- Bumped. BN
While I can understand everyone's frustration, and I'm frustrated too, there is to me one overriding positive that I take from the Arizona St. game which I think may be most significant in the overall scheme of things. Some will think there's nothing positive when you lose, but in terms of what I think has been the most fundamental problem with this football team I see something very positive.
I believe that the most fundamental problem with our team the last three years has been the lack of a proficient offense. Last year we actually had a pretty respectable defense, but it wasn't enough with an anemic offense especially in this conference of high powered offenses where you're just not going to be able to compete without a capable offense. There seemed to be an overall improvement in the offense this year, but it was overridden by the disastrous lack of any passing offense.
The one thing that seemed almost certain when Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow came to UCLA was that we would have a high powered offense which was balanced but favored a wide open passing game. Norm Chow coached teams at USC and Brigham Young and RN coached teams at Colorado and Washington were very proficient on offense, and the logical conclusion was that this is what we would see at UCLA. The defense we couldn't be sure about but with these coaches a proficient offense seemed a foregone conclusion.
So what went wrong? I think the combination of a very weak offensive line that offered inadequate pass protection along with inexperienced young quarterbacks made a proficient passing offense all but impossible. The first year we had to go with our third string quarterback after our first two quarterbacks were lost for the season. The second year we had to go with a true freshman quarterback, and this year we started with an injured quarterback and then had to go with our second string backup who had very little actual game experience. So we wound up emphasizing the running game, but while somewhat effective this proved to be too one dimensional and too inconsistent.
In the Arizona and Oregon St. games Richard Brehaut played well and for the first time I could see signs of an emerging passing game. Unfortunately this did not materialize in the Washington game which I found disappointing. However what I saw in the Arizona St. game is something I would have never expected at this point.
What would have really been demoralizing would have been another sub 100 yard passing game with another 7 points total on the scoreboard. However that is not what happened. Never in my wildest hopes for this game did I think we would score 34 points on Arizona St. And to see a UCLA quarterback especially this year throw for 311 yards is something I only dreamt about. And throwing 56 passes in a game which was a UCLA record, well there's nothing the least bit conservative about that. And keep in mind that Arizona St. has a quality defense certainly one of the better defenses in the Pac 10, They held Wisconsin to 20 pt., they held Stanford to 17 just the week before, and they shut out Washington St. 42-0. So our offense doubled Stanford's scoring output from the week before and outperformed a Wisconsin offense that now has put up 70 points in some games. Those are two of the very best offensive teams in college football this year. Even Oregon scored only 8 more points than we did in Tempe. This was against one of the better defenses in our conference and on the road. Yes it is only one game, but it was an offensive performance qualitatively different from anything we have seen in the past three years or even since Drew Olson.
I think a lot of this is obscured by the poor performance of the defense and the loss of the game. And I frankly don't think the one play on the goal line that we didn't make is all that significant in the overall scheme of things (yes it was significant for the game). The play call gave the highest probability in that situation much more than passing the ball but unfortunately we didn't make it. It's just one play and let's give some credit to the Arizona St. defense. Remember that great goal line stand by our defense that won the game for us against Tennessee last year? How many of you attributed that to a lack of heart and killer instinct on Tennessee's part? I certainly didn't. I fully credited our defense. So maybe Arizona St's defense deserves some credit too. There is a natural tendency in the psychology of sports fans to attribute everything to their own team's play while minimizing the role of the other team.
But getting back to my main point I can finally see the emergence of a dynamic offense at UCLA that can both pass and run. I think this must have been the plan all along, but I didn't see any signs of it until the Arizona and Oregon St. games, but the Arizona St. game is a big jump in offensive performance from those games. The offense was the biggest problem with this team, and there wasn't any indication that it was going to get fixed any time soon. And maybe there is some luck involved in the emergence of Richard Brehaut as a result of injury. But I don't think it is unrealistic to think that this is the offense of our future that we should see with consistency next year. This didn't happen in practice but in a conference game against a competent opponent. Of course the defense will also have to improve, but I think we have a lot of developing young talent on our defense, and I expect it to be significantly better next year too. And the fact that Rahim Moore is coming back is also a significant positive. Yes we have to have this kind of offensive performance in more than one game, and we have to have both the offense and defense play well in the same game. But I expect this to happen next year. If it doesn't then everything needs to be put on the table. However I remain confident that it will.