UCLA meets Arizona Thursday night in the last of three straight ESPN games, and this marks, yet again, a re-entry into the football fray for quarterback Kevin Prince. Washington fans will recall that this is the quarterback who was committed to the UW (under Tyrone Willingham), but reversed field after Rick Neuheisel got the UCLA job before the 2008 season.
Prince has been vilified a bunch – especially by Bruins fans who booed him for his performance against Texas Sept. 17 – but I’ve always believed there was a quarterback there waiting to happen beneath his assorted, endless injuries. Maybe it stems from Nov. 7, 2009, the day he and the Bruins played Washington at the Rose Bowl.
As a redshirt freshman, Prince completed 13 of 17 passes for 212 yards – in less than a half. Then he collided with UW linebacker Donald Butler on a scramble and was done for the day, Butler getting flagged for a personal foul for contact with Prince’s helmet.
I asked Neuheisel Tuesday on the Pac-12 conference call what Prince’s state of mind is now. He entered the WSU game Oct. 8 and rescued it after Richard Brehaut went down with a broken leg.
“He’s at a great place mentally,” Neuheisel said. “He’s excited about this opportunity. He came off the bench against Washington State and performed admirably. He wants to build on that. The team believes in him. I think it sets up perfectly for him.”
I had long since forgotten the succession of Prince’s on-again, off-again status the past three seasons. So I asked UCLA publicist Steve Rourke to trace it. Herewith:
Started Games 1 and 2, but suffered a fractured jaw at Tennessee. Returned for Game 5 and started the rest of the way.
Missed most of fall camp with a strained oblique muscle.
Started the first four games, but sustained a knee injury against Texas.
Sat out Game 5, returned to start against Cal in Game 6 but the knee didn’t respond and he had surgery, missing the final six games.
Started opener against Houston after missing the spring rehabilitating from the 2010 knee surgery, but incurred a concussion and a shoulder problem by halftime.
Sat out Game 2 because of the concussion, returned to start against Texas, but threw three interceptions and was replaced in the second quarter by Brehaut after going 3 of 7 for 26 yards and three interceptions.
Came off the bench against WSU and helped engineer a 28-25 victory.
So in 2 ½ seasons, that’s two concussions, a jaw, an oblique, a knee and a shoulder. If the Bruins are to remain the contender in the Pac-12 South that Neuheisel insists they are, they have to keep Prince upright.