UCLA’s offense is in Richard Brehaut’s hands

After a long meeting Sunday, Norm Chow got his main point across to Richard Brehaut in a single sentence.

“It’s your team now,” he told UCLA’s sophomore quarterback.

Kevin Prince, the Bruins’ starter, is out for the season after knee surgery. That leaves Brehaut, barely 19 years old, in charge of the offense. And he knows what’s on the line.

“I’m at the point in my career,” he said, “I can either go straight up or straight down.”


That too is the precipice where the Bruins teeter these days.

UCLA has lost back-to-back Pacific 10 Conference games by the combined score of 95-20. Next, the nation’s 10th-ranked defense is coming to town, when UCLA plays Arizona on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

So here’s the keys to the car, kid, bring it back without any dents.

Brehaut has started two games, but that was when Prince was considered day-to-day or week-to-week.

This is different. Brehaut is no longer an understudy filling in for the short term.

“I can’t be that young, inexperienced Richard Brehaut,” Brehaut said. “I can’t rely on, ‘I haven’t been in that spot before.’ I have been in a hostile environment. I have been on the field when we’re down.

“There is a lot going on from the time you break that huddle to the time you snap that ball,” he added. “Sometimes you get a little panicked and do things that are crazy. You can’t let everything be too big for you.”

Brehaut has gone up against the best and the worst of the Pac-10 this season.

He started against Washington State, the conference’s last-place team, and completed five of six passes on the first drive, which ended in a touchdown. He also rallied the Bruins from a 28-20 third-quarter deficit in that game.

Brehaut’s last start was against No. 1-ranked Oregon and he took the Bruins to the Ducks’ 30-yard line on the opening drive. He then tossed up a lollipop pass that was intercepted. There was no rally. The Ducks cruised to a 60-13 victory.

Brehaut says he has reached the point where “I am that guy other guys have to look to and see the confidence in my eyes, the confidence this team needs. That’s been lacking.”

Coach Rick Neuheisel has noticed a difference in Brehaut, saying: “It takes great discipline to be as organized or as detailed as you need to be when you’re a backup. … Now you can see his intensity rise.”

Added Chow, the Bruins’ offensive coordinator: “You have to perform, so when you do have to talk, your teammates respond to what you say.”

Brehaut got the intended reaction against Washington State when he told the offense, “Let’s go down and score.” He started a 99-yard drive with a short completion and ended it with a one-yard stutter-step run for the go-ahead touchdown in a 42-28 victory.

“When we watched the tape, everyone made fun of me for prancing,” Brehaut said.

Comic relief was hard to find watching the Oregon tape. Brehaut completed 16 of 23 passes for 159 and one touchdown, but he was also sacked three times — two resulting in fumbles.

“In practice, the whistle blows when you’re sacked, no one gets to hit you,” Brehaut said. “In games, guys are coming in, trying to hurt you. It’s a mental clock that is going to get better.

“It has to.”