WASHINGTON - UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said yesterday that he had watched a couple of bowl games in which the teams appeared to be disinterested.
That won't be the case Tuesday in the EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium, where Neuheisel's Bruins will face Al Golden's Temple Owls.
"This is one bowl game where both teams are dying to play," Neuheisel said. "We are rebuilding and trying to climb back to being part of the national scene. And from watching the film, we understand we're in for a great game, and we understand that we'll have to give our best effort."
UCLA (6-6) was eager to get back in the postseason after finishing 4-8 last fall in Neuheisel's first season. The Bruins had gone to a bowl game in 10 of the 12 previous years.
The Owls (9-3) enjoyed their first winning season since 1990. They are playing in a bowl game for the first time since 1979, so their challenge is to avoid the just-glad-to-be-here syndrome.
"We've talked about that, and their minds are on winning," Golden said. "It's a privilege to play a team with the tradition of UCLA."
On a wet and foggy Christmas Day, Temple practiced at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. It was the first workout for the Owls at the spacious new facility in the suburbs of Washington, and they came off the field in good spirits.
"We're getting some good practices in," center John Palumbo said as some of his teammates frolicked in the snow on their way to the team buses. "Guys are having fun, but we're getting focused. It's getting close to game time."
Temple, which traveled 45 minutes from its hotel in downtown Washington to get to Good Counsel, practiced there yesterday and will do so again today. Tomorrow, the Owls will convene for a walk-through at the game site.
Because of the snowstorm that hit Philadelphia last weekend, practice sessions before the team left the city Thursday were conducted in the Eagles' indoor facility at the NovaCare Complex from Dec. 19 tp 21.
"The Eagles were gracious to host us, and we got all of our preparations done," Golden said. "We wouldn't have been able to do it without them."
After putting the team through its paces yesterday at Good Counsel High, Golden reported to the media hotel for an interview session that included three of his players, Neuheisel, and two Bruins.
Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty made an appearance and welcomed both teams to town before issuing a proclamation declaring this to be EagleBank Bowl week in the nation's capital.
On the dais with the coaches were safety Dominique Harris, defensive tackle Andre Neblett, and tight end Steve Maneri of Temple, as well as tight end Logan Paulsen and defensive back Alterraun Verner of UCLA.
Harris said anticipation was growing.
"It's very exciting," the D.C. native said. "I get to play at home in front of family, a lot of people I grew up with, and other people who supported me."
"We're excited about getting a chance to play another game, and we wish the game was sooner," Verner said.
Notes. Temple had a team party last evening at the ESPN Zone, and UCLA held a similar gathering. . . . Today, the teams will take separate trips to tourist sites in Washington. . . . Tomorrow, select Temple players will participate in a clinic at a boys' club, while a group of Bruins will visit patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.