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Bruins, it's not polite to tease

September 04, 2008|Chris Dufresne

If you blinked, or sneezed, or dashed out for a Labor Day latte, you missed it.

The UCLA Bruins went from toast on Monday around 7 p.m. to toast-of-the-town by midnight.

After a win over Tennessee, and a postgame fireworks show, UCLA rocketed from number nothing to No. 23 in the Associated Press media poll.

The national title game this year, for your information, is Jan. 8 in South Florida.

You bring Kirk Herbstreit and I'll bring the sunscreen.

Oh wait . . . there are 11 more games.

As teddy-bear huggable as the Tennessee win was, first-year Coach Rick Neuheisel knows enough about UCLA's erratic blood-sugar levels to distinguish one shining moment from a dynasty.

"They're going to call it a fluke," Bruins lineman Micah Kia said after Monday's thrilling overtime win. "But we're for real."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, September 05, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
College football: A Chris Dufresne column in Thursday's sports section said that Tulane's football team was practicing this week at Sanford College in Alabama. The team was practicing at Samford University in Alabama.

Neuheisel needs to pull out a projector and a pie chart . . . fast.

In September 2000, UCLA improved to 3-0 after beating No. 3 Michigan at the Rose Bowl, inspiring a postgame podium quote from quarterback Ryan McCann: "I think this proves we're No. 1 in the nation. I don't know who else we can beat or what else we can do."

Bob Toledo, then the UCLA coach, was standing in the back of the room and almost had to be resuscitated.

A week later, No. 6 UCLA lost at unranked Oregon, 29-10, and the Bruins finished the year 6-6.

During his years as coach, Karl Dorrell's teams were notorious for leading people on.

In 2005, UCLA scored an incredible comeback win at Stanford to get to 8-0 and to No. 7 in the polls, only to lose at Arizona the next week, 52-14.

Two years ago, UCLA followed up its unfathomable 13-9 win over USC with a loss in the Emerald Bowl.

Last year, with talk of a possible 11-0 start, No. 11 UCLA hopped on a plane to Utah and limped home after a 38-point loss.

Neuheisel, to his credit, has studied up on all this stuff.

"We're going to address that," he said. "That can't be who we are. We've got to bring that kind of enthusiasm, that kind of passion, every week if we expect to have good results.

"We can't walk out there and just get off the bus and expect to play and win. That isn't who we are. We can't be bulimic because we look in the mirror and see something that we aren't."

Neuheisel wasn't bummed out about being underrated Monday and he's not doing cartwheels now.

"We're going to be where we're going to be," he said of the big picture. "We know we've got lots of issues to face."

UCLA running backs, for example, averaged 0.9 yards a carry against Tennessee and the Bruins' already-depleted offense faces the rest of the season without key starters.

"Our kids know we were lucky [against Tennessee]," Neuheisel said.

Or, at least they'll know by next week, before another trip to the state of Utah.

Neuheisel has Brigham Young on his desk now and a bye week to get everyone to buy in.

No huddle

* Get in line . . . again. Looking for more playing time, Emmanuel Moody left USC's crowded-house backfield for Florida, but it's packed there too.

Moody had two carries for two yards in Florida's opening-day win over Hawaii last week. Eleven Gators had at least one carry in the game. Florida Coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday that Moody "dinged" his ankle against Hawaii but is definitely going to be in the mix.

"It's a competitive environment to see who carries the ball, but Emmanuel Moody's doing fine," Meyer said. " . . . Every week is different. It's how you practice, how you earn your carries in a game and then, obviously, how you perform in the game."

Pete Carroll couldn't have said it better.

* Another preposterous prediction: Could Notre Dame go from 3-9 last season to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game? Factor in losses to Michigan State (8-3 vs. Irish since 1997), Boston College (won the last five) and USC (won the last six). The rest of the schedule isn't murderer's row: San Diego State (lost to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), Michigan (lost at home to Utah), Purdue (tough on the Irish but the game's in South Bend), Stanford (improved, but it's an Irish home game), North Carolina (struggled to beat McNeese State), Washington (no explanation required), Pittsburgh (lost to Bowling Green), Navy (new coach), Syracuse (routed by Northwestern).

Notre Dame needs nine victories and a top-14 finish to be selected for an at-large BCS berth and is a "must-take" if it finishes in the top eight. OK, back to the loony bin.

* Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards on the difference between beating Michigan last year and losing to Louisiana State last Saturday: "Speed was the difference. They're so much faster than Michigan was."

* Tulane Coach Bob Toledo can be forgiven for not catching all of UCLA's dramatic victory over Tennessee on Monday night. Toledo and Tulane, which plays at Alabama on Saturday, had to evacuate New Orleans this week in advance of Hurricane Gustav. The team has been training at Sanford College in Alabama. "It's a really trying situation, very distracting," Toledo said.

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