By Gary Montgomery
Neuheisel unleashes his Baby Bruins and stuns Stanford
UCLA may have given its fans a brief glimpse into the future of Bruin Football under head coach Rick Neuheisel. Saturday's showdown with Pac-10 rival Stanford featured some heroic moments courtesy of several of the highly rated Bruins of last year's recruiting class.
Not only did the 64,883 fans attending UCLA's homecoming festivities get to enjoy a rare win but they also got a tiny glimpse of what the future holds for Bruin Football.
Most impressive of these Baby Bruins was Nelson Rosario, the 6'4" 200 pound freshman from Oceanside looked more like Kobe Bryant on one critical possession soaring high over the defenders to pull down a Kevin Craft pass for 16 yards and a badly needed Bruin first down. Rosario caught 4 passes for 71-yards including two big catches on the game winning drive.
Taylor Embree, another freshman grabbed 4 balls for 72-yards to lead all receivers. The fact that a pair of freshman receivers led the way says a lot about the talent coming into the program. "We have a great group of freshmen and they can play, we just have to keep fixing things and doing what we need to do so they can continue to grow," said Neuheisel.
Brightest of all the Freshmen Stars is Free Safety Rahim Moore. Moore, a 6'0" speedster from LA Dorsey High nailed down the starting position on arrival at UCLA has and started every game this season. Moore had 5 tackles in Saturday's game before leaving with an injury to his heel.
"It wasn't pretty (the game), not many of them will be. We try to follow our game plan and keep the game close and try to win at the end." said Bruins' head coach Rick Neuheisel.
Neuheisel wasn't kidding. Much like Tennessee coach Phillip Fullmer did the first game of the season, Harbough seemed to forget that UCLA's pass defense can be exploited at times.
Harbaugh also must have forgotten that his quarterback is a pretty good passer and has mounted some very impressing winning drives in his career. None bigger that last year's winning drive to knock off unbeaten USC in the Coliseum last season.
The fact that Harbaugh chose to run the ball all day, irrespective of the fact that UCLA's run defense is their strength seemed a little odd.
Stanford took the ball with 7:29 left and drove to UCLA's 11-yard line before settling for a 29-yard field goal to take a 20-16 lead.
There was never any secret as to Stanford's intention. Just like the movie Forrest Gump, it was "Run Toby Run". Former Norco Star Toby Gerhardt carried the ball 27 times for 138-yards and two touchdowns. Stanford threw only 9 times during the game completing 4 passes for 35 total yards. Gerhardt, the California High School all-time rushing leader carried the ball nine times in the final drive to get Stanford into field goal range.
In previous years a 4-point lead may have been a winning strategy, but this Bruin offense under the direction of Norm Chow seems to like the opportunity for that final strike.
With 2:23 remaining, Bruin Quarterback Kevin Craft completed 7 of 9 passes on the way to a 7-yard touchdown to Cory Harkey with 10 seconds on the clock stunning the Cardinals. "It was almost a mirror of the Tennessee game, being down 4 points and coming back at the end like that," said Neuheisel.
Saturday's win over Stanford (4-4, 3-2 Pac-10) keeps UCLA's (3-4, 2-2 Pac-10) conference hopes alive, but more important it showcased the kind of young talent Neuheisel is bringing to the program. Exactly the kind of young players he promised to recruit. Based on the performance of his first recruiting class, it's safe to say that there are happy days ahead for Westwood.
GMontgomery can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org