By Derek Johnson
Meanwhile down in Los Angeles, we’re witnessing the slow death of Rick Neuheisel’s head coaching career. Following a 45-20 home loss to Texas, the Bruins are 1-2 and looking dreadful. In what has become a curious annual phenomenon, UCLA’s offense sputters in the slow lane like an old Datsun while rivals speed past along the Pac-12 freeway in their Ferraris and BMWs.
You’d think UCLA would possess one of those high octane offenses, given the recruiting advantages of being located in Los Angeles with a gorgeous campus. But the days of Troy Aikman and Tom Ramsey are receding deep into history. Currently, the Bruins are inept are quarterback.
Richard Brehaut’s performance Saturday was no exception. A mere 8-of-19 for 150 yards. The boo birds were out in full force, as the hometown crowd gave the quarterback and his teammates an earful after each woeful three-and-out.
Rick Neuheisel, now in his fourth season at UCLA, sits on the hot seat staring at extinction. But it’s not the first time he’s encountered this type of challenge.
When he took over the Washington Huskies in 1999, the team started the season 0-2. The offense was putrid. The standards for Husky Football were much higher back then than they are now, and the fans voiced deep concern verging on anger. UW football just didn’t go 0-2. The masses openly questioned Neuheisel’s hiring.
Neuheisel summoned his quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo and fullback Pat Conniff to his office. Along with offensive coordinator Kieth Gilbertson, they began tapping into the players’ experience at running the option attack from their championship days at Woodinville high school. Neuhiesel stressed that “failure is not an option.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The Huskies went 7-2 the remainder of the season, and narrowly lost to fourth-ranked Kansas State in the Holiday Bowl. The next season, Washington’s option attack led the Pac-10 conference in rushing, as the Huskies went 11-1 and won the Rose Bowl over Drew Brees and Purdue. The players may have won the games, but the resourcefulness and willingness to change came from the top– Rick Neuheiesel.
As preposterous as it may seem, it could happen again. Tuiasosopo currently serves on Neuheisel’s staff. Surely there’s someone o the roster with experience in running the option. One many argue that Tuiasosopo was a rare talent, and that changes like that can only be made once in a million times.
But three games into the season, it’s deja vu all over again. This team and offense is on the road to nowhere. Desperate times call for desperate measures.