The Excuse Bucket Is Almost Empty

I like to wait a couple of days after bad losses before posting my thoughts.  On Saturday, I couldn’t even wait for the end of the first quarter.  After Franklin’s fumble and ensuing Cal TD, it was clear where the game was headed.  Another bumbling outing by our beloved yet infuriating football team had me headed to the pumpkin patch with my daughter.  It is really quite therapeutic, I recommend it.  I ended up watching the game later, though I skipped quite a bit because I was tired of throwing up in my mouth.

Game no. 31 in Neuheisel’s tenure was downright ugly.  Let’s not take anything away from Cal, except for how obnoxious and delusional some of their fans continue to be (at least on the internets).  They played…well, they played like UCLA was supposed to play.  Tough defense with a good running game.  That got us wins against Texas and Houston.  But what kills me, and I am sure a lot of you, is that I still do not know if the UCLA football team has a Jekyll & Hyde complex, or if it is just not very good right now.

Six games into the season, and UCLA sits at .500, with two exhilarating wins and two embarrassing debacles.  I think most of us would have been happy, at the beginning of the season, if we had been told that UCLA would have that record after 6 games.  I actually expected a worse record…but a better team.  So it does not feel good at all.  The dread endures, the nagging bewilderment persists, and the uncertainty prevails.

I do not want to single out individual players, because football is such a team game, but some tough questions must be addressed:
  • Why has the passing game regressed so dramatically?  Is it because of the new Pistol system?  Is it because Prince’s injuries have made him tentative?  Is it because the QBs are not being coached well?  Are the receivers not performing?  I think all of those are true, because the passing game was ok last year.  Did the coaches swing the pendulum too far in hopes of establishing the run game?  I would say yes, considering that they implemented a whole new system just for that purpose.
  • Why do our receivers drop so many passes?  I can understand not being able to get open…but dropped passes make no sense to me.  The only thing I can think of is related to the point above, in that they just haven’t practiced enough and spend most of their time blocking for the running game.
  • Why is our defense so inconsistent?  I won’t rehash all the great analysis already done.  
  • We keep hearing about practice going well…but is it the right practice?  
  • The Filthy Five can’t pass-protect…and most of them are seniors.  Lack of practice or lack of skill?  I’d say practice, as related to the points above.  So what happens next year without these seniors?

We have all discussed these points in one post or another so I won’t rehash but feel free to discuss in the comments.  These are micro issues that are part of the day-to-day running of a football program.

Yet, they bring me to an essential question:  will Rick Neuheisel be able to make tough decisions?  Will he be the “Decider”?

I think that CRN has the perfect personality to be the UCLA head football coach.  He is fiery, well-spoken, intelligent, and he “gets” what UCLA football means.  But since the first day, I have had a couple of concerns:  that CRN will be afraid to fail because he cares so much about UCLA.  I already know that is mostly not true, because he just overhauled the whole offense, a pretty risky move.  It lingers a little bit though.

The second concern is a little more complicated.  It has to do with second chances.  Will the guy who was given a second chance be able to make tough decisions?  Let’s face it: a decision probably needs to be made regarding certain coaches and certain players.  I don’t know enough about football to make that call, particularly as an emotional fan.  At this point, I think CRN is still the right man for the job with the right vision, but I think that the support around him has not been up to par.  

Continuity helps build programs, but the right staff and the right players make it easier.  Will CRN be able to cut the cord when necessary?  He hasn’t been in a program long enough to have a history of doing so, and my only worry is that the “second chance” label bestowed upon him might make him tentative.

I personally count this season as CRN’s second, because of the mess he inherited.  The schedule is beyond brutal, and there have certainly been bright spots.  But the excuse bucket will be empty after this year.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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