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T.J. SIMERS

Rick Neuheisel doesn't get the Karl Dorrell treatment

UCLA is off to a dismal start but the football coach is not receiving the backlash his predecessor most likely would have.

September 13, 2010|T.J. Simers

What would have been the reaction of alums, media and football fans here had Karl Dorrell begun his third season at UCLA 0-2 — losing, 35-0, in the Rose Bowl to a Pacific 10 opponent?

He'd have been a goner, and while maybe still employed for the rest of the season, it would have been only a matter of weeks before names began to surface as his possible successor.

So how do you think Rick Neuheisel is doing?

Better at blowing smoke, maybe, but what about solid evidence to suggest he's any better as UCLA's coach?

Dorrell had no prior experience as a head coach, going 12-13 two years into his on-the-job training at UCLA before finishing 10-2 his third season.

Two mediocre years followed, and he was gone.

Neuheisel had a ton of experience coming to UCLA, the top guy at Colorado and Washington, good starts with mediocre and controversial finishes.

Neuheisel went 11-14 here, but is 0-2 to start Season 3, his progress or the lack of it now measured in a schedule that appears to be too much for his Bruins.

"I have full confidence we can still be a good football team this year," Neuheisel said Monday, and when asked what he might consider a good football team this year, he said, "We want to be in the top half of this conference."

He then quickly added, "We're not throwing in the towel for competing for a championship in this conference."

Two weeks ago, just before the kickoff against Kansas State, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said he didn't know how the season might go, but he had no doubt Neuheisel was the right choice to lead UCLA. The two football coaches Guerrero has hired are 46-44 to date, the next two games coming against ranked opponents.

Two weeks later, nothing but penalties, offensive and defensive chaos, and nothing has changed as far as Guerrero goes.

"Rick Neuheisel gives us the best chance to turn this program around," he said. "And I think we're still going to get there."

Guerrero said the schedule does have something to do with UCLA's poor start, no one knowing how things might go now when it was made years ago. He said maybe something else might have afforded UCLA a chance to open 1-1, "then everyone not pushing the panic button," he said.

"It's still early, we're working in a new offense, kinks need to be worked out and time will tell.

"The thing about Rick, he brings a buzz to the program. He bleeds blue and gold, knows the conference and had success in it before. He didn't have a pat hand when he arrived, and so maybe we have to come a little bit further than where we are."

Wins over Tennessee the last two years allowed an optimistic Neuheisel to sound almost realistic in building up the hope of the faithful.

He might need a win over Houston or Texas to regain their faith, though, a crowd of less than 57,000 announced for Saturday's first home game of the season.

As much as he gushes and talks about winning it all, maybe it was predictable his players would be in for a letdown against Stanford after losing to Kansas State.

He says he detected none of that, which raises an even a bigger question: Are the athletes at UCLA just not as good as the athletes who attend other Pac-10 schools?

What does that say about his recruiting, the gap between Stanford and UCLA now 35 points?

"There's still reason for optimism," Neuheisel said.

Based on what?

"What other choice do you have?" he said.

HOW DO you like the job Jim Harbaugh has done to undermine the credibility of our local college coaches?

He was the first guy to make Pete Carroll appear vulnerable, ending USC's 35-game winning streak in the Coliseum, and now he has folks wondering whether Neuheisel is the right guy for UCLA after Saturday's spanking.

It might be time for L.A. to get an NFL team, if only to bring Harbaugh to town as the team's coach and save UCLA and USC from further embarrassment.

CAN YOU imagine what it would be like if Al Davis had to answer to compliance officers?

Nice to see the Raiders are already in mid-season form.

LET ME just say I'm not bitter about the travesty that is the NFL after officials took away my fantasy guy's touchdown against Chicago, folks everywhere also still alive in suicide pools that have no business still breathing. You know who you are.

The Bears were the popular suicide pool choice the first weekend because they were playing the Detroit Lions, the referee apparently worried NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had them, too, as he found a way to turn a touchdown catch into an incomplete pass.

The NFL has become America's favorite pastime, Sunday a blast watching football, but when everyone can see it's a touchdown catch and somehow it isn't, professional wrestling comes to mind.

Let me just repeat, I'm not bitter, but I had Dallas in the suicide pool and the Cowboys scored on the final play to beat Washington only to have the touchdown negated and lose on a technicality — an offensive lineman tackling a defender, as if that's anything all that outrageous.

IF YOU can get past the colors and the different logo, it was like old times watching Uncle Pete hug his team to a win.

We'll see if it wears thin with the pros, although everyone is a sucker for flattery — it works for a lot of reporters, I'm told.

Uncle Pete was even seen on TV shaking hands with the referee on his side of the field between plays, anything to get an edge, I guess. Once a Trojan, always a Trojan.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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