Gonzalez to kick against Cougars
A month ago, Tyler Gonzalez was washing soccer uniforms.
On Saturday, he’ll be kicking at the Rose Bowl ... if UCLA scores a touchdown or gets in field-goal range.
Gonzalez, who was the team manager for UCLA’s soccer team, will handle field goals and extra points against Washington State.
“We’re going to let Tyler have a shot, at least on the short stuff,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
UCLA lost kicker Kip Smith to a hip flexor injury. Punter Jeff Locke handled the placekicking the last three games, but has missed three extra-point attempts.
“We want to take the load off Jeff,” Neuheisel said. “We want him to go back to being the best punter in the nation.”
As for Gonzalez, Neuheisel was optimistic, saying, “Every great movie needs a great ending.”
Gonzalez, a fifth-year senior, made all five kicks in practice Thursday, one from 45 yards.
Neuheisel said he would be comfortable using Gonzalez from “about 40 yards.”
Locke would handle anything longer.
“I’m really excited for him,” said Locke, who has worked with Gonzalez. “Tyler will do well. He may be a little jittery, but everyone is the first time.”
Locke, who will hold for kicks, said, “I’ll make sure he’s calm.”
“By telling him not to think about it too much,” Locke said. “He’s a better kicker when he doesn’t think about it. He’s a soccer player. He runs down the field and kicks the ball.”
Neuheisel said he expected Gonzalez to handle the pressure, adding, “It will be more me who will need to be calmed down.”
UCLA faces a Washington State team Saturday that is fourth nationally in passing offense and 10th in scoring offense.
Judging whether the Cougars’ spread offense is legitimate remains difficult. Those rankings were largely built on the bones of Idaho State and Nevada Las Vegas.
Still, Washington State averages 379 yards passing per game.
“My philosophy is, when someone throws the ball at you, man up and challenge every route,” UCLA safety Tony Dye said.
UCLA has yet to demonstrate it can consistently pressure quarterbacks. That could leave Bruins defensive backs dangling Saturday.
“We have to give the guys in back help,” defensive end Damien Holmes said. “When they run, they run, but this week we definitely have to get after the quarterback.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said, “You get those guys third and long. That is very uncomfortable for spread teams.”
UCLA announced that cornerback Sheldon Price (knee injury), safety Alex Mascarenas (concussion) and defensive tackle Justin Edison (concussion) will not play.
Linebacker Glenn Love (hamstring injury) and guard Chris Ward (shoulder injury) didn’t appear ready Thursday. Neither practiced this week.
Dye, who is bothered by a nerve issue in his neck, is listed as “questionable” but watched from the sidelines Thursday. He will see an acupuncturist Friday, hoping to relieve the pain enough that he can play.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.