Rick Neuheisel says UCLA has made ‘lots of progress’

For three seasons, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel has been chasing USC. How much ground has been gained, he admits, is in the eye of the beholder.

“Well, in my mind, from my vantage point, there has been lots of progress,” Neuheisel said. “I understand the frustration of the fans out there. They may not be able to see it because they don’t come to all the practices and they don’t sit where I sit.”

Where Neuheisel sits, at the moment, is second in the city. UCLA has lost 11 of the last 12 games to USC, including the last three under Neuheisel, heading into Saturday’s game at the Coliseum.

That resonates on the Los Angeles recruiting trail.


Neuheisel said that when recruiting “we’re not talking about the last 12 years; we’re talking about the next four.” As for losing the last three games to the Trojans, he said, “I’m sure people pay attention.”

The Bruins can take a big step Saturday. A victory over the Trojans assures UCLA a spot in the Pac 12 Conference championship game. If Utah loses to Colorado on Friday, UCLA goes as the South Division representative even if it loses to USC.

But this means more than a title game in which USC is ineligible to participate this season because it is on NCAA probation.

Even before he coached his first game at UCLA, Neuheisel was framing USC as the model.

“Our goal is for us to get where they are,” Neuheisel said in 2008. “We want to be one of the elite college football programs.”

The UCLA marketing department took that and ran, declaring that “The College Football Monopoly in Los Angeles Is Over” in ads before the Bruins had played a game under Neuheisel.

The bar, Neuheisel said, was set by the Trojans and the Bruins have been playing limbo ever since. UCLA has a 21-27 record under Neuheisel.

“You always want to point to progress, and the fact we’re going to a bowl game this season is an indication of progress,” Neuheisel said. But, he added, “To be able to knock off your crosstown rival is great evidence of progress.”

USC slipped to 9-4 in 2009 and UCLA appeared to close the gap, finishing with a 7-6 record. The Trojans were 8-5 last season, but the Bruins regressed to 4-8.

The Bruins got some help in trying to overtake the Trojans. The NCAA put USC on probation for three years and took away scholarships. Yet, USC is 9-2 and ranked 10th by the Associated Press after beating Oregon in Eugene. The Bruins are 6-5.

Neuheisel said that when recruiting, “I point to signs that this thing is changing. Games like this, it’s important to show that on the field.”

Jonathan Franklin gains ground

Johnathan Franklin had 162 yards rushing against Colorado, giving him 857 yards this season. He needs 143 to become the first UCLA player to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since DeShaun Foster in 2000 and 2001.

Franklin, a junior, had 1,127 yards last season, giving him 2,550 in his career. Gaston Green holds the school record with 3,731.