The UCLA Bruins returned to the practice field Tuesday, licking their wounds from a 45-19 loss at Stanford and looking ahead to a game against Washington State that appears it will be much tougher than anyone might have predicted before the season.
The Cougars are 3-1 and coming off of an impressive comeback victory at Colorado. That's actually good news for UCLA, which practiced as if they were not taking the Cougars lightly even though Washington State went 5-32 the previous three seasons.
"I think our guys came to work and are looking forward to what promises to be a big-time game against a hot team in Washington State," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "I know that they’re riding high and I know that their confidence is brimming because it’s been lean for them over the past several years and they’ve believed in Coach [Paul] Wulff’s mantra that the thing was going to turn and it’s turning. So this is going to be an inspired team that comes in."
Neuheisel is the right guy to be coaching in this game. He never has lost a game against Washington State having gone 8-0 against the Cougars in his coaching stops at UCLA, Washington and Colorado.
"All those games in the past are in the past," Neuheisel said. "It’s all about this game and this particular UCLA team against their particular Washington State team."
A few tidbits from practice:
The kicking situation is back to being up in the air. Jeff Locke missed two of three extra-point attempts against Stanford and also missed one against Oregon State a week earlier so the Bruins are looking at other options. Kip Smith, the first-string kicker who has missed three games because of a hip-flexor injury, did some light warm-up kicking in practice and backup Joe Roberts, who has a strained quad, kicked in pre-practice drills, but walk-on Tyler Gonzalez got most of the reps. He was 4-for-4 in pre-practice drills and made a 38-yard field goal to end the two-minute drill. "We’re working through that," Neuheisel said of the kicking situation. "Kip was out kicking little bit. I don’t know where he stands for the week, but at least he was actually kicking a football so that’s moving in the right direction. We’ll continue to address the other options as we go further into the week."
Josh Smith had a bit of a scare when he ran a fade route off the field and stepped awkwardly in an out-of-bounds portion of the artificial turf field. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes but hopped back up and practiced normally the rest of the day. "There's a place over there where you're rarely going to be," Neuheisel said. "We've got a turf square that's got an electrical thing or a water thing or something and he caught it with his foot, but no ill effects." Just to be sure, Neuheisel had some of his staff and special teams players surround the area with plastic barricades.
Vanderbilt transfer Jamie Graham, who made his UCLA debut last week but played sparingly, looks primed to get a more significant role this week. He worked primarily with the first-string defense as the nickel back and was a cornerback with the second string.
Cornerback Sheldon Price (knee), safety Alex Mascarenas (concussion), offensive lineman Chris Ward (shoulder) and defensive lineman Justin Edison (concussion) did not dress for practice. Linebacker Glenn Love (hamstring) dressed but did not participate. Linebacker David Allen (knee) was not dressed and was on crutches. All are listed as questionable for Saturday's game, but Mascarenas is almost certain to be out. He had a CT scan Monday and was awaiting the results.
Sean Westgate practiced with a club cast on his right hand. He was injured against Stanford, but is expected to play. Safeties Tony Dye and Dalton Hilliard returned to full practice. Dye has missed two games because of neck issues and Hilliard sat out last week because of a shoulder sprain. Dye resumed his role as the first string free safety while Hilliard worked at strong safety with the No. 2 defense.