Going Through the (Dreadful) Motions …

The LA Times:

Strong safety Tony Dye sat crying, seemingly oblivious to Neuheisel, who poked his head around the corner and said, "Got to keep your head up," to the players in that corner of the locker room.

And the LA Daily News:

UCLA freshman defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa sat on the team bench with just minutes to play, eyes bulging, tears streaming down his face, screaming at his teammates.

"I refuse to give up!" Odighizuwa said. "I refuse to give up. This isn't over! It is not over!"

Just three weeks ago in this space I wrote about "eternal optimism around UCLA football." As difficult as this morning is and as hopeless as the situation is around our program, I guess many here will still somehow muster up the will power again to watch this team get humiliated against Arizona State in a week. There is no rational explanation behind why many of us will continue to arrange our Saturdays (I guess now it's also Thursdays and Fridays resulting in constant humiliation) to watch our souls getting crushed week after week, season after season.

In the back of my mind, I always keep saying it to myself, it can't get any worse. This is ultimate rock bottom and this baby is going to turn (with or without the current head coach) leading to explosion of joy and euphoria we all were fortunate to experience during more than a decade ago. Yet time after time we keep ending in the same place after one ugly performance after another wondering what the heck we are all doing, investing so much emotion in UCLA athletics.

When the year started we thought we were going to have a football team that would win somewhere in the range of 5-7 games and more importantly compete and fight hard in ever contest. We expected a team that would show discernible progress with improved production on both sides of the field and put itself in position to contend for a Pac-10 title heading into Rick Neuheisel's 4th season in Westwood.

There are still 2 games left in this season. On paper, going through general rational analysis Bruins will be heavy underdogs in both of these contests.  So we can project them to finish with a record of 4-8, that would constitute a clear regression from last season and a big step back for Neuheisel. There is some merit to the arguments about the need for new direction (although I don't agree with all of them). However, we are still going to wait until the Bruins are technically eliminated from bowl contention and/or seeing how they perform in that last regular season game of the year (which is a must win game for Neuheisel).

As for the game last night, we have had discussions in post game thread whether the game was lost when Richard Brehaut left the game with a concussion in the second half. On the scoreboard the Bruins were just down by 3 points and still getting all kinds of breaks from Steve Sarkisian's sloppy and ugly offense (Sarkisian learned really well from Norm Chow I guess). Yet while there was a flicker of hope for the Bruins, the fact was our offense had become a sad joke following its 92 yard drive generating only 33 yards rushing after the first quarter.

I don't know whether we would have won or gotten a "moral victory" (LOL at the thought of taking "comfort" from a "moral victory" against the Huskies) if Brehaut never had that concussion. What I do believe - very strongly - is that we surrendered all our momentum and changed the complexion of the game, when we pathetically failed to take the advantage of a Locker gift in first quarter up 7-0. Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow had the chances to step on the Huskies throat early. Yet they played it safe, essentially calling the same plays, settling for a FG attempt, and blowing the golden opportunity to take control of the game.

Our grievances with Chuck Bullough's defense have been well chronicled. Last night they were not very good and the stat lines against a terrible Husky offense are misleading given all the penalties that stalled one Husky drive after another. Still the main culprit of last night's debacle was an extremely poorly coached, unwatchable and putrid UCLA offense that once again handcuffed any opportunity to win showing lack of imagination, creativity and courage. Sure players do deserve part of the blame for failing to execute. Brehaut missed open receivers, receivers once again showed total incompetence and lack of willpower (Bruin WRs have no concept of how to attack the ball), and our OL couldn't really pass protect.

However, the question we have is why do our team -  despite having a serious amount of talent scouted by our coaches and also pursued by other solid coaches in this conference - look so poorly prepared and fundamentally clueless week after week? The question we have is why UCLA offense keeps running what seems to be same set of 5 offensive plays week after week. We all had to laugh when Chow actually called a screen pass in second half (resulting in 7 yard gain). UCLA offense is so freaking boring and pathetic right now that a screen pass comes across as some kind of extra-ordinary, out of the box, crazy call. Most of our pass plays are high school level simple calls and are called in obvious 3rd and long situation, when the defense is jacked up to stop the air game.

Washington made clear adjustments after that 92 yard stacking the box and daring UCLA to throw the ball. We all saw the Huskies load up to stop the run, yet Chow still called two consecutive running plays (one was a QB keeper) after Bruins got the ball on Washington 31 following Locker's Q1 interception. Huskies were prepared and went on to throttle the Bruins easily. They kept it up all night with run blitzes stuffing the Bruins time after time on first and second downs.

Again Brehaut didn't have a good game. The receivers were terrible. However, it doesn't help when the coaches keep dialing up the same nonsense that high school coaches would have no problem preparing their team for in less than 2 days. Devising a competent and effective offensive strategy has to incorporate the element of making adjustments, anticipating opponents adjustments, and deploying plays that a defense hasn't seen with elements of surprise. That would entail not waiting till second half to pipe in with screen play. That would entail using the hyped F-Back position with pass plays (we actually had a nice completion to Barr in that 92 yard drive). Yet we have seen nothing creative or imaginative from Norm Chow, who seems to have been going through motion and living off his reputation since his arrival at UCLA.

Honestly, not sure where we go from here. I guess I will wait to see how next weekend's game against ASU turns out and whether coaches and players show pride in and respect for the four letters on December 4th. Till then all of this basically feels like going through dreadful motions. I don't feel any incentive to get emotionally invested in this program any more. Of course we are not going to stop watching our games and stop following the team day to day. We will be here I guess, anticipating the games with dread just like we used to during the days of Karl Dorrell and Steve Lavin. It is too bad it feels this way. However, we are not the ones who have been going through motions on Saturdays (and Thursdays/Fridays) time and again for last twelve seasons. Just don't have any answers today.

GO BRUINS.

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