Pounded in losses to Kansas State and Stanford, UCLA’s defense took a teammate’s strong words to heart and forged a new, aggressive identity in beat-downs of Houston and Texas
Courtney Viney, a seldom-used cornerback, had a pointed question for his UCLA teammates before last Saturday’s football game at Texas.
“He asked us, ‘Who are you?’ ” senior defensive tackle David Carter said. “He said, ‘Are we going to be a welcome mat people walk all over, or we going be a team that, when we go out, people are afraid of us?’ ”
The answer came in a dominant 34-12 victory over a Longhorns team that had been ranked No. 7 in the nation.
UCLA’s defense, ground down by 313 yards rushing in a loss to Kansas State and mauled into submission in a rout by Stanford, left Austin smelling like a Texas rose.
How did it happen? A lack of experience was cited as an excuse for the early-season woes, but playing three games before facing the Longhorns removed the wide-eyed look. There was also a call for the Bruins’ best players to start making good things happen, a cue taken by star linebacker Akeem Ayers, who had a monster game against Texas.
And Viney’s question cut right to the heart of the matter, acting as something of a cattle prod before the defense faced the Longhorns.
“Courtney had it,” Carter said. “It was infectious. It spread through the whole team. This is UCLA, we’re a decorated program. We’re not nice.”
Viney, a junior from Fresno, has been trying to contribute guidance
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince sat out practice Tuesday with what was being called a “sore” knee.
He injured the knee in the second quarter against Texas, but played the remainder of the game. Prince underwent an MRI exam that revealed “no structural damage,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. Neuheisel had said Prince was “fine” and that “there was nothing that would keep him out of practice Tuesday,” during a conference call Sunday.
Prince had his knee drained of fluid Sunday. The swelling returned Monday.
As to whether Prince would play Saturday against Washington State, Neuheisel was noncommittal, saying, “We thought it was best to rest him today. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
Prince said that he feared the knee was more severely damaged when he slid out of bounds after a six-yard run.
“I felt a little pop, that’s what was most concerning,” said Prince, who had surgery on that knee as a senior at Encino Crespi High. “It was definitely on the outside knee, so they were concerned it was a meniscus or [anterior cruciate ligament]. But the MRI didn’t show anything wrong.”
A decision on whether he can practice will be made Wednesday after seeing trainers.
“The last couple days I felt fine when I woke up, then it would get sore as the day progressed,” Prince said.
Asked if he could have played in a game Tuesday, Prince said, “Who knows? Adrenalin is a beautiful thing.”
Prince suffered a torn muscle in his back the second day of training camp, forcing him to miss nearly three weeks. He had a sore shoulder after the opener against Kansas State. If Prince is unable to play, Richard Brehaut and Darius Bell probably would both play against Washington State.
Freshman defensive end
Owamagbe Odighizuwa was moved up to the firstteam defense Tuesday, with Nate Chandler moving to defensive tackle, replacing
Odighizuwa’s playing time has increased the last three games.
“He’s a strong guy, that has been here since day one,” defensive line coach
Todd Howard said. “It’s just being young and learning my techniques and learning how to react.
“He’s showing us more. There will still probably a little hesitation, but we’re bringing him up to speed quickly.”
Marsh not mellow
Freshman defensive tackle Cassius Marsh nearly came to blows with senior defensive end Reginald
Stokes during practice Tuesday.
Marsh was having words with offensive tackle Brett Downey when Stokes tried to escort him away. Marsh hit Stokes with an elbow, then shoved him and threw down his helmet before Howard stepped in to separate them.
Asked if that was how Marsh should treat a senior leader, Howard downplayed the incident, saying, “They walked off the practice field holding hands practically.”
Guard Jeff Baca, who has been out because of a stress fracture in his right leg, was in full pads at practice Tuesday. Baca, academically ineligible this season, will work with the scout team.
CRUNCH TIME: UCLA’s Nate Chandler and Sean Westgate (11) sack Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert during Bruins’ 34-12 victory Saturday at Austin. UCLA gave up only 85 yards rushing, a far cry from the 313 Kansas State had in the season opener.