Kevin Prince heard the boos ringing through the Rose Bowl on Saturday night and he understood.
The last time Prince had been on that field, he was booed off after having three passes intercepted in the first quarter against Texas, so when he went back out Saturday night to replace injured Richard Brehaut early in the second quarter against Washington State and the crowd welcomed him with a chorus of cat calls, it didn't faze him.
"I understand why they were booing," Prince said. "If I was a fan sitting in the stands I might have booed, too."
Prince quickly turned the boos to cheers, however, buy completing a 41-yard pass to Nelson Rosario on the third play after he entered. Later, he engineered a UCLA comeback with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and another long completion to Rosario to set up the game winner in a 28-25 UCLA victory.
He completed eight of 13 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 26 yards in four carries. He said the booing didn't get him down, nor did it inspire him to play better. He simply ignored it and went about his business.
"I love winning games and I love when the fans go crazy but I’m not going to worry about getting heckled or booed or anything," Prince said. "The ones that I love most and care about most are always there for me and that’s all that matters. I just kind of brush it off and set it aside."
Coach Rick Neuheisel, who is also the quarterbacks coach, said he didn't hear the booing during the game as he was busy tending to Brehaut and getting Prince into the game, but said it was "unfortunate" that fans booed Prince.
"I certainly understand people voicing their displeasure with calls and not going for it and different things when things aren’t going well and I absolutely believe that they have the right to do so," Neuheisel said. "I just wish that they would save those things for those kinds of decisions and maybe for us as coaches rather than young men who bust their tails and try their best on a weekly basis."
The challenge, Neuheisel said, is for Prince to build on his performance in the Washington State game and to keep the fans from having any reason to boo in the future.
"I just hope Kevin has the last laugh and that those same people are cheering for him big time as he helps keep us in the race," Neuheisel said. "That’s kind of exactly what happened. Now it’s up to us -- Kevin and the quarterback coach -- to make sure that it stays that way."