The clock is ticking down to the biggest game of the season for UCLA. A win put the Bruins in a tie for first place in the South Division. Who would have ever thought that would happen after the Arizona game? Yet the Bruins hold their destiny in their own hands. UCLA head coach, Rick Neuheisel talked to the media after Wednesday's practice.
Neuheisel: "Pleased with practice. Excites about the contest, but still lots to do before we're going to feel like we are ready, but looking forward to playing a very, very good team on Saturday and hopefully an energized crowd."
It seemed like there was a lot of coaching directives going on is probably the best way to say it. A lot of vocal coaching going on...
Neuheisel: "We're going to coach hard now. We need the very best this weekend. I've mandated that we coach hard. No question about it."
Did you feel there was maybe a lag in energy?
Neuheisel: "No, if anything there was sometimes a lack of focus and that's what we can't have and that's when we have to be firm and make sure that we are getting exactly what we want."
How much are the guys grasping that it has been win-loss, win-loss and they need to do something about that?
Neuheisel: "We are focused on one game. The past is the past, but we certainly know we have to put together a great effort to have a chance so we cannot rest on the laurel that may have been gained by playing a good game against California. That game is in the history books and we will think about it years from now. Right now it is all about ASU."
How do you coach out of that emotional cycle?
Neuheisel: "You coach about this game and that's why I was asked if I was being firm, we are absolutely talking and mandating that we talk only about this game."
Joe Roberts back?
Neuheisel: "He's available. He is kind of nursing his way back to health, but it is nice to have him back kicking."
would he be in that backup punter role or is he strictly kicking?
Neuheisel: "I don't think Joe punts. No Michael Leamy is still backup punter."
About the ASU quarterback (Brock Osweiler) and his height and how that is an issue to deal with?
Neuheisel: "Well obviously he's not going to be visionally impaired. He's a tall guy and a good athlete to boot, so he gives us problems, but we can't change that, we have to play as a hard as we can."
What did you learn from Osweiler last year?
Neuheisel: "That he's darn good. I think everyone on our football team realizes that he was capable of putting up big numbers as he did a year ago and 55 points once he got into the the game. We have to answer that call."
Last year, Richard Brehaut set records for both completions and attempts. How quickly did you guys switch to that passing mode or was it designed going into the game?
Neuheisel: "It was a year ago and we kind of moved into that kind of deal. He was coming off a concussion from the week before against Washington so running a whole bunch wasn't probably the best thing to do and so we found our way into a throw game, and found ways to score. We scored, I think 34 points. We're not going to play that kind of game this year, if you are asking."
What is the safety position going to look like for you?
Neuheisel: "Interesting, interesting, interesting (laughs), we are going to play with whose ready to play. We don't have a lot of numbers there, but we are going to fight scratch and claw."
Is Dietrich Riley out?
Neuheisel: "I would say extremely doubtful."
Is that more precautionary when a guy gets a hit like that you sort of feel like...
Neuheisel: "That's a doctor's call."
Coach if someone would have told you at the start of training camp, that you would be 92 in scoring defense at this time of the year, what would said?
Neuheisel: "I would have been disappointed, but again, I'm only talking about this game and I like the way our defense played coming into this game and I am looking forward to a great defensive effort on this day."
do you expect for things to turn around for the second half of the season, especially defensively?
Neuheisel: "We are going to do the best we can. We are down people, but we are going to do the best we can."
You have talked about Tevin McDonald, earlier in the season trying to do too much. Is there any danger of him reverting back after having such a huge game?
Neuheisel: "I think he sees now that he sees what he is capable of when he plays within the defense. Hopefully we will see that as a reason to continue to do so."
Do you think he's going to go out there and try to get three more interceptions?
Neuheisel: "I think they come to you when they are supposed to come to you and I think he learned that lesson."
is there one or two things that you are focusing on specifically in this game that really stand out?
Neuheisel: "We need to be able to run the ball against a very good defense. We have to be able to convert third downs and we have to get them off the field. Those are the three things that have been kind of a theme here of late, so if we can do those things, we're going to be fine."
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Can you talk about Stan McKay?
Neuheisel: "Stan has been a very, very, important cog in this deal. You never know when you are going to get your chance. You just have to be prepared when you do and Stan has taken full advantage of his opportunity and I think there are a lot of big plays in him."