Heading into rivalry week, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel made some waves in his Monday press conference by saying the Bruins have "closed the gap" between them and the USC Trojans. Neuheisel was quick to point out that the teams still need to line up in the field on Saturday night, and that his team needs to be aggressive on offense.
Which means quarterback Kevin Prince needs a big game against USC.
"Our offense is one that's predicated on being able to control the line of scrimmage and being able to run the football," said Neuheisel. "When people stack up against it, we have to either get the quarterback involved in the running game or we have to get the ball down the field and over the top of them as safeties get more involved in the running defense."
Neuheisel called Saturday's 45-6 win over Colorado the prototype for his offense, as they shredded Colorado for 328 yards on the ground and 225 more in the air. Then again, there is a reason why Colorado 2-10 this season and 1-7 in conference, and are a far cry from USC (9-2, 6-2).
UCLA has won three of their last four games, and in those wins Prince has completed 64.8% of his passes (35 of 54) for 513 yards with five passing touchdowns and no interceptions. In those three wins, Prince also has run for 308 yards on 44 carries, an average of seven yards per rush. Neuheisel praised his quarterback on Monday.
"We could not play not to get hurt. I wanted Kevin to know, from the coaches standpoint, the reason we thought he would be so good in this offense is his ability to run. He needed to be a runner," Neuheisel said. "We needed to be aggressive, and thankfully he took that to heart and used it, and away we go."
Prince was hurt in last year's game against USC, but was 10 for 22 for 90 yards and two interceptions in a 28-7 loss to the Trojans in 2009.
Whether UCLA has close the gap with USC or not, it doesn't take much to get excited for a rivalry game.
"This is the game, this is it. When you grow up as a UCLA Bruin, you can't wait to play the USC Trojans," Neuheisel said on Monday. "It's electric. There's nothing like being on that field, lining up against those guys in that uniform when we're in ours."
Saturday night's 7 p.m. PST game will be televised by Prime Ticket. For more UCLA football news and analysis, be sure to read Bruins Nation. For USC football information, be sure to read Conquest Chronicles.