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UCLA's Kevin Prince has surgery for broken jaw

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The Bruins quarterback is out for three to four weeks after being injured against Tennessee.

September 14, 2009|Chris Foster

UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince rolled to his right on a surprise naked bootleg with time running out against Tennessee on Saturday. He was clobbered in the end zone by defensive back Dennis Rogan for a safety.

Assessing the play after the game, Coach Rick Neuheisel said, "The only thing I lost was 40 seconds."

As of Sunday, add his quarterback to that bill.

Prince underwent surgery Sunday to wire shut his jaw, which had two fractures on the right side, according to a source not authorized to talk publicly. He is expected to be out three to four weeks. The jaw is expected to take six weeks to completely heal, but Prince could play before that provided he doesn't take a similar hit.

The injury leaves the Bruins' offense in a difficult situation. Richard Brehaut, a freshman, is expected to start against Kansas State on Saturday, according to a source familiar with the program. Senior Kevin Craft, who had a school-record 20 interceptions last season, is also available.

Neuheisel remained noncommittal on who would start.

"I really don't think it will be a factor," Neuheisel said when asked how the team would react to the change at quarterback. "We'll weather it. The guys are resilient."

So, too, was Prince, who had stood up under a pounding against Tennessee before the injury, which came on a third-and-nine play from the UCLA two with under two minutes to play.

Prince left the field with a bloody mouth and returned to run two plays, both quarterback kneels at the end of the game. Afterward, UCLA officials said Prince had suffered a possible cracked tooth and needed one stitch to close a laceration in his mouth.

By Sunday, Prince was complaining about pain and was taken for X-rays, which revealed a fracture in two places. Both were clean breaks, a source familiar with the situation said. He could begin throwing, and possibly running, in a week, but will certainly sit out games against Kansas State and Stanford.

Neuheisel said the third-down play was his call and said "They were out of timeouts. If we make a first down the game is over." If UCLA didn't make a first down, Neuheisel said he was going to run 40 seconds off the clock, then take a safety, which would have given the ball to Tennessee with under a minute to play.

The Bruins could have accomplished the same clock management by using a low-risk running play. The Volunteers had only 208 yards against the Bruins, who had intercepted three Jonathan Crompton passes.

"The risk was Kevin not throwing the ball unless the receiver was wide open, and not fumble," Neuheisel said Sunday. ". . . It was a chance not to give the ball back to them. Now, if you told me I was going to lose my quarterback, I would have run a quarterback sneak. That did not factor into my mind."

Asked whether a possible injury should have been in his thinking, given that Prince was battered throughout the game, Neuheisel said, "I trust the quarterback. A safety was the worst case in my mind."

Prince, a redshirt freshman, had shown good control through the first two games. He has completed 29 of 52 passes for 287 yards with two touchdowns and has had two passes intercepted. But the numbers at this point were not as important as game management.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said after Saturday's game, "I thought he grew. He rushed some things, but that's part of being a freshman. I thought he did a good job managing and controlling."

Neuheisel seemed optimistic that the injury wouldn't slow Prince's development.

"It's a blip on the radar," he said. "It's an unfortunate setback, but it will allow us to continue to develop other guys in the program."

That is expected to fall on Brehaut's shoulders. He enrolled early at UCLA to participate in spring practices and was the backup to Prince in Tennessee. Brehaut got his feet wet in the season opener against San Diego State, completing both of his passes for 39 yards.

"We have a lot of confidence in Richard Brehaut," Neuheisel said. "He's a big-time recruit and has proven he belongs."

Craft, meanwhile, waits in the wings, though he will get a look this week. He experienced a difficult 2008 season as the Bruins starter, setting a school record with 20 passes intercepted, six of which were returned for touchdowns. He had only seven touchdown passes, none in the last five games.

Craft often faced an angry Neuheisel on the sideline after mistakes, but Neuheisel said Sunday that pass protection was the biggest problem.

"I'm not taking all the responsibility off Kevin, but having time to throw is imperative," Neuheisel said. "I've seen enough good things in Kevin Craft."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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