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Dr. Saturday

Rick Neuheisel’s exit creates a bigger distraction at Oregon than 31-point spread

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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Heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon, UCLA players are trying desperately to get their minds right, but it's difficult with their coach being fired and the administration showing little faith that the Bruins can upset the heavily favored Ducks.

Rumors had been swirling all year that coach Rick Neuheisel was on his last legs, but after an embarrassing 50-0 loss to rival USC, athletic director Dan Guerrero finally pulled the trigger and declared that Neuheisel would officially be gone after Friday's game.

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"I feel like they could have waited," defensive end Datone Jones told the Orange County Register. "I feel like it's a distraction to our team. It's another distraction we have. I was hurt. To see him go down is crazy. But we can't do anything about it."

But the fact that Guerrero marked Friday as Neuheisel's last game has struck a chord with some players because if the Bruins were to pull off the upset, it would mean a trip to the Rose Bowl without their leader. The Bruins also received a petition to play in a bowl game should they lose despite their 6-7 record.

"They wouldn't be the only people that don't believe in us," tight end Joseph Fauria told the paper. "From the very beginning we've told each other, it's only us on the field playing for each other. Not a lot of people believed in us from the very beginning and it only got worse throughout the season. There were highs and lows but at the same time there wasn't always 100 percent support.

"If that's the case with the administration not believing in us, it's nothing new to us."{YSP:MORE}

For his part, Neuheisel is trying to see the bright side in the timing of his firing and hopes that in the end it will prove to be less of a distraction to his players as they prepare for a monumental task Friday night.

"There's no question that this would have been a distraction had we been asking these kinds of questions all through the week — what I needed to do to keep my job and so forth," Neuheisel said. "I'm glad in that respect that that's behind us. I would have liked the decision to have been otherwise but we're all big enough to handle the eventualities that exist in this sport."

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Curtsy (female version of the hat tip) to the Orange County Register
Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham

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