From tomorrow’s dead-tree edition …
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel felt a sense of trepidation as Army took a halftime lead against Navy on Saturday.
After all, his Bruins couldn’t help but be among the Midshipmen’s biggest fans.
Ultimately, the anxiety faded as Navy pulled away for 17-3 victory in Philadelphia. The loss knocked the Black Knights out of bowl contention, handing an EagleBank Bowl berth to UCLA.
The Bruins (6-6), who lost their regular-season finale to Southern California, will meet Temple (9-3) in the Dec. 29 game at RFK Stadium.
“Obviously, you would like to have your destiny in your own hands,” Neuheisel said. “Going through the bowl aftermath with the USC Trojans and waiting to see, we knew we needed some help. I’m very, very excited about this chance and just making sure our coaches know we don’t want to be in this situation again. We want to earn our way in without having to wait, but I’m thrilled our kids are going to have the chance to visit the nation’s capital.”
It will be the first meeting between the teams.
While the Bruins are back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus, it will be the first bowl appearance for Temple since the 1979 Garden State Bowl and only the third bowl trip in school history.
The Owls, whose tailback Bernard Pierce ran for 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman, will end their postseason drought a little more than a two-hour drive from their campus.
“For our first bowl game, we couldn’t ask for a better place to play it and we couldn’t ask for a better opponent,” said Temple coach Al Golden, whose team won nine straight earlier this season.
It will be the first true east-coast game for UCLA since a loss at the end of the 1998 regular season knocked the then-unbeaten Bruins out of the national title hunt.
It won’t be an entirely new setting for Neuheisel, who was a Baltimore Ravens assistant for three seasons before taking the UCLA job two years ago —- a gig Golden interviewed for before the former Colorado and Washington coach got the nod.
Neuheisel’s also familiar with RFK, having played there during a stint in the USFL in the 1980s. The return trip figures to be particularly sweet since the Bruins couldn’t be sure if their season would continue until yesterday.
“We realize it’s going to be a great challenge, but we’re excited to have the challenge,” Neuheisel said.
—- Patrick Stevens