Puttin' on the blitz
Published May 1, 2008 9:15 AM
With starting quarterback Patrick Cowan and backup Ben Olson going down with injuries two days before the end of spring practice, the UCLA football team's prospects for a successful 2008 season may look less than promising.
But don't tell that to the Bruin faithful — particularly the 150 female fans who came to the Rose Bowl April 26 for the first Lady Bruins Football 101 clinic prior to the annual spring game. They were alumni, students, future students and team supporters, ranging in age from toddler to AARP-eligible, who paid a class fee of $20, braved the heat to learn from the new campus rock star, Head Coach Rick Neuheisel — and went where few women have gone before.
"[I came] for a chance to get on the field of the Rose Bowl," said season ticket holder Juli Cotta, who brought friend Joyce Sakai to the sold-out event.
One trio came to play. Linda Calamusa and daughters April Rotella and Tracy Petrotta sported matching No. 12 (Patrick Cowan) jerseys, old-fashioned leather helmets and black glare-reducing eye strips. They were longtime season ticket holders with connections to the team — Calamusa's best friend's brother-in-law is UCLA Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker, and Petrotta's brother-in-law James Petrotta is a one-time Bruin kicker.
"We've been Bruin fans since we were kids, and this is a fun opportunity for us to come out and meet the coaches and find out how it goes down," said Rotella, who now brings her kids to the games.
"Our husbands are jealous," joked Petrotta. "They were going dress up as women and come in, because they want to be on the field, they want to experience all this."
No doubt the hubbies were green with envy when they got a play-by-play account of the 90-minute clinic, starting with the coach's A-Z guide to football.
Holding court in the new Bruins' locker room, the boyish-looking, quick-witted Neuheisel tackled the X's and O's of the game, doling out enough specifics for his awestruck fans to impress husbands, boyfriends, sons and fathers. After all, what do they know about "gap control"? Or a "hot throw"?
And what's a locker-room meeting without a pep talk? Coach told them to wear their Bruin uniforms with pride, to leave everything on the field.
"Are we gonna kick their tails?" he shouted.
"I can't hear you!"
Pumped up, the "team" filed out of the locker room, into the tunnel, then ran onto the field, where Walker and Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow ran drills — and Neuheisel posed for pictures.
For one afternoon, the Rose Bowl had turned into a field of dreams for a few lucky ladies — like fan-since-birth Britt Bettencourt, there with her mom, alumna Linda Mahlow '69, and 11-month-old daughter Tristen, looking true-blue-and-gold in her mini-cheerleading outfit. Bettencourt gave extra points to the affable Neuheisel.
"I think that's amazing — that he was willing to take the time to do this for all these people," she said. And her outlook for the team's future? "I think we've got a chance this year."