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Bruins can’t escape 2010 quarterback struggles and injuries

Former UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel is in an ironic situation.

The 1984 Rose Bowl MVP and current Bruin coach can’t find a quarterback of his own.

Through 10 games this season, the Bruins (4-6, 2-5 Pac-10) have played four players under center, including one walk-on.

With those quarterbacks, UCLA finds itself ranked No. 117 in the country in passing offense.

“We’ve got find a way to play a clean game and not hurt ourselves, which has been the case in many of our defeats this year,” Neuheisel said. “We got to give ourselves a chance in our final game to get to the postseason.”

Last week in a 24-7 loss to Washington, sophomore quarterback Richard Brehaut, who took over as the starter after redshirt sophomore Kevin Prince had season-ending knee surgery in October, was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

His replacements, Darius Bell and walk-on Clayton Tunney, went a combined one-for-11 with two interceptions.

“Whenever they came off the field after missing on a third down, I just asked them what they were looking at, and I get frustrated when they don’t have an answer,” Neuheisel said. “I’m just trying to get to the bottom of things and help them get better. I used to coach the position and use to play the positions so I know there are answers to these questions.”

The Bruins are expecting, however, for Brehaut to be healthy enough to play Friday against ASU.

“There’s been zero symptoms over the last three days, so there’s every reason to believe he’ll be ready to go,” Neuheisel said. “We’re always diligent with respect to protecting the kids.”

For UCLA, it needs to win its final two games in order to become bowl eligible. The Sun Devils (4-6, 2-5) need to win out and receive a special waiver from the NCAA to go to a bowl game.

“It’s kind of like a playoff game; it will be spirited,” Neuheisel said. “There’s a level of intensity going around the league to try to stay alive in this thing.”

For the No. 79 ranked Bruin defense to succeed it will rely heavily on redshirt junior and future NFL linebacker Akeem Ayers to cause pressure on ASU redshirt junior quarterback Steven Threet.

“When he gets hot, he can really get things going,” Neuheisel said. “He’ll spread you out and pick you apart, bug if you can cover well, and you can get a pass rush, you can make him throw earlier than he wants too.”

All Locke’d up

The NFL record for the longest field goal kicked in a game is 63 yards.

UCLA redshirt sophomore punter Jeff Locke tied that mark as a senior in high school.

Raised in Arizona, Locke booted the kick in a game for Glendale Mountain Ridge.

“It was in ideal conditions, there was a little bit of wind at my back and it was the first game of the season so my leg was nice and fresh,” Locke said. “It just kind of happened, we were actually going to punt and then we called a timeout.”

His high school coach described the lead up.

“Our kicking coach looked at me and said, ‘He can do it,”’ Bobby Green said. “And then I looked at Jeff and Jeff gave me the nod so I said let’s do it. It was a unique moment. I love to see the kids when they have that much confidence. He was sure of it and he nailed it.”

Asked if he could do it again, Locke replied, “Maybe, yeah. If it was in the same conditions, I think I could.”

For his efforts that season Locke was named to The Arizona Republic’s First Team All-State squad and was rated as the top punter in the nation by multiple publications.

He committed to the Bruins over ASU and a slew of others.

“He was one of the better players we’ve had come through this program,” Green said. “He was a four year starter, he did that extra stuff, it wasn’t like he just showed up and kicked. He was one of the most hard working kids in the weight room and he did community service too.”

In his first collegiate season, Locke was the only freshman semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s top punter.

Through ten games in 2010, he is currently No. 5 in the nation in yards per punt at 45.81.

Last week he was named to the first-team all-academic Pac-10 for the second straight year.

“I always talk with parents about how academics really do come first and there’s always going to be life after football,” Locke said. “Those academic awards are going to carry me a lot further in my life than the football ones.”

Locke is one of just four Arizona natives on the Bruins’ roster.

“My family gets to come to the hotel and have dinner with me the night before the game,” Locke said. “I might have a chance to stay an extra day at home before we have meetings on Sunday. It’s a great opportunity for me.”

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