Scrimmage: Prince, Offense Struggle

The football team scrimmaged in practice Friday, and both redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince and the offense struggled. Coach Rick Neuheisel commented after -- about a OL starter who was injured, trying to get better pass protection, the standouts, and more...

The UCLA Bruins' first team offense took a few hits on Friday in its second scrimmage of the spring with center Kai Maiava going down with a sprained left ankle and quarterback Kevin Prince struggling, completing only 5 of 19 throws with two interceptions.

Protection was an issue, before and after Maiava went down. But it was not on the two picks – both by walk-on corner Andrew Abbott, who has played very well through the spring. The interceptions came on designed sprint/rolls to the right, the first when Prince was late when he had an opening to a receiver running between the corner and safety, and the second when he simply didn't see Abbott standing in front of him.

"Again, not a good performance by myself," said Prince, who was 8 of 14 for 91 yards in the Bruins' first extended scrimmage of the spring last week. "I don't know what it is. It's a different feel from practice. When we get into a scrimmage atmosphere and I haven't been able to get into the kind of comfort zone that I have been able to in practice, and it's something that I better be able to adjust to quick or who knows what will happen."

The first offense also bogged down on one redzone possession after running back Johnathan Franklin failed to pick up a blitzing Reggie Carter on 2nd-and-6 from the 10. There also were some 5-yard penalties that set them back on drives - an illegal formation, some false starts.

Richard Brehaut, working with the second offense, completed 6 of 8 passes for 50 yards, and Kevin Craft hit 3 of 6 passes for 22 yards with one bad interception to Sean Westgate and one touchdown to quarterback-turned-receiver Chris Forcier.

Forcier made a nice move to get into the end zone, taking a short pass 9 yards for the score.

The Bruins set out trying to punch up their running game. The leading rusher in the scrimmage Milton Knox with 48 yards on eight plays, while Derrick Coleman had 29 yards on seven plays, Raymond Carter had 23 on eight plays and Franklin had 27 yards on five plays.

There was one rushing touchdown, by Andre Dean on a 1-yard run. Dean, who had 20 yards on five plays, dominated a collision with safety Aaron Ware to get into the end zone.

He also had a strong run through the middle to set up that touchdown.

Here is Coach Rick Neuheisel after practice...

Opening statement:

"Good day. We slugged it out. We ran the ball a lot, which was kind of the aim, especially with the running back situation being the way it is. There were some great learning experiences for our quarterbacks. Too many turnovers, which has been our plague. But when we figure out how to protect and when we figure out how to throw the ball down the field we're going to be all right. Our running game is coming along. I like what I'm seeing there.

"Defensively, I'm very proud of the first group especially, in terms of how hard they're playing and getting guys off the field. It's outstanding."

Any idea with Maiava?

"It's an ankle. We'll see. Hopefully we can get him back next week. Sometimes it's more scary than it is hurt so we'll wait to see how that runs out."

What did you see from Dean and Knox today?

"It was fun to see those guys get out and make some plays with their legs and so forth. That's all part of this competition. We'll get to take a good hard look at it on tape. It's hard to assess it from my vantage point, but it's fun to see those guys out making some plays."

Anything else you liked?

"Nate Chandler. In the couple of days that he's been at tight end I think he's really shown up as a player. He made a nice play with his hands and if we can get just a couple of things from him as a viable pass receiver I know he's going to be talented enough to handle the line of scrimmage, so that's been good."

The first offense seemed to move the ball late in the scrimmage, then there were turnovers...

"Yeah, well, we've got to be able to stand back there and protect. We've got to be able to protect and we've got to be able to see down the field. The quarterback position is a hard one to play, especially when you're young, which is why these opportunities are so valuable. We have to get as many as we can."

It was another learning experience for Prince...

"He had chances to make some plays today and he'll be sick about it all weekend, but he'll come back on Monday and hopefully be a day better. I still think he's a very talented kid."

Do you think he had enough time back there?

"That's an issue, as it was a year ago. We've got to shore that up, no question."

You're not sick about it? He'll be, but you're not?

"It's necessary to go through it. Do I wish he hit every pass, yeah. But then I'd be sitting here worried about my defense. There's nobody who plays that position who has done it without making mistakes, especially when you're young. But I think he's the kind of kid who is going to learn from it and we won't get them again. He won't do it."

With the way the protection is, do you think some of it is trying too hard to make a play?

"Yeah, exactly. Those are the kind of things that he has to work on. He did a great job getting us into field goal range, you know, if we're on offense, I'm coaching both sides, but if we're on offense, we're going to win the game. We've got a great field goal kicker. It's a 46-yarder, and he throws it to the other team. You can't do that. Now, on the other side, our defense found a way to win the game, much like the Tennessee game last year. We found a way to win. So, that's encouraging. But it's a great experience for Kevin to go through because he won't do that again when it's a real game... at least we hope not."

Datone Jones was a problem on the end for the offense...

"Datone is having a great spring, so is Damien Holmes. I'm encouraged with our young guys, now we just have to create some depth."

How vital is Maiava to what you're doing?

"Oh, he's important. But he'll be all right. I'm not concerned."

Overall, what was the best thing that happened?

"We got a bunch of plays. We got a bunch of great experiences. And we got out relatively healthy. We'll wait and see about Kai, but I remain optimistic. That is all great stuff. That is all important stuff. We've got one more week, we've got to make it a great week."

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