Bruins need Princely effort to overcome injury to top The Cougars to preserve Pac-12 hopes
By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –
Pasadena – It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the loser of Saturday’s game between the UCLA Bruins (3-3;1-1) and the Washington State Cougars (3-2;1-1) would fall out of any hope for Pac-12 title contention and be relegated to out dueling Colorado for the bottom spot.
Early in the evening it seemed that the Bruins were about go quietly into to the bottom slot contest. For most of the first quarter it was three-and-out for the Bruins on every position. Thanks to the Bruin defense, Washington State could only muster field goals and take a 6-0 lead at 13:32 of the second quarter. UCLA starting quarterback Richard Brehaut was 4 – 7 for 28-yards when the Bruin strategy turned to quarterback rollouts.
After a 14-yard completion to Randall Carroll – his longest completion of the evening, Brehaut dashed around the left side for a 5-yard gain and took a hard shot from the Cougar secondary. For reasons only known to the Bruins brain trust, the designed quarterback rollout was called again. This time Brehaut could not return to the huddle and UCLA would have to call on former starter Kevin Prince.
Prince, the Bruins starter at the beginning of the season was unceremoniously benched last month after throwing 3 interceptions in the first quarter of 49 – 20 loss to the Texas Longhorns. Brehaut came in and picked up the starting duties and after that was able to guide the Bruins to a win over Oregon State and a pretty good showing against Stanford. Brehaut would leave the game with a fracture of the lower left leg.
“He will be back as soon as he can get back. If there is a tougher guy, I don’t know him. He’s a resilient son of a gun and I am proud of him too. There were a couple of balls earlier that could have been a little lower. We are going to miss Richard, but as in this case, the next guy has to be ready, and Richard will work his butt off to get back,” said Rick Neuheisel. Prince quickly validated himself by energizing the Bruins attack when he connected with wide receiver Nelson Rosario for a 41-yard reception to the 1-yard line. Derrick Coleman did the rest on a 1-yard plunge over left tackle to give UCLA its first lead of the game at 7-6.
The Cougars offense couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and had to settle for another field goal to regain the lead at half-time at 9-7.
“Certainly, they went up and down the field. But when we got them into the red zone, the way we stepped up, especially when they (after a penalty) three more downs, I thought that was awesome,” said Neuheisel about his defensive unit’s ability to stop the Cougar offense.
UCLA fans hadn’t forgotten Prince’s last appearance and greeted him with a faint chorus of boos which quickly dissipated after his 41-yard bomb to Rosario. Prince appeared to be fresh and playing with a confidence that wasn’t there early in the season.
“I don’t know if I am any faster or stronger, I was just happy to be able to help the team. I just approached it like this is something that I’ve done before. I’ve been out there before and have won some games before so it’s no different for me than before,” said Prince.
Washington State’s quarterback, Marshal Lobbrstael had just been named the Manning award winner for the week and a 376-yard performance against Colorado the previous week. The Cougar offense was averaging 379-yards passing per game and was ranked number 4 in the nation.
The second half turned into a dual of with both teams scoring a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. UCLA scored on another Derrick Coleman 1-yard run and the Cougars responded with an 8-yard toss from Lobbestael to Jared Karstetter to end the quarter with UCLA trailing 16-14.
The Cougars maintained a lead throughout the 4th quarter and with 3:35 remaining in the game and UCLA was trailing Washington State 25-20 and a 0-2 Pac-12 record starring the Bruins squarely in the face.
Just when UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel must have been thinking how many things can possibly happen to his team? At that moment Kevin Prince heaved a 58-yard pass downtown field nestling into the outstretched left hand of wide receiver Nelson Rosario and immediately changed UCLA’s night and possibly its season from one of explaining missed opportunities and what went wrong into an all out celebration and Kevin Prince, from a benched former starter to a hero.
“These are the kinds of things that can happen and serve as a catalyst for the season. Hopefully, some of our frontline guys will return to action. It’s great to have them celebrate like they are right now,” said an obviously relieved Neuheisel.
Saturday’s win was huge for the Bruins and will likely give them a boost going into their week off. The road ahead is tough but with an extra week to get some key people positions healthy they can make it a lot easier. UCLA will travel to Tucson in two weeks to take on the Wildcats in a Thursday night game.
G. Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com
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