While the tradmed reporters were crowing about obvious story line around Karl Dorrell, Mike Riley and UCLA, all last week we kept pointing out how the Bruins had a chance to get themselves back in bowl contention with a winnable game against an overhyped Oregon State program. Bruin offense with its under-utilized talent at skill positions, talented QB (who might have broken out earlier if he played for a different OC) had match advantages against a mediocre Beaver defense. While the Bruin defense had a chance to get their acts together against a banged up Beaver offense coming in with an OL which had its own issues re. playing physical brand of football.
All that translated into a result which might have been euphoric but not all the surprising to most of us on BN. Bruins took care of business in a very winnable game. While the defense deserves its due props and optimism around certain elements of offense such as an emerging QB is justified, questions need to continue to be raised around whether our program is playing up to its full potential.
The promise is certainly there. Last night when Richard Brehaut let the team to a TD in the epic twenty play drive, many of us were having visions of number 18. The way he churned out yards with his legs and kept moving the team forward while keeping his poise, displayed remarkable progress he has shown in a matter of weeks, while undercutting the public criticism directed at him from his OC. Sure as a true sophomore QB Brehaut still locks on his targets at times. However, that is not anything dramatically different than what we have seen from Kevin Prince. At this point the upside and potential of Brehaut is pretty clear and it has all of us fired up for his next appearance in a very winnable game.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side the freshmen - Jordan Zumwalt, Dietrich Riley and Cassius Marsh - set the tone with their remarkable play all evening long. Building off his explosive starting debut against Arizona, Zumwalt took it up another notch with team leading 9 tackles which included a huge sack. Then there was Dietrich Riley. You guys have seen the videos now here on BN. As rich pointed out in the post game thread, following that vicious tackle, Jacquizz Rodgers had a total of 9 yards. It was essentially a tone setting play that changed the complexion of the game.
While I was euphoric watching these guys, the question that came running through my mind was that why the heck did it take so long for these guys to get on the field? That is the ultimate basis around all the frustrations surrounding both of Rick Neuheisel coordinators in this program.
Let's start with the offense again. When we started the game day we discussed a Norm Chow comment about how he doesn't worry about a balanced offense any more. He talked about how he is not all that worried about getting a 50/50 breakdown between his running and passing attempts. Well, that is fine. Guess, no one really cares if Chow doesn't get exact balance getting close to 50/50. Yet, I am not sure I feel all that great about our offensive stats where our offense rushed the ball 55 times and had only 19 passing attempts with a QB, who is clearly coming into his own.
Throughout the game Bruins were in numerous 2nd and short (less than 5 yards to go) situations where they essentially kept calling the same TB dive play with Jet Ski. In fact if I have the plays right, we only went QB keeper just once on a 2nd and short situation which resulted in 9 yards rush for Brehaut. Of course we have an OL, which has been pretty decent with running game. However, what I don't understand is Chow's reluctance to mix it up by incorporate the F Back in that situation by getting Barr out in space, or using Brehaut's mobility to roll him out and find other skilled targets.
I don't understand why it is so difficult for Chow to scheme a screen to TB or slant passes on first or second down with the other team bringing the pressure. I don't really buy the argument that Chow is playing probabilities and going with the "sure thing." I think that kind of thinking stagnates the offense. It might have been a good idea for a team with no talent (like the situation we were in during Neuheisel's first season with Kevin Craft, one legged Kahlil Bell and shattered OL). We have enough skill players and speed in our offense for Chow to mix it up.
We have enough talent in our offense that doesn't justify our coaches continuing to clam up on the opponent's side of the field and keep settling for FG attempts. Neuheisel and Chow once again depended a little too much on Forbath and it almost bit them yesterday. For our program to take steps forward beyond last season's encouraging progress, coaches have to find a way to trust their players and open this offense up. No, of course we are not calling for bombs on every play or passes on every second and shot. What we don't want is to see our so offense be so freaking predictable. It is infuriating and it was one of the key factors that ultimately ended Karl Dorrell's tenure at UCLA (which should have never started).
At this point, I sure hope Randall Carroll keeps getting the start over Nelson Rosario. I also think Taylor Embree should be on notice as coaches should find more and more ways to get Josh Smith and Ricky Marvray into the game. BTW, I don't really understand the point of sending Embree in for every PR, considering he has almost cost us dearly for two straight games with costly fumbles and bobbles.
Going back to our running game, it was good to see Jet Ski get to 100. Obviously the fumbling issue continues to be a big concern. It was also encouraging to see Malcolm Jones with a solid game. I hope coaches trust him enough to find a way to get him more carries in the upcoming game. I am excited to see what our offense can do against a Washington Husky defense. We should match up very well against them in Seattle.
As for the defense, yesterday was encouraging. However, it didn't do much at least for yours truly to have faith restored in Chuck Bullough. Sure our tackling was great but our defense looked confuse early on specially when we were in zone D. It is also infuriating to see our D getting off to bad starts right after second half as it happened last night at the Rose Bowl. Thought it was ridiculous to see Riley taken out immediately after he laid that bone crunching hit on the Quizz.
Again, it is maddening to think why it took so long for these coaches to put in Zumwalt and Riley into our lineups. I wonder what our LB corps would look like if coaches started the season featuring Zumwalt, Patrick Larimore and Akeem Ayers, with Sean Westgate coming off the bench. No one can question Westgate's heart. He plays tough. However, I just think coaches have better options and have a responsibility to coach them up getting the best possible mix of talent on the field.
Anyway, despite the frustrating comments above, the coaches and players do deserve enormous credit for the way they have been battling since that humiliating massacre in Eugene. It is crystal clear that Rick Neuheisel has not lost his team. The guys are out there clawing, scratching and battling. I think the reason for frustration is that we strongly believe we have a pretty talented team made up bunch of really good kids, who can produce better results.
We are now 4-5 with a 2-4 conference record. I strongly believe if Norm Chow had let Richard Brehaut start against Kansas State and against Cal, the complexion of this season would have been different. Brehaut was coming into his own during pre-season practices. By third week of pre-season practice the reports on him were getting better and he put together a very strong pre-season scrimmage that had a huge impression on Brett Hundley getting enamored with the pistol offense. Yet Chow decided to go with Prince with just 2 days of practice, resulting in a very anemic offensive outing in Manhattan. Then Chow once again decided to go with Prince against Cal, when it was clear to rest of the offense that Brehaut was the better option.
No one can question Prince's heart. He is a warrior. However, from what I have seen, it is clear to me that Brehaut has better tools and mechanics to lead this program. He is certainly coachable given the clear progression he has shown in recent weeks and he had flashed off the same signs of being a "gamer" evoking the memories of some guy from West Lynn, Oregon. It is also clear that this offense believes in Brehaut. The magic around him when he improvised that pass to Harkey was electric.
There is a vibe around how Brehaut leads this team and it also seemed to carry over to the defense, which came out and played with its hair on fire after Brehaut's second TD drive. Don't forget last night was not the first time Brehaut showed off his clutch leadership. He also engineered a 90+ yard drive against an upstart Washington State team late in second half that changed the complexion of our game against Cougars. Brehaut has "it" and I hope Chow at this point stop badmouthing this kid in public, and put all his energy both in private and in public to get this kid locked in and inspired for rest of this season.
Certainly cannot wait till our next game against Washington. Thanks to our young guys for rallying this team and getting everyone fired up.