Jim Mora didn’t want this week to be about him and his return to UW.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” the UCLA coach said this week. “Just another game. It’s a business trip.”
Rick Neuheisel isn’t buying it.
“It’s interesting to me that Jimmy said it means nothing to him. And that’s certainly an approach. It cannot be true. It cannot be, because he’s human,” Neuheisel said in a phone call Thursday night. “He’s a football guy who loved his time with Don James and loved his time wearing purple and gold and has too many close friends who are from that era — The Dawgfather Era — who are still his really tight buddies.”
Neuheisel, the former UW, UCLA and Colorado coach, said it was always emotional — and “weird” — for him to bring back one of his teams to play against UCLA, his alma mater, at the Rose Bowl.
“When (Mora) comes through that Husky Stadium tunnel wearing another uniform — unless he’s just different than anybody I’ve ever known — he’s going to have memories of that and it’s going to feel weird,” Neuheisel said. “It felt weird when I took a team to go play UCLA. I don’t think it changed how I coached, but it feels weird. It’s a spooky deal.”
In a phone interview Thursday night, Neuheisel touched on a number of topics, from the latest discipline incident for Chris Petersen, to Shaq Thompson and John Ross III.
Neuheisel’s son, Jerry, will serve as UCLA’s backup quarterback and holder Saturday night against the Huskies, and Neuheisel — is in his second year as a studio analyst for the Pac-12 Networks — said the Huskies have a shot to knock off the No. 18 Bruins if the crowd can get involved early.
“Washington is always tough at home,” he said, “especially if the fans come out for a marquee opponent and Washington does something to give them life. Because once the fans gets engaged, that’s as hard a place as there is in the country to play.”
On Thompson: “Terrific player,” Neuheisel said. “I would tell Chris and his staff: ‘Coach, the guy can play on defense, too.’ I would not take him out. I’d make him tap his head (when he’s tired). Because the likelihood is that he’s going to leave (for the NFL) after this season, and he loves to play. I don’t think he’s feeling like he’s overused. We’re not privy to all the conversations, but I’d leave him in; I’d have him play at least 25 plays on defense still.”
On Ross: “John Ross is a phenom, man. A phenom. I wanted him bad. Bad, bad, bad. He’s up there with the Mamba (De’Anthony Thomas) in terms of being such a unique athlete.”