Rick Neuheisel, dressed in a UCLA blue polo, beige khakis and a Bruin cap, was at UCLA’s Spring Game on Saturday, strolling around the grounds of the Rose Bowl while taking pictures with fans and getting praise from some of them as well. It was as if he forgot he was fired six months ago.
Jerry Neuheisel is a walk-on quarterback at UCLA, which is the likely reason for Rick to be at the Spring Game, but the former coach’s get up and demeanor was still awkward, if you had to describe it with one word. Then again, there I was, sitting at the Rose Bowl in a sea of powder blue, as an editor of a USC Trojans site. That’s awkward in itself.
In a cordial, friendly and mostly jovial meeting of the crosstown minds, Carlos Sandoval(editor of Go Joe Bruin) and I sat at the 20-yard line to take in the Bruins’ spring game. Naturally, he bumbled around with the 8-Clap, and I sat through it, grinning as if I was amused.
It was our own Yalta Conference, minus a communist third party visitor, which for this example, we can consider to be a Cal editor. Carlos talked about chocolate milk and his psychology class, while I toiled with my new favorite word, “salient”, and delved into the theory of Immanuel Kant. It was Ying and Yang, painted Cardinal and Blue. Kinda.
As for the scene, the Rose Bowl had a different feel than it did in 2010, when the Trojans were there last. Midway through the second phase of renovations on the 89-year old stadium, it felt as though the crowd was impeding on the construction. The Press Box is no more, with a new one waiting to be completed, sitting quietly and nothing but a steel frame.
On the field, UCLA didn’t look so bad, actually. For the first time in a while, they might be able to throw the deep ball effectively. Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley showed off some touch on fly patterns and found their men. Kevin Prince was Kevin Prince, but the Bruins might be in the best shape at quarterback since Cade McNown owned the Rose Bowl 15 years ago. Then again, it was a scrimmage and Jim L. Mora decided not to keep score or time.
Steven Manfro was an interesting addition to the Bruins’ arsenal, as a Maurice Jones-Drew type of player, and on defense, Marcus Rios looked like he might be a solid player in the Bruin secondary.
The Bruins might be alright. And of course, with 13,000 on hand, plenty in Westwood think so. But let’s still not get ahead of ourselves.
The Bruins have a great incoming recruiting class, but are still a year or two from being competitive in the conference. Looking at their schedule, they’ll likely open the season 4-1, as only a week two visit from Nebraska is worrisome at the top of the UCLA schedule. They get USC and Stanford to end the season, so they won’t finish with a burst as they did in 2011.
So while they might be on the right track, and moving in the right direction, they’re still not there yet, and we all know that. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad thing to be sitting at the Rose Bowl and taking in a purely meaningless game, with a rival that I can consider a friend, GJB editor, Carlos Sandoval.
Now, imagine if the NCAA could sign off on a USC vs. UCLA Spring Game at the Home Depot Center every year? Now, THAT would be entertaining and up the ante of a scrimmage, as they tend to be just a tad bit snooze-worthy.