One for all, all for one? Not at UCLA


UCLA is an embarrassment.

It’s not so much the dropped passes, the missed tackles or the 31-22 losing start to the 2010 season.

It’s the selfish way they go about business.

Less than a minute remaining, and maybe it does appear as if the Bruins are finished, but most of UCLA’s defenders are sitting on benches while the offense is on the field still trying to pull off a miracle.

So much for urging their teammates on.

Coach Rick Neuheisel explains later the defense is instructed to sit there so that coaches might communicate with them, but in this instance they are all by themselves. Just like their offensive teammates on the field.

Offensive line coach Bob Palcic is standing at the outermost edge of the Bruins’ bench area waiting for the game to end, and as soon as it does, he takes off running to the locker room, the first man off the field.

More than half of the Bruins follow, these student-athletes dismissing good sportsmanship just like their coach.

They leave Neuheisel behind to shake hands with the opposing coach at midfield, as well as half of their teammates who have apparently been raised correctly to congratulate the opposition.

The celebration over, the Kansas State players come together and, almost like a scene from “Remember the Titans,” they line up shoulder to shoulder and run off the field together.

As for the Bruins, they were really never together in a game decided by the little things, maybe the little things handled better if it’s a way of life.

Maybe UCLA defender Akeem Ayers doesn’t give Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas an extra shove as Daniels is going out of bounds. It’s a 15-yard penalty with six minutes remaining in a 17-16 game favoring the Wildcats, the extra boost eventually leading to a Kansas State touchdown.

“It was a selfish play,” Neuheisel says.

It takes discipline to hang together at times, and maybe they don’t have 12 men on the field on fourth and goal from the one in the first quarter, the defense’s confidence soaring after making the stop only to learn the penalty will give Kansas State another chance.

The Wildcats then score.

Maybe the receivers, who played as if they weren’t issued hands before the game, make those catches to pick up quarterback Kevin Prince, who is rusty and trying to overcome a back-muscle injury.

“Had we played better, we win,” Neuheisel says while agreeing he will talk to the team about how it conducts itself after a defeat.

It’s not as if losing is something new to UCLA, 11-15 under Neuheisel, 0-1 to start his third season, Karl Dorrell going 10-2 in his third year on the job.

A year ago UCLA manhandled Kansas State in a 23-9 victory, which doesn’t bode well for any sign of Bruins progress.

Kansas State still lacks any threat at quarterback, everyone in the purple-dominated joint knowing the ball is going to go to Thomas, who ran for 234 yards.

A year ago, he gained 54 against UCLA.

The Wildcats don’t appear to be much better than Washington or Washington State, and those two schools account for four of Neuheisel’s six Pac-10 wins to date.

Things might be looking up for Washington and Washington State this season.

This one got away from the Bruins, a game to be won, and while they showed competitiveness in coming back to score on two plays in the final two minutes, moral victories ring hollow when they seem to dominate a losing team’s record.

So how do you measure UCLA’s progress under Neuheisel’s guidance? Do Bruins fans write this one off because it was a tough place to play, Prince was rusty and UCLA was a two-point conversion away from tying it up late?

Or, is it always something with the Bruins, which really is the mark of a .500 program, only an excuse here or there from being something else?

How long has it been since we were told, “The Football Monopoly in L.A. Is Over?”

Don’t know about USC, but how about UCLA doing its part and giving everyone a reason to think this season will be any different from the last two?

Maybe if there’s more discipline and attention to detail, everyone today is singing Prince’s praises and the way he managed the new “pistol” offense.

If a team really does take its lead from the quarterback, the Bruins still have a chance, Prince maintaining his cool while his teammates took turns dropping passes.

“He doesn’t rattle,” says Neuheisel.

Damien Thigpen impresses in special-teams coverage, running back Malcolm Jones looks like a headline maker someday, and if only all the Bruins were as dependable as kicker Kai Forbath.

The individual play, though, is not enough, one Bruins defender after another missing a tackle, and no one there to pick them up. As big a bummer as any to start a season.

But as for a pat on the back and maybe a “we’ll get ‘em next time,” Palcic is long gone, so he can’t be counted on.