With a background of being a former UCLA player and assistant coach, Rick Neuheisel evaluated this week's practices with a nuanced eye for details others might not have noticed.
"This is typically the hardest week of the year in terms of fatigue, just because it's the first full week of school," Neuheisel said Thursday. "I think we caught a break by playing at night. It allows us to get a lot of sleep Friday night."
The Bruins (1-3, 0-1) play host to Washington State (1-4, 0-2) at 7:15 Saturday. For the first time this season (and maybe the last) UCLA will be favored, but Neuheisel said there is no more or less pressure to being favored.
"We've worked hard and I think we have a chance, based on what we've done so far, to play really well Saturday night," he said.
"But I don't pay much attention [to being favored]. When we're in the situation we find ourselves in, all the focus is on improvement. I think you just concern yourself with yourself."
Washington State has lost its first two conference games (to California and Oregon) by a combined 129-17. Neuheisel diplomatically said the lopsided wallopings were because of inexperience.
"They've got some fresh faces in the back end and they've had some different things happen to them in the front seven," he said.
" . . . They've also played some pretty spread-out offenses in the first couple of games and those tend to expose you if you're not exactly sound and know exactly where everybody is."
Adam Heater, whose holding penalty negated an opening kickoff return touchdown for UCLA last week, pulled his left calf muscle at the end of Thursday's practice and is listed as doubtful for the Washington State game. Neuheisel also said that wide receiver Marcus Everett (toe) is definitely out.
Keeping it simple
UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw for only 81 yards against Arizona two weeks ago and 150 yards against Fresno State last week. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said those numbers are fine.
"He managed it right," Chow said. "All you have to have is a quarterback who takes care of business. He doesn't need to do anything spectacular.
"I think the plan was such he could execute better. There is a lot to be said about keeping the plan simple. We scaled it back a little bit and we were able to run the ball. Whenever you run the ball, things go a lot easier for him."
The Bruins had 234 yards rushing against Fresno State.
"It opened some things up," Craft said. "When you run the ball, they can't go into a shell and just try to take away the pass."
As for his improvement from the previous week, Craft said, "Our guys up front did a good job. I'm getting more and more comfortable, but there is always something to work on and improve on."
UCLA is asking that fans planning on attending Saturday's game arrive early.
Because the Dodgers will be hosting the Cubs in a 7 p.m. start and USC is hosting Oregon at the Coliseum at 5 p.m. traffic, especially on the 110 Freeway, is expected to be congested.
Facing the music
Some UCLA band members came to the last 15 minutes of practice Thursday and played the fight song for the team. The reward for trombone player Alan McFarlane was a chance to return a kickoff. And not be tackled.