Despite hearing his knee pop in Texas, Kevin Prince stayed in and led the Bruins to bliss, but he hasn’t practiced since — Do you hope Neuheisel is still married to the idea of starting a rusty QB? I do
It’s time to pop the question: QB, or not QB — That is the question. Is it nobler to play your injured Starter against a cupcake, or rest him, assuming that even Richard Brehaut can avoid Washington State’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?
There are definitely two ways to go on Saturday, and neither choice is a bad one. With lowly WSU coming to the Rose Bowl this weekend, the Bruins should be able to prevail, whether they start a less-than-100%-physically Kevin Prince, or a less-than-100%-mentally Richard Brehaut. Not that Brehaut is unintelligent — just that his grasp of the Offense is not as advanced as Prince’s. But even without a Pistol Master, the Bruins should still have enough darts to tranquilize the Cougars.
There are advantages and disadvantages to starting either guy. By starting Brehaut, Prince gets to rest his knee and get healthier for Cal; Brehaut gets some much-needed experience for the next time Prince goes down, the Coaches can get a better read on Brehaut’s ability under fire, and maybe Brehaut can finally — against a soft Defense — learn how to avoid a Sack or even how to throw a ball away, and it won’t cost them the game. However, if Brehaut does get the Start, there is a big downside: If he hasn’t progressed since last year, the Bruins could get challenged — or even beaten — by possibly the worst Major Conference team in the Nation. A loss to WSU would ruin the season, and would be so humiliating, that it would even hurt Recruiting. The Bruins would go right back to where they were two weeks ago: National laughingstock, and an entry in the Bottom Ten, and no one would care that the Second-string Quarterback was to blame. I honestly don’t think Brehaut would be that much of a liability against Wazzu, but a handful of turnovers could be the great equalizer, allowing a weaker team to achieve victory… just ask the Longhorns.
Another disadvantage to Starting Brehaut: Prince might lose his rhythm, and be rusty again for Cal. You don’t want to rush Prince back or risk further injury, but you don’t want him to atrophy either. The more time he has under Center, the better his mastery of the Pistol will be. In his THIRD game in the Pistol, he finally saw the light, and was able to cause all sorts of indecision and missed assignments by the Houston Defense. In the fourth game, he was able to do the same thing, to a Texas Defense stocked with 5-star athletes. He’s getting better and better with the Pistol — Do you really want to kill that momentum if you don’t have to?
There is one more problem with starting Brehaut, but it is an admittedly BOGUS one: What if Brehaut does GREAT against the high school Defense that WSU puts on the field? Then do the Bruins have a full-on Quarterback Controversy? I know, I know, that would be a fantastic “problem” to have. However, Brehaut’s rise in approval rating will be based on beating up a weak team, so any lofty stats he amasses could be extremely misleading, and could lead to disaster against Cal. That being said, I seriously doubt that Brehaut’s performance — no matter how impressive — could unseat Prince as the Team’s Starter, so this is actually NOT a “real” reason to NOT start Brehaut.
The obvious disadvantage to Starting Prince is that he played poorly in his first two games this year, when he also was not 100%, and it cost UCLA one of those games (the other one they would have lost anyway). If Neuheisel starts Prince and Kevin is horrible, Neuheisel looks like he can’t learn from his own mistakes. And if Prince were to aggravate the injury, FORGET ABOUT IT. The Coach would never live it down.
The Bruins are favored by almost FOUR Touchdowns, so they could probably win without throwing a single pass, with either QB playing. Even Third-stringer Darius Bell should be able to operate the Pistol well enough for the Bruins to RUN all over the Cougars. But for UCLA to beat Cal, Arizona, Oregon, or Oregon State, they MAY need to throw the ball too. Therefore, it would be extremely beneficial for Prince to get a few more quarters of game time, to try to get on the same page with his Receivers.
[One caveat to the above paragraph: Everyone just assumes that you cannot win without a Passing game. I disagree. If you are old enough to remember College Football in the 70’s, there were several dynasties that ran the ball almost exclusively. Wishbones (even at UCLA) have been dominant, and the “three yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy also saw its fair share of success. UCLA’s Pistol is not “THERE” yet, so a nice BALANCE would be preferred, but balance is not MANDATORY to win Football games.]
In summary, there are many pro’s and con’s to starting either guy, so it will be unfair to criticize Neuheisel after the fact. Personally, I’d like to see Prince start, just for continuity sake, and because the reports of Brehaut’s performance in practice have not been glowing. But if Brehaut gets the nod, he’ll have my full support. And if the Bruins get a big lead, I’d love for Bell to get some snaps too.
The bottom line is that I want Prince to be primed and ready, a week from Saturday.