PROVO The UCLA locker room was somber after Saturday's 59-0 loss to BYU, and that was just fine with head coach Rick Neuheisel.
Neuheisel, in his first year at UCLA, said that after a loss like that, it should hurt a little. Saturday's setback was, after all, the worst shutout for the Bruins since their 76-0 loss to USC in 1929.
But even after all the frustration, Neuheisel calmly sat in front of the media with nothing but praise for the Cougars.
"That was a big-time effort in all facets by them," he said. "Coach Mendenhall has himself a very, very good team. He has a talented quarterback, with all the accoutrements that come with that. So congratulations to them."
What was troubling for Neuheisel and the entire UCLA team was how quickly things turned on them in the second quarter, when the Cougars scored five touchdowns three coming off of consecutive Bruin turnovers.
Two weeks ago, UCLA upset Tennessee 27-24 in overtime, but for Neuheisel's young team, Saturday's 42-0 halftime deficit was just too much.
"Shock is not en vogue in football," Neuheisel said. "You can't be in the fog of war, as they say, and expect to fix things, so we will have to work to get better at that."
The Bruins rushed for only nine yards on 16 attempts as the Cougars' defense plugged up the middle and turned the Bruins into a one-dimensional team early on.
Then as the lead increased, sticking to Norm Chow's balanced offensive script was all but impossible.
"Give BYU credit we have got to be able to rush the ball," Neuheisel said. "But we got taken out of our rushing game and our ability to rush the ball with any consistency by the score. You are down 14 to nothing and then three turnovers in a row, and it is hard to go out there and just plow away."
Neuheisel felt that the game was the perfect example of how a game can get away from you if you don't stay razor sharp and mentally tough. The Bruins looked like neither as they turned the ball over four times and never could recover.
UCLA also went 2-of-10 on third-down conversions, and the inability of the offense to stay on the field for nearly the entire first half is what really sealed the Bruins' fate."We are going to have to stay on the field, keep our defense off of it, and play long fields," Neuheisel said. "We could not do that today. We left our defense out there far too long, and BYU was methodical, as they have been in their other two games."
E-mail: [email protected]