I only saw the second half of the WSU game, after I discovered streaming video on the Internet while on vacation. So my judgment is flawed by that omission. Nevertheless, I consider the victory a hopeful sign for the rest of the season.
First, the team rallying to a victory shows that the players have no quit in them, which is great, and a sign that the coaches have not lost the team which is, IMO, the only real justification for firing a coach in mid-season.
Second, Kevin Prince (shame on the boo-birds) and the wide receivers stepped up big time when it counted, as did our offensive coaches in focusing on a big play offense to win the game. Think about it. We primarily won the game because we had four drives that ended in touchdowns and not field goals. And big pass plays were a major factor. Talk about efficiency. Most importantly, we played to win. What a refreshing change.
Third, we overcame substantial adversity due to injuries and still won. Not only was our secondary very thin, but Brehaut was injured early in the game. (Was it a clean hit? I sensed some dirty play by WSU this game, but I did not see the injury.). Our "subs" carried the day for us under tough circumstances. Look what happened to Ohio State after their starting QB was injured in the third quarter with a huge lead. They lost.
Fourth, we are using our younger, more talented players more and more. Abbott, Kendricks and Owa stood out on defense. Evans, Smith and Carroll are more in the mix on offense. I would like to see more, especially throwing to Fauria as the primary target, but the shift in playing time is welcome.
Fifth, I saw some better tackling in this game. There were better individual hits and there was more gang tackling from what I saw in the second half.
Of course, this was WSU, not Stanford or Texas or even Houston, but I believe Wulff has done an excellent coaching job there. They have a good offense and a decent defense. Their QB was on the mark all night, very accurate and in good rhythm. I think they will surprise down the road. They are not a cupcake anymore.
My main concern is the defensive strategy. I just don't get the continual soft corners, especially on third down. It seems the opposition just has to dial in the exact yardage they need on a passing play on third and long over and over again, especially with simple crossing patterns. I did notice that near the end we actually had pressure when we rushed only three. We have to get more pressure on the QB period. Duh. I still think this defense could be a force if employed properly. Or if they just jelled.
Again, I did not see the first half when our offense was apparently anemic. And I believe it is problematic when we have to struggle to beat WSU, but I saw signs of life in this game, and I was proud of how our players rallied to win. Believe me, I remember years when the Bruins were really strong and still somehow lost to WSU when it was much weaker than us. After all, every game is won on the field, not on paper.
Of course, this is just one game. And we all pretty much agree on what we expect at the end of the season as our standard to hold the coaching staff to account. We want this program to be relevant at the end of this year, and not just struggling to be a .500 team. We cannot accept mediocrity any more, not in the fourth year.
Yet this game gave me some hope that those 8-4 expectations might actually be met and that the coaches still have their players. We have a pulse, or are my eyes deceiving me?
PS: Who will back up Prince now? I vote for Hundley. I know others don't want to waste his first year, but if we are serious about our team this year, we have to go with the best players potentially, and not hold them back for the future. That means Hundley and not some rarely used backup. Saving him restricts his development unnecessarily. He should get as much experience this year as possible. Let him show what he can do. Let him grow on the field, especially in the Pistol. He will be that much better next year if he does. Who knows? He may wind up starting before the end of the season on his own merits and beat SUC. Stranger things have happened. Or have we forgotten about Norm Dow and John Barnes?
So here's my plea to our team to help them focus on their future, as kids talented and privileged enough to wear the uniform of UCLA.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD!
YOU CAN STILL HAVE A GREAT SEASON.
BEAT SUC AND WIN THE PAC 12 SOUTH!
WIN THE PAC 12 CHAMPIONSHIP!
DON'T JUST PLAY IN THE ROSE BOWL. WIN IT!
YOU CAN STILL DO ALL OF THESE GREAT THINGS THIS SEASON!