UCLA uncertain on Prince's replacement
LOS ANGELES -- After getting a major road win at Tennessee and losing his quarterback to injury in one wild weekend, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wanted to catch his breath before deciding on a replacement.
Prince led the unbeaten Bruins to a 19-15 win at Tennessee last Saturday, but the freshman's jaw was broken on a late sack. After the Bruins called an improbable bootleg play while backed up to their own 1 in the waning minutes, Dennis Rogan's tackle with 1:55 to play resulted in a safety -- and surgery for Prince, who will be out for at least three weeks.
"It's devastating for him, because he's worked so hard to be in this position," Neuheisel said Monday of Prince, who won the job in spring ball.
Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow planned to decide on a replacement later Monday night.
Craft, a senior who transferred from San Diego State, started every game of UCLA's 4-8 season in 2008, but set a school record with 20 interceptions -- and at least as many public tongue-lashings from Neuheisel on the sideline. Brehaut, who graduated from high school in Rancho Cucamonga early to join the Bruins' spring practice, played briefly in UCLA's season-opening win over San Diego State, but the touted freshman has none of Craft's experience.
"I have full confidence in both those kids," Neuheisel said. "Whoever we give the chance to, the other one still has to be ready. Even with Kevin out, you're still going to be playing with a lot of inexperience on offense, whether it be Brehaut or Craft. We're going to be at home, fortunately, so hopefully we can communicate at the line of scrimmage."
UCLA's defense secured a momentum-building win at Tennessee, but the Bruins now must get by without Prince after the decision to put a young quarterback in a perilous situation. The Bruins didn't learn Prince was seriously hurt until Sunday.
"[After the game], he was over there grinning as they were stitching the inside of his cheek, and there was a lot of blood," Neuheisel said. "We were joking back and forth, and he was complaining about a tooth, not a jaw fracture. That's why I made the joke in the postgame about his dad being a dentist."
Neuheisel said Prince apparently wasn't wearing his mouthpiece, which appeared to be lodged in his facemask, where many players keep the plastic guard between plays. Prince, who was recovering from surgery Monday, might have removed the mouthpiece to yell out the snap count deep in the Neyland Stadium end zone surrounded by screaming Tennessee fans.
"We will make sure he wears his mouthpiece at all times," Neuheisel said. "In his defense, it's loud in that end zone, and he may have thought he could be louder without that mouthpiece in."
Rogan hit Prince in the head on the tackle, yet UCLA linebacker Reggie Carter didn't share many Bruins fans' outrage over the possible helmet-to-helmet contact.
"It didn't look like it was that bad of a hit," Carter said. "It looked like Kevin should have thrown it away or something. That's what I was telling him [later]."
The Bruins have plenty of room for improvement on last Saturday's 186-yard offensive effort. The UCLA defense won by stifling the Volunteers even more thoroughly, but Neuheisel and Chow saw expansive room for improvement against rebuilding Kansas State (1-1), which embarrassingly lost to Louisiana-Lafayette last week.
UCLA has a bye after Saturday's visit from the Wildcats, and Neuheisel hopes Prince will be available for a key Rose Bowl game against Oregon on Oct. 3. Prince's jaw won't fully heal for at least six weeks, but he could play in three to four weeks if proper precautions are taken, Neuheisel said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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