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Saturday, October 25, 2014

UCLA Football Showing Little Improvement Under Rick Neuheisel

There have been some really nice moments for UCLA’s football team this year. They beat Houston at home, knocking out two quarterbacks in the process. Just two weeks ago, Rick Neuheisel got his signature win with the team — a one-sided victory in Austin. But the team is still 3-3, and the biggest issue to me is the way this team is playing, and the embarrassing nature of its losses.

UCLA fell to Cal on Saturday 35-7, and they lost 35-0 to Stanford earlier in the year. Losing 70-7 to the NorCal schools is simply unacceptable, and that goes for any team in the Pac-10. The Bruins have no passing game whatsoever, and they moved to the pistol offense which seems to be effective, but they don’t have the right quarterback for the system. The offensive line hasn’t provided necessary protection, and the receivers can’t create separation. The defense is solid with some good playmakers, but it’s hard to have success if they’re on the field constantly and starting off in poor field position.

There was a lot of optimism when Neuheisel took over the program. He went out and stunned Tennessee on national TV in his first game, backing up all his talk. The team has had strong recruiting classes according to most rankings, and Neuheisel has talked up the program a good deal in the media. The problem is the results haven’t been there on the field on a consistent basis.

UCLA went 4-8 in Rick’s first year, 7-6 last year with a bowl win over Temple, and they’re 3-3 now. What the program hoped to eliminate when they hired a new coach was mediocrity and ugly losses. Three years into Neuheisel, and it feels like more of the same.

I wasn’t happy with the hire from the start because I wasn’t convinced Rick was that good of a coach. The one area I doubted him where he’s proven to be strong is discipline. He kicked three players off the team during the summer, and he’s suspended a few more for next week’s Oregon game. Though Neuheisel is doing his part by disciplining players, it still reflects poorly upon the program that players have to be suspended.

Between a 35-7 loss at Cal, players breaking rules during the week, and the Josh Luchs story coming out about all the UCLA players being paid, it’s been a bad, bad week for the Bruins. Some of the issues are Neuheisel’s fault while others are not. The bottom line is he has the ability to control a great deal of the negative press by getting the players prepared for games. Losing 35-7 at Cal and 35-0 to Stanford at home is unacceptable. There better not be many more games like that otherwise he won’t be long for the job.



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