Quarterback Kevin Prince was not completely happy with his performance Saturday night. UCLA fans were for once.
Prince threw three passes for interceptions in a 49-20 loss to Texas three weeks ago, leaving to catcalls. He returned Saturday after Richard Brehaut suffered a broken fibula and directed a come-from-behind, 28-25 victory over Washington State at the Rose Bowl.
“I have never been in that position before, being shoved into a game off the bench,” Prince said. “I hate that Richard got hurt. I love Richard.”
But, Prince said, “It was fun to be able to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Prince threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including one to Shaquelle Evans with 3 minutes 26 seconds left that gave UCLA the lead.
“As the game went along, I settled down a little bit,” Prince said. “I had butterflies going in. After the Texas game, I definitely had a little bit of nerves. I got over that and realized my team needed me.”
Prince was booed by fans when he entered the game.
“How could you not hear them?” he said.
Moments later, they were cheering, after he completed a 41-yard pass to Nelson Rosario that set up Derrick Coleman’s second one-yard touchdown run.
“Football fans are football fans; they want to see their team win,” Prince said. “Being a sports fan, I have gotten mad at players who haven’t made plays. That goes with the game. It doesn’t necessarily affect me.”
Prince’s resolve resonated with teammates the last few weeks.
“Kevin Prince is a real different kind of dude,” said wide receiver Josh Smith, who had a nine-yard touchdown reception.
“He takes the heat and turmoil. It’s really hard to carry around a natural positive attitude when you have bad games. He is teaching us a whole lot about life, how you don’t have to carry the weight on your shoulders all the time.”
Prince completed eight of 13 passes for 173 yards.
“I was down a little bit after Texas, but I kind of just rejuvenated myself, knowing I would get a chance and football is the game I love,” Prince said. “If I did get a chance, I didn’t want to be sulking.”
With UCLA trailing, 25-20, Prince said, “I got the offense together and told them this is going to be one to remember. Thankfully we pulled it off.”
Washington State’s Marshall Lobbestael passed for 235 yards and two touchdowns, but UCLA’s defense can point to some positive moments.
The Cougars moved inside the Bruins’ 10-yard line three times, and each time they were held to a field goal. Potentially, UCLA could have had to crawl back from a 21-7 halftime deficit. Instead, the Bruins were down, 9-7.
It was the defense that provided the final blow, when Andrew Abbott intercepted a Lobbestael pass with two minutes left.
“There were some plays being made up front with guys coming off blocks, chasing down the quarterback,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “There were plays being made in the secondary with guys knocking balls down. The more hands we can get on balls, the more opportunities we create for ourselves.”
The Bruins reached defensive coordinator Joe Tresey’s weekly mandate for the first time this season with eight tackles for a loss.
Brehaut was injured at the end of a five-yard run and may be out from “three to six weeks,” Neuheisel said.
“It was the weight of someone else’s body,” Brehaut said. “It wasn’t anything twisted. It’s tough. I was kind of establishing myself as the quarterback and then for something like this to happen.”
The Bruins also lost cornerback Jamie Graham, who suffered a sprained left knee and will be out for “several weeks,” Neuheisel said.
Hundley gets ready
Freshman Brett Hundley moves into the No. 2 quarterback spot and the Bruins’ bye week will help his preparation.
“We can create training camp environment to accelerate Brett’s readiness,” Neuheisel said. “I might have a package for him. I have toyed with that idea to date. I haven’t felt like it was worth throwing a year away for him. Now we’re in a situation where he very well may have to play.”