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Neuheisel's pep talk scares them straight

October 24, 2008|Chris Foster | Foster is a Times staff writer.

The effort UCLA's football team has put forth the last four games has been due in part to a my-way-or-the-highway postgame speech by Coach Rick Neuheisel.

After a listless performance in a 31-10 loss to Arizona on Sept. 20, Neuheisel laid down the law.

"He said, 'If you don't want to do what the coaches ask you to do, get out,' " guard Scott Glicksberg said.

Neuheisel had said similar things on a handful of occasions, but this time the message seemed more like an ultimatum, players said.

"He wasn't pointing to the offense, defense or special teams. It was all of us," defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said. "That one kind of scared everyone. We all went home and did some soul searching. It was tough to hear, but it has been a different attitude ever since."

The Bruins have a 2-2 record since the Arizona game and were one possession from possible wins against Fresno State and Oregon.

"As we build this program, we can't tolerate anything less," Neuheisel said. "And you've got to make decisions if guys aren't going to love this as much as they should love it."

Harris starts

Mike Harris will start at right tackle against California on Saturday with Jeff Baca sidelined by a strained hamstring. It is the Bruins' sixth different offensive line combination in eight games due to injuries and inefficiency.

"It seems seamless now," Neuheisel said. "We had so many changes with mixing and matching that the kids roll with it. Obviously it impacts your productivity and efficiency. You're better off with everyone doing the same thing over and over again."

Mack truck

Harwell is eagerly anticipating his matchup with California center Alex Mack. Mack, a 6-foot-4, 316-pound senior, is considered a lock as a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

"Alex Mack, there is not much I can say about him," Harwell said. "He plays to the whistle. It's a good opportunity for me to go against someone who is going to be a first-round pick. It pumps me up."

Memory lane

Neuheisel has fond memories of playing at California as a Bruins quarterback.

"My junior year, I was one for one for 75 yards and a touchdown," Neuheisel said. "Tom Ramsey hurt his knee on a sack. I grabbed a ball boy and ran out on the field and threw it back to him. That was my warmup throw. I threw a slant, I don't know if it spiraled, but Dokie Williams caught it and went 75 yards. Let's just say Dokie did the lion's share of the work."

Odds and split ends

Wide receiver Ryan Graves will not make the trip because of a hamstring injury. . . . Defensive end Tom Blake will have surgery for a sports hernia and probably will be out for the season.


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