Bruin Blue writing what so many of us are feeling. GO BRUINS. -N
It somehow feels to me as if we are finally at the denouement of a classic noir movie, where one of the characters says, "You knew it would ultimately come down to this. No more illusion, no more surprises. You are now face to face with your destiny." I love noir movies; and would much rather have been watching one, than going through this season; though they share the same surreal, nightmarish quality. I am also thinking of the last line of Bob Dylan's chilling existential masterpiece "Memphis Blues Again":
Because here we certainly will sit--whether in a seat in the Coliseum, or on the couch in front of our TV--watching in a kind of numb, noir-like fascination, to see the last chapter of the Karl Dorrell drama unfold. And as we somehow always knew, Dorrell will potentially have this last, desperate chance to save himself. And as strange as it may seem, I always sort of anticipated Oregon's Dennis Dixon getting hurt just in time for the UCLA game, as it was the only way that Dorrell could have won that game and thus prolonged this agony. And of course USC would beat Arizona State, so that in a kind of grotesque irony, people could talk and write about this USC-UCLA game being "like old times," hearkening back to the great days of Prothro vs. McKay, and Beban vs. Simpson; trying to pretend that UCLA football is where it should be, if it can be potentially playing for the Rose Bowl on the last Saturday. I remember 1967 and 1969; the delicious yet almost unbearable tension of Big Game Week; reading and listening to everything you could; playing in your head and discussing with your friends all of the possible strategical gameplans; wanting Saturday to arrive, but somehow wishing the week could be prolonged in all its heightened intensity. Compare that with this week, which I want to be over as soon as possible; in which I don't want to read any of the papers or hear any of the stupid talk shows try to hype the game. Just let's get this thing done with, whatever the outcome.
Can Karl Dorrell save his job if he somehow beats USC? Who can say at this benumbed point? He shouldn't by any logical assessment of his five-year tenure, capped by a season in which he was supposed to contend for a national title and in which he has suffered five losses and has made the program even more of a laughingstock on the national scene than it already was. But given the weird, desperate efforts of some people in the media to support Dorrell to this point, should he somehow beat the Trojans, you are going to see all sorts of articles demanding that he be allowed to keep his job. Will they influence Dan Guerrero; will he have the strength of will to fire him anyway; just as Texas A&M forced Dennis Franchione to resign despite the win over arch-rival Texas; just as Houston Nutt will very possibly be fired despite a much better year than UCLA's, one which culminated in a stunning win at LSU? Who can really say, given our bizarrely unfathomable previous history? I can just see the Bruins running off the field with a win, after USC has fumbled seven punts and had both quarterbacks knocked out; Dorrell with his hands raised in jubilation; the fog drifting in to virtually obscure the Coliseum floor; and someone saying over a haunting saxophone sound, "Go home, fans. Go home. It's UCLA."
Well, unsettling images aside (writing that last one actually gave me chills), the odds are strong that USC will win. But I am predicting that the game is going to be closer than many would think. Why? Because our defense has some confidence now, even though it was earned against a completely crippled Oregon team. Because we are almost at full strength, and we still have all that veteran talent, the kind that caused many prognosticators to predict a BCS Bowl or beyond for this team. Because DeWayne Walker, despite his definite shortcomings, is usually able to stop the run; and USC, despite its big outburst against Arizona State, is really not a highly potent offensive team. In the two games previous to ASU, the Trojans scored 24 against Oregon State and 24 against Cal. Because UCLA has drastically underachieved under Dorrell, and the talent is a good deal better than it seems. And because Dorrell is simply amazingly lucky; and I am sure that he is going to get some breaks in this game, a few USC turnovers, a couple of really long Forbath field goals. Of course I could be wrong, but I do not think this is going to be the rout that some are predicting. And remember, Dorrell really has nothing to lose at this point, so look for him to go against type and try some gadget plays, perhaps thinking that this will further endear him to the pathetic L.A. media, and convince some of the clueless fans that he is "finally learning," "turning that corner," "getting everybody on the same page." I'll give UCLA one lucky TD on a big play by Breazell, three field goals, for 16; and USC 24. And then we can see Simers and Whicker and all the other apologists tell us what a great effort that was, "considering everything."
And, oh, yes; we now have to fear the Walker scenario again, just because Dennis Dixon managed to get himself hurt, so that Walker could easily stop the pathetic remains of the Oregon offense. It shouldn't be this way, of course; and it isn't this way at all the other schools who have fired or forced out coaches. They do it without compunction, and the media is behind them. They may not always hire the best coach (what is Texas A&M doing, hiring Mike Sherman?), but they try. And they do not even consider people who are part of the failed regime, or who have no head coaching experience. But again, who can say what Dan Guerrero and UCLA will do? Logically, the wheels have already been set in motion for an all-out coaching search. We can certainly hope that such logic will prevail. But because this is UCLA, we can never be quite sure; hence the agony of this "Big Game" Week.
As to the ongoing coaching speculation which I like to add each week; yes, I was disappointed that Chris Petersen could not win at Hawaii. A truly great coach might have done so, though Hawaii is pretty darn good, particularly at home, and in their biggest game ever in front of a literally frenzied crowd. I still like Petersen a good deal, though. I like Bronco Mendenhall, who almost lost to (gulp) Utah, but pulled it out, to win another Mountain West title. Paul Johnson still ranks high. One of the problems we face is the knowledge that UCLA is very likely going to rush this hire, in an effort to "save" the recruiting class, which probably would all stay anyway, if a name coach were chosen. I don't think that we will wait until all the Bowl games are over, as we should do. That lessens our chances of getting a current college head coach, and increases the possibility that we will hire an ex-NFL coach such as Mariucci or Mora, or a coordinator from another school. But once again, nothing is certain, as there is not enough to extrapolate from in Dan Guerrero's hiring career. We know that the basketball search was done very effectively; that the football search was pathetic. And ultimately it is going to come down to Guerrero's ability to effectively discern who a potential great coach will be. That is the most difficult and most crucial thing an athletic director can do. Just consider that Wilbur Johns gave us both Red Sanders and John Wooden; that Peter Dalis gave us Walt Hazzard, Jim Harrick, Steve Lavin and Bob Toledo; that Tom Jurich of Louisville hired Bobby Petrino and Rick Pitino. Given the way we do things, we don't get many chances at this, so we absolutely have to get it right. Forgive me if I do not evince the greatest hope that we will. But we will see very soon. Meanwhile, let's get on with the week.