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UCLA football: Rick Neuheisel finds another challenge

September 14, 2009 |  2:38 pm
This is another sales pitch for UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel.

UCLA-logo Kansas State comes to the Rose Bowl on Saturday fresh off a 17-15 loss to Louisiana Lafayette. That followed the season opener, where the Wildcats slipped by Massachusetts by four points, 21-17.

“Kansas State is a huge challenge for us,” said Neuheisel, who said the same thing about San Diego State before a 33-14 victory over the Aztecs. “Some say I’m just trying to motivate the team, just using words. I have too much respect for [Kansas State Coach] Bill Snyder, having coached against him in the Big 12 and Big 8 to know this is going to be an absolute dogfight.”

The Bruins are 10-point favorites. Neuheisel made the pitch that “all you have to do is look at the game tape. Both Massachusetts and Lafayette have a lot of good players.”

Massachusetts, which plays in the Colonial Athletic Assn., finished with a 7-5 record in 2008. Louisiana Lafayette, which plays in the Sun Belt Conference, finished 6-6 in 2008.

The last time UCLA played a non-Division I team, it throttled Northeast Louisiana, 44-0. The Bruins team finished 5-6 that season.

“People may look at other programs and think they are not [Bowl Championship Series] caliber, but it is very possible that’s what Kansas State players thought,” Neuheisel said.

Neuheisel’s stance is: “We’d be crazy, absolutely certifiable, if we think we can waltz through anyone.”

Linebacker Reggie Carter was onboard with the pitch, saying, “you don’t have to be the best team, just the best team that day. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen to us this week.”

As for schemes, Neuheisel said that Kansas State’s use of the quarterback as a runner could create problems.

“It creates an extra defensive assignment," Neuheisel said. "Basically there are more gaps created because they have extra weapon."

In other UCLA news:

• Freshman Richard Brehaut is on track to start at quarterback, replacing Kevin Prince (broken jaw). He will be the first true freshman to start at quarterback for UCLA since Drew Olson in the ninth game of the 2002 season. The Bruins have an 8-7 record win starting a first-year freshman at quarterback.

• Wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (hamstring) and tailback Christian Ramirez (ankle) are expected back at practice, but Neuheisel was unsure whether either would be ready for the Kansas State game. Offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani (sprained knee) will begin running this week.

-- Chris Foster