting ourselves behind early. If we can come out and get off to a good start and let the game settle into being a good game and feel good about ourselves as the way we begin the game I think we'll have enough to stay in there for 60 minutes."
Neuheisel: "No question, yeah, I mean there is always some trepidation if you are an old man and you are putting in a guy who has never been in before, but that's for me. He doesn't feel any of that at all. He can't wait. He has a big grin on his face and is excited about getting into the game so if necessary, he will be fine."
Last week you talked about needing to improve on third down and getting off the field and stopping the run. Did you feel like you improved on that this week?
Neuheisel: "We worked hard at it, but the proof is in the pudding. Now they are going to make some third downs. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He's going to make some plays. We have to do a good job of mixing our coverages and mixing our pressures and hopefully causing some measure of confusion so that it is just not easy. If we can do that and get off the field a little bit more often than we have been able to then it will obviously give our offense more chances and hopefully we are up to that."
Kevin Prince's last start the first quarter didn't go as he wanted. How do you kind of address that in his first start since then?
Neuheisel: "I don't think it needs to be addressed. I think it is one of those things that we all know happened. We know why it happened and we have to go out there and just be confident that we are going to play well. We have to manage the game well, both from his standpoint and also from a play calling standpoint and let it fly. Scared money never wins, we have to go there and play. He, I think coming off the success he enjoyed from Washington State game, I think he;s poised to do that."
Giving the fact that Richard Brehaut hasn't been looking over Kevin's shoulder this week because of his injury do you think that he is playing with anymore reckless abandon or is a little looser?
Neuheisel: "I think reckless abandon is probably going to far, but certainly he's kind of taken back the team and we needed him to. It isn't as though affront to Richard, it's more of a hey listen, don't worry guys, I'm going to be fine and so are we and I think the team has responded to that. Hopefully it will play itself out like that on Thursday Night."
Neuheisel: "We will wait and see. We're not usually a team that does a lot of rolling players, but we will see how that turns out. I just like competition as I have said many times to everybody. The more we have competition in spots the better the players will be."
Do you feel like neither one has really distinguished themselves enough to take that position?
Neuheisel: "That is one way of looking at it or the other way to look at it is both are doing well and both are getting better and both are deserving. I prefer that approach."
What are some of the ways that the Arizona team will be different based on the coaching situation last week. You said it may haunt you a little bit?
Neuheisel: "You never know, but I think all of us as competitors kind of see that as an opportunity to shake whatever the shackles of going through a tough spot and start fresh. It signals a new beginning and when you get a new beginning it is like anything else, you feel better. You feel things are looser and it is fun again and so on and so forth. With all that as a possibility you have to aware that they can explode because they are very talented group and they have proven so over the years."
Is the team getting healthier?
Neuheisel: "Our team is getting healthier. We're still nursing some guys back to health, but no complaints. We will take who we have and see if it is good enough."
Speaking about new beginnings is your team kind of looking at the second half as a new beginning?
Neuheisel: "You know what? It doesn't need to be a new beginning because we are where we want to be, which is in the race. All we wanted to do is be in the race. Now this second half will be pivotal because it is going to determine the race and so how we respond to that...we have earned the right to be in a big game. By hook or by crook, we have earned our right to be in a big game. This is a big game for us and if we can be successful. We will earn the right to be in another big game and so on and so forth and that's what great programs do. They earn the right to be in big games and we have to embrace that and then learn to play well in those big games."