Coach Rick Neuheisel spent Sunday watching the game film of UCLA's 45-19 loss to Stanford and came away with mostly the same impressions he had after the game Saturday: If not for a handful of game-changing plays, UCLA would have hung tough with the Cardinal.
"We were in that game," Neuheisel said. "But for a few mistakes that game is a tossup. And those are the mistakes that we’ve got to continue to work to stop. We can't fumble a punt when it should have been fair caught. We can’t not punch it in when we get down there inside the five. Those are the things that we can do better and we will continue to work and do better."
Some highlights from the call:
Neuheisel said one of the biggest differences between UCLA and Stanford was size in the trenches. The Cardinal averages 6 feet 5, 303 pounds on the starting offensive line and was able to manhandle UCLA's defensive line, which averages 6-4, 279 pounds. "We’ve got to get a little bigger," Neuheisel said. "They were clearly bigger across their offensive line than we were. We’ve got to continue to build on our strength and keep recruiting bigger kids and then develop them."
UCLA continued to struggle on defense, especially the defensive front. UCLA did not register a sack for the third consecutive game and had only one tackle for a loss. The Bruins are No. 118 in the nation in tackles for a loss and 114th in sacks. "They were getting great push yesterday," he said, referring to Stanford's offensive line. "As I was saying, they were a very big, stout offensive line. I think that’s been well documented. We’re going to have to keep working at it. I believe we have the talent to get it done." Neuheisel refused to put the blame on new defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield. "Inoke is working hard," Neuheisel said. "We’re going to continue to work hard. I’m not going to point fingers, all I’m going to tell you is we’re going to get better."
Stanford was 1-11 in 2006, 4-8 in 2007 and 5-7 in 2008, but has since blossomed into a national power at 12-1 last season and 4-0 this season. Neuheisel was asked what was keeping UCLA from making a similar turnaround. "There’s a number of things we can talk about, but that’s all worthless," Neuheisel said. "The point of the matter is we’ve got to get better and we’re working to get that accomplished. If you look at all the great teams out there, there is a reason they become great teams and normally it’s because they have established some very experienced players that are doing it for them."
Neuheisel has couched praise for the performance of quarterback Richard Brehaut, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. "I thought it was the second week in a row which he was poised," Neuheisel said. "There were some times I think in the running game that he could have pulled the ball and been wise to do so. But we’ll keep working at that."
Taylor Embree's fumble on a punt return was a major turning point in the game because it helped Stanford increase its lead from 24-13 to 31-13 late in the third quarter. It's particularly painful because Embree is in that spot because of his sure hands. He had not fumbled a punt return in two seasons. Neuheisel stood by Embree, though criticized his decision not to call for the fair catch in that spot. "Taylor Embree is like a son to me," Neuheisel said. "Taylor Embree was about five years old when he was hanging out at my house back when I coached at Colorado. I have nothing but the highest regard for Taylor and nothing but the highest confidence, especially in catching punts. He’s a young guy that’s trying to make a play and that just wasn’t the appropriate place and he knows it. He’s trying to spin away from a defender before he catches the ball and that’s why he dropped it."