UCLA starting quarterback Kevin Prince missed practice for the third consecutive day Thursday because of a right knee injury he suffered against Texas, but Bruins Coach Rick Neuheisel won't rule him out for Saturday's game against Washington State.
Why? Well, Neuheisel wasn't clear on that. He alluded to the fact that the team needs Prince, which, when factoring in momentum, makes sense, but he added that he has "full confidence" in backup Richard Brehaut, saying, "Richard can do this."
Neuheisel did admit that because Prince, who had an MRI exam Sunday that revealed no structural damage to his right knee, isn't practicing by this late in the week, his chances of playing diminish.
But Neuheisel said he wouldn't worry about playing Prince anyway, even though that happened the first two weeks when UCLA lost to Kansas State and Stanford.
Prince said Wednesday that he expected to play, but he mostly watched Brehaut take first-team snaps Thursday while backup quarterback Darius Bell took a few as well.
Neuheisel wouldn't say whether Brehaut would play exclusively against Washington State or whether Bell, who he said was ready, would get some snaps, too.
But he did say he doesn't have any plans to limit Prince's minutes if he can play. "I wouldn't go in with any preconceived notion," Neuheisel said.
The change in UCLA's defense, from the which-way-did-he-go gang in the season opener into a sure tackling unit, has been a group effort. But a major contributor has certainly been strong safety Tony Dye.
Dye is second on the team in tackles with 31.
"He's certainly more physical this year," UCLA secondary coach Tim Hundley said. "He's taking better angles and he is a better tackler. Those two things are huge for him. He's getting on top of guys."
Twice against Texas, Dye came up to stop receivers short of the first down on fourth-down plays.
"I went up to Tony and said, 'You know what, if we miss tackles, we know you're coming up to make the play,' " defensive tackle David Carter said. "If a guy is heading down the field, we know Tony is going to chase him down. He's Mr. Dependable."
Said Dye: "I usually don't like nicknames, but I'll take that one."
Tackle Micah Kia is still bothered by a right ankle injury that has kept him out of the last two games.
Mike Harris has started in his spot.
"Of course, it doesn't feel good to sit out," Kia said. "But as someone who has had injuries before, I know the importance of giving it the right amount time to heal. With Mike Harris as backup, I'm not worried. But personally, it's depressing."
The Bruins have not suffered a drop in production the last two games. UCLA gained 266 yards rushing against Houston and 264 against Texas.
Said Kia: "As far as helping the team the last two weeks, I would say a healthy Mike Harris is much better than an injured Micah Kia."