Monday, March 25

Extra Points: Poor pass connections have set the tone early


Several soft defensive stops put extra pressure on Bruins' stressed link: their quarterback

There is such a thing as setting the tone in football, which could be considered the equivalent to setting the mood in romance.

You know what type of night it’s going to be from the beginning.

So when the Bruins took on Kansas State Saturday afternoon and ran three consecutive pass plays to open the game ““ all of which were incomplete ““ the tone for UCLA was officially set.

Ineffective passing and catching were going to be the demise of the Bruins against the Wildcats.

Fast-forward to the final minutes of the game and what do you know: the Bruins have a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion.

But ineffective passing and catching holds them back.

With a little over a minute left on the clock, UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince throws one of his few nice passes of the game, which lands in the arms of Ricky Marvray for a touchdown, bringing the Bruins to within two.

On the two-point conversion attempt, Prince rolls out right and throws a soft pass that clearly should have been caught by Taylor Embree. But instead, the ball bounces off of Embree’s chest and the Bruins’ chances of rallying to take down the Wildcats fly out the window.

“We got some chances,” UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. “First time out there’s going to be some growing pains, but I saw some good things, and there’s reason for optimism.”
I’m not too sure about that, Rick.

Yes, some of the freshman looked better than expected. Josh Smith showed that he has the potential to be a huge playmaker. The running back-by-committee approach looks promising.

But the defense looked atrocious, giving up 313 rushing yards, 234 of which belonged to one man: Daniel Thomas.

I thought the Bruins hung their hat on defense.

“We were not as good as we needed to be against a fine running team,” Neuheisel said. “Too many mistakes to win an opening game against a talented team on the road. Disappointed with the loss.”

Coach, if you thought this team was talented, then you’re in for a hell of a season. Have you looked at your schedule?
It’s like a gauntlet.

Truth is, Kansas State was the second easiest opponent on the Bruins’ incredibly tough schedule. The only team worse is Washington State.

But above all else, UCLA is still suffering from the disease that has plagued them for the past two seasons: poor quarterback play.

Now, I know that there are two parts to the passing-game equation. And Prince’s receivers did not have a remarkable performance Saturday, dropping several catchable balls.

But in football, when a team wins, guess who gets most of the glory. The quarterback.

So when they lose, guess who the blame falls on.

Hey, I didn’t make the rules, I just live by them.

With that said, going nine-for-26 with two interceptions has to be a regrettable performance for Prince. He looked completely out of sync with his receivers. Actually, he looked out of sync with himself.

It seems as if Prince just couldn’t find the touch, sailing balls long and short the entire day. And half of the passes that were actually good passes, were dropped by his receivers.

But that is reflected only in Prince’s statline.

Prince is comparable to a schoolteacher’s biggest pet peeve: the gifted underachiever. He shows the potential to be great on occasion, but more often than not, he performs below his ability.

Next up, the Bruins have Stanford, which boasts one of the nation’s top QB’s in Andrew Luck.

Granted, Stanford played Sacramento State on Saturday, but Luck went 17-for-23 for 316 yards and four touchdowns.

That’s a nice game no matter who the opponent is.

Hopefully, the combination of next week being the Bruins’ first Pac-10 game and first home game, Prince wanting to redeem himself for the Kansas State game and the duel with Luck will be enough to spark a spirited performance.

Because we all know that Neuheisel isn’t opposed to snatching quarterbacks and putting them on the sidelines.

And Prince could be in danger of being Neuheisel’s next victim

With reports from Ryan Eshoff, Bruin Sports senior staff.

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