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UCLA FYI

Neuheisel talks of road distractions

October 10, 2008|Diane Pucin and Chris Foster | Times Staff Writers

UCLA plays at Oregon on Saturday, its first away game since losing, 59-0, against Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 13.

The Bruins have lost 11 of their last 14 road games and in the losses have been outscored 423-160.

Coach Rick Neuheisel said the key to a team, especially a young team, succeeding away from home is blocking out distractions.

"Not letting the bells and whistles that exist outside the field of play get your attention, not letting the crowd start to disrupt you and affect your attention to details," he said, "that's the key."

So was it a bell-ringing, whistle-blowing crowd at BYU that was the problem?

"I have to give credit where credit is due," Neuheisel said. "I thought BYU played really well. I don't know that there were a lot of bells and whistles. I think we went out there and thought we could just feel our way into that game and we caught an explosion. And then we added insult to injury with the three turnovers and blocked kick in four successive series. So it was over before it started."

Decisions are due

Neuheisel said he and the staff will have some tough calls to make as far as which 64 players to take to Eugene.

Most notably, he said defensive end Tom Blake, who has struggled all week because of an abdominal strain, may stay home. Neuheisel also noted the benefits of bringing Marcus Everett (toe) and Micah Reed (knee) as worth debating.

"The questions are Marcus, those kinds of guys on the bubble, Micah Reed, do you actually bring the guy or bring an emergency guy, those are the questions I ask myself. I thought [Everett] would travel, but now, is that worth bringing an extra long snapper? My own feeling is Marcus won't play.

"There's another, Blake. I know Tommy Blake would love to play, but I don't know that he can. Do I let him rest and have another emergency guy?"

If Blake doesn't play, Neuheisel said, freshman Datone Jones would start instead.

Quarterback issues

UCLA is down to its third quarterback. Oregon, meanwhile, will go with its second- or third-string quarterback.

The difference is that UCLA had to deal with this issue three weeks before the season began. Patrick Cowan, the starter, was lost because of a knee injury during spring practice. Ben Olson then broke a bone in his foot during training camp.

That left Kevin Craft in charge of the offense.

"Kevin has been able to evolve and grow into the position," Neuheisel said. "Some teams are dealing with injured quarterbacks now and having to start from scratch."

Craft has gone that route before, as a redshirt freshman at San Diego State in 2006. He was dropped into the starting lineup in the fifth game because of injuries.

"It is a much rougher situation," Craft said. "You have to pick things up faster. So much about playing quarterback is the reps. I was able to get three weeks of reps as the No. 1 quarterback before the season started, and that was really valuable."

Oregon has had to do that on the fly.

Justin Roper tore his medial collateral ligament against Purdue on Sept. 13. The Ducks had lost Nate Costa for the season during training camp. Roper was replaced by Jeremiah Masoli, who suffered a concussion against Boise State, which forced the Ducks to use freshman Darron Thomas.

Masoli played against USC last Saturday and Roper returned to practice this week. Both are expected to play against UCLA.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

chris.foster@latimes.com

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