UCLA practiced Tuesday as a first-place team for the first time in the Rick Neuheisel era, but the Bruins are keeping their focus on Utah rather than the Pac-12 standings.
The Bruins (5-4, 4-2 in conference) have won their last two games against California and Arizona State to forge a first-place tie in the Pac-12 South with Arizona State and USC, but have done so by using a narrow-minded approach and they see no reason to change that now.
"You have to remind guys all the time that you can’t look ahead," Neuheisel said. "Certainly everybody else wants to. [Reporters] ask the questions and people are calling for tickets to games down the road. You’re going to be given those kinds of obstacles, but you have to bar them. Any time someone wants to come up and pat your back about Arizona State or Cal, you say 'thank you, but we’re thinking about Utah' and that’s where it has to be."
A few tidbits:
Safety Tony Dye, out since Week 3 because of a lingering neck issue, was practicing with the scout team, though he was wearing a red no-contact jersey. Dye, the team's leading tackler last season, is probably out for the season, but was testing it out just to be sure, Neuheisel said. "He wanted to play scout team today to see what he felt like, so I’m going to ask him. I don’t know exactly what his situation is. He is pain free, but he has also been told that he needs to be pain free for awhile. So, I’m going leave that to the experts. It’s just fun to see him nursing back to help."
Defensive lineman Cassius Marsh, suspended for the last two games because of his role in a bench-clearing brawl Oct. 20 at Arizona, was back with the regulars in practice and is expected to play this weekend. He's listed at No. 2 on the depth chart at defensive tackle. "I’m just happy to be back and be off of suspension," Marsh said. "It hurt sitting out. It definitely develops a real appreciation for the actual game and makes you think not to take that for granted."
Safety Dietrich Riley was not at practice so he could get medical attention on the neck injury that knocked him out of the California game on Oct. 29. Riley, who said he lost feeling throughout his body and had to be carted off the field and hospitalized, did not practice or play last week and is listed as out for Saturday. "He is being checked for what he needs to do to get himself back into playing condition," Neuheisel said. "I don’t think they’re at the point where they think it is unsafe for him to play. I don’t think we have gotten to that situation yet."
UCLA released a statement from cornerback Aaron Hester about his reprimand by the Pac-12 for criticizing the officiating during UCLA's the victory over Arizona State. Hester was flagged twice for pass interference, including one penalty that gave Arizona Sate the ball at the UCLA 41 with less than 30 seconds to play, and said the call was "terrible." He apologized in a statement. "In the heat of the moment and the excitement of the win, I made a mistake and I am sorry," the statement said. "Everyone on the football field has a very tough job and I understand that. I should have been focused on enjoying our big win and not commenting on the officials. I apologize for what I said."