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Whatever floats fans' boat, Neuheisel is fine with it

October 12, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

EUGENE, Ore. -- UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel felt everything was back to normal in the college football world.

On the drive from the hotel to Autzen Stadium, the team bus passed a boat shop that Neuheisel has come to love. The marquee of the place read: Neuheisel has nothing Bruin at UCLA.

"When I was at Washington, that guy would always have some message for me," Neuheisel said with a smile after returning from UCLA's walk-through practice on Friday. "It was kind of comforting to see it today. I knew I was back in the Pac-10."

Ducks fans knew as well. Neuheisel was a favorite target for them when he was coach at Colorado and Washington. They were prepared for his arrival.

The university's independent student newspaper carried a headline, "Slick Rick making his comeback."

A man outside the stadium Saturday was selling "Neuheisel [stinks]; Go Ducks" T-shirts. Fans, including kids, heckled Neuheisel the moment he popped his head out of the locker room for warmups.

"We just hate him," said John Conrad, a resident of North Bend, Ore. "We never really hated Washington that much before Neuheisel coached there. It's a long feud."

Dating back to when Neuheisel, then Colorado's coach, ran a fake punt with a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter against the Ducks in the 1996 Cotton Bowl.

On his last visit to Autzen, Washington's players danced on the "O" at midfield after a 42-14 victory.

The emotions span generations.

"His expressions, his nerve, his ego, his attitude, I just don't like him," said Myrtle Brech, a 70-year-old grandmother from Creswell, Ore. "Just the look on his face, you can tell he thinks he's better than everyone else."

Asked if there was anything Neuheisel could do to win over Ducks fans, Conrad said, "Yeah, go coach in South America."

Feeling buzzed

Neuheisel is held in better regard down south.

Despite a season that has been a struggle, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero is pleased with the progress that Neuheisel has made this season.

"I think the excitement generated by Rick and his coaching staff has been amazing," Guerrero said. "There's a buzz around the program that is positive."

Out in the cold

Temperatures dipped into the mid-30s Friday night and were expected to reach that low during Saturday's game.

After the walk-through Friday, guard Scott Glicksberg said, "It was fun watching some of the guys who have never been out of Los Angeles before. They got a real eye opener about football weather."

Odds and split ends

UCLA defensive end Tom Blake did not play Saturday because of an abdominal strain, which has hampered him the last two weeks. Reginald Stokes started in his place, the first start of his college career.

Sophomore Kai Forbath handled kickoffs for UCLA for the first time. Forbath, the Bruins' placekicker, replaced Jimmy Rotstein, who has had only one touchback this season. Forbath's first kickoff went to the 10-yard line.

Akeem Ayers started at strong-side linebacker in place of John Hale.

Tailback Kahlil Bell left the game in the second quarter after re-injuring his left ankle.





(2-4, 1-2)


(4-3, 3-1)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

at the Rose Bowl, FSN West

Stanford improved its chances for a bowl bid by beating Arizona, 24-23, Saturday as third-string quarterback Alex Loukas came off the bench to lead a comeback. Toby Gerhart gained 116 yards and scored on a one-yard run with 25 seconds left in the game. A year ago, the Bruins spoiled the debut of Cardinal Coach Jim Harbaugh with a 45-17 victory in the season opener.

-- Chris Foster

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