While the win against House was a nice baby step forward, the Bruins will have a mountain to climb this weekend against the undefeated and defending Big-12 champion Texas Longhorns. While these Longhorns are the not the same bunch that was led by Vince Young (who is probably one of the all time favorite non-Bruins in the greater Bruin Nation) and Colt McCoy, taking on them in Austin is going to be an impossible challenge for the guys in blue and gold.
Here is what Coach Rick Neuheisel had to say immediately after the Houston game while thinking about Texas:
" [We]'re going to have to fix a lot of things. It will call for a different plan. We understand the challenge of going to play a top 10 team. It's an undefeated team with great tradition, and we've got to make sure that we're not caught looking at all the people wearing burnt orange. This will be twice that crowd that we saw [at Kansas State]."
From the LA Times today:
The Cougars, though, are the Lone Star state's junior varsity compared to the Texas team UCLA faces in Austin on Saturday.
"There is no question, we're going up the ladder a little bit," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "That is no slight on Houston."
But Neuheisel said that Texas "has everything. Their shelves are stocked. They don't long for anything. I think their recruiting class for 2017 has already committed."
While lot of chatter this week is going to be how the Bruin defense is going to match up against the Texas offense under Garrett Gilbert, what I am really worried about is how the UCLA offense is going to handle Will Muschamp's Long Horn defense. Honestly I am not sure right now whether our offense is going to be handle the Texas defense. If Norm Chow's unit doesn't clean up its act in terms of minimizing silly penalties, turnovers, and show a desire to catch the ball, Texas will get its revenge for Route 66, by destroying the Bruins.
Had a chance to watch a big chunk of Texas's last game against Texas Tech this past weekend. While the Long Horns' offense is still finding their way, it was their defense that carried the day for them in an extremely hostile venue in Lubbock, Texas. Thayer Evans of FoxSports.com wrote about the defense rescuing Mack Brown's Long Horns:
[O]n a night that sixth-ranked Texas had four turnovers and was dreadful offensively, it was saved by its defense, which actually turned out to be its best offense. It limited Texas Tech's high-powered attack to just 144 yards (including minus-14 rushing), allowed only one touchdown and caused turnovers that led to an easy 10 points.
"They looked really good," Texas coach Mack Brown said of his defense. "We were pretty dominating."
The dominating defense is led by Will Muschamp, who is probably one of the best if not the best DC in entire college football. More from Evans:
"We had a great plan and great execution with what we wanted to do," Muschamp said.
That provides plenty of confidence for a Texas offense that continues to struggle and totaled just 320 yards against Texas Tech.
Defensive Line: Holt sh** these guys were amazing. Absolutely amazing. My game ball goes to Eddie Jones, who is about to start rocketing up NFL draft boards, if anyone's paying attention. He was absolutely brilliant: powerful, strong, technically superb, and faster-than-ever off the snap. He's been overshadowed by a slow to start to his career, and then the outstanding play of guys like Kindle and Sam Acho, but tonight he was the star of the show.
And how it's the Longhorns' defense that has kept Texas as one of the elite programs in college football:
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, of course, but for various reasons Texas football has been associated with its offense more so than its defense. With Vince Young and Colt McCoy at quarterback, and the defense lagging behind the offense for most of that time, it's understandable that the rest of the world has been slow to recognize the leap forward Texas has made defensively in the past 2.5 years.
In truth, after the brilliant offense of Colt McCoy carried us through the first half of 2008, falling one tragic play in Lubbock short of a national title berth, since the defense hit its stride in the back half of '08, it's been William T. Muschamp's charges that have been the difference between Texas football as it is now, and as it was when Mack Brown was still trying to elevate us to that next level. It was the offense that broke us through to begin with, but it's now the defense that's keeping us at the top.
So yeah, as good as the Houston win felt this weekend, the Bruins need to forget all about that and wonder how they are going to clean up their offensive issues to handle Muschamp's defense on Saturday. I don't think it's a secret that Muschamp is going to force the Bruins to win the game with our second year QB. They are going to load up their front to stop our running game combination of Jet Ski, Malcolm Jones and perhaps Derrick Coleman (hopefully JetSki and Jones will be getting bulk of carries).
Ultimately it will be up to Prince to manage Saturday's game with timely rushes and high percentage completions to his receivers and his F-Backs. Given what we have seen from our receivers and that F-Back position, not really feeling all that confident that Bruins are going to get it done.
Moreover, the history is not on our side. At least ever since yours truly became a diehard Bruin, UCLA hasn't had much luck with a second year QB starter against high profile programs on the road. A quick review of the gory bullets:
- 1991: Bruins went into Knoxville, Tennessee with second year starter - redshirt sophomore Tommy Maddox - and lost to Tennessee by a score of 16-30. Tennessee went 9-3 that season.
- 1994: Wayne Cook in his second full year as the starter for UCLA went into Lincoln and got torn apart by a score 21-49. Nebraska that year went 13-0 and won the national championship
- 1996: Tennessee again. Bruins led by second year - true sophomore Cade McNown - went into Knoxville and lost to the Volunteers again by a score of 20-35. The Vols (QBed by Manning) went 10-2 that year. Also, in the same years Bruins went to Ann Arbor and lost to Michigan by a score of 9-38. The Wolverines went 8-4 that season.
- 2003: Drew Olson in his sophomore season took the Bruins to Oklahoma and got bombed by a score of 24-59. Oklahoma also had a great team that season compiling a record of 12-2.
I know some might be bring up how Prince and his team-mates won in Tennessee last year but I don't really feel all that comforted by that example, since the Vols were being "led" by a loon and didn't have a legit quarterback directing the offense.
So everyone is going to talk about Route 66 heading into this Saturday. As memorable as that game was and the discernible impact it had on both programs (setting Texas in motion towards the Mack Brown era and thrusting the Bruins into a dark and painful roller coaster ride of mediocrity following 20 game win streak), I think it's game listed above that perhaps provide more relevant reference points on what is likely to take place this weekend in Austin.
Perhaps the Bruins will prove yours truly totally wrong and make me (happily) eat crow. The flip side of all the data points is that the Bruins are somehow "due." I am not holding out much hope.