Sometimes it's not any fun to write this.
Writing after losses has always been as sort of cathartic. Somewhere between the "sky is falling, we stink" and the "it's ok, we'll get 'em next week, guys!" ends of the spectrum is a reasonable middle ground, unbiased by the emotion of a win or loss, and supported by an analysis of the play and personnel and state of the program. Writing this lets me look past the disappointment of a loss for a bit, and avoid the excess highs of the wins too much.
But I'm having a harder time than normal being detached and rational about this one. The OSU loss, while painful, was understandable from a football perspective. Last night's loss, however, is really hard to fathom. I mean, I can look at the numbers, and it's easy to see why we lost. But it is really infuriating to consider how we ever got those numbers in the first place.
There was a lot of talk in the game and post-game threads about how much of the blame falls on the players, and how much falls on the coaches, and how much falls on Guerreror, and how much falls elsewhere. Like everything in life, I think the answer is E, all of the above. (Note to you new freshmen, it is a fact that "All of the above" is right far more often than it is wrong. If you aren't sure, play the odds and pick it).
So in an exercise of self-preservation, I'm going to avoid psychology and emotion and nostalgia because it's just too painful right now. I'm going to go all cold, calculated, non-emotional South Campus here and just throw out some numbers and see if that gives us any answers. Well, besides 42.
(You North Campus people, just keep reading. It's gonna be ok. The math isn't very complicated, even if the results are pretty depressing).
1. 43: points Cal scored on us. Cal previous high offensive total was 50, against Southern Utah, so I guess Coach Spanos and the D can take solace in that. But otherwise, their offensive totals were 24 and 28 and 9 and 17. We've scored enough to beat 43 just once this year, in week one. We had one defensive tackle who played a whale of a game last night. But there are 11 players total on defense and the defense didn't bring it. This was the ballgame for us. We weren't well prepared and didn't adjust (Cal scored on the same play twice) and the players didn't execute well.
2. 6: Our number of turnovers. Four interceptions, a poorly executed lateral, and a muffed punt. That's 6 times when we still should have had the ball that we gave it to the other team. One of those picks right before half was miscommunication between the QB and receiver. The rest of the turnovers are just bad execution on the part of the players. Now some of that falls on the coaches for putting the players in those situations, like having our QB throw a lateral to a backup QB, but I'm pretty sure the coaches didn't tell our players to repeatedly give the ball to Cal.
3. 27: points Cal scored off of our turnovers. Subtract that from their total of 43 and you get 16. Hey, we win. True, our first touchdown came after a Cal turnover, so it's not that simple, but when you lose the turnover battle, you are much more likely to lose the game, too. Unfortunately, probability held up in this case.
4. 5: That's how many times our QB was sacked. We hate the "young" argument around here, but it does apply to our offensive line some bit. Thin also applies to our offensive line. One injury to our O Line last night resulted in chaos. Cal's D ate up our O line on pass plays all night long. They stunted all across the front and brought extra defenders on the blitz and our O Line was overwhelmed. Even when the QB wasn't hit, he was moving to avoid a rush. Yet, despite the difficulty in the passing game, we ran 47 pass plays to 34 running plays on the night. That's bad play calling and failure to adjust, which leads me to...
5. 15 carries, 103 yards: the rushing numbers for our senior tailback. 103 divided by 15 is almost 7, and 7 yards per carry is really really good. But 15 carries in a game is really really bad. Especially when Cal's run defense is notably bad. Remember when we were hyping our running back as a Heisman candidate after week 2? Apparently the coaching staff doesn't. IE Angel was talking about this before the first half ended. Sometimes, if something works, you just feed it. I don't care about fancy passes to the sidelines and misdirection and all that stuff in the playbook. Just hand it off it to the guy who is making plays. Especially when your QB is getting killed by the pass rush and missing open receivers and throwing picks. What were the coaches thinking?
6. 12 penalties, 99 yards: U.C.L.A.'s penalty stats. We've seen this number before. This is one area of our game where we have shown remarkable consistency. It only took us until the second play from scrimmage to commit a penalty. We got our usual too many men in the huddle penalty (it goes to 11, Bruins). U.C.L.A. penalties gave Cal 2 first downs on one of their TD drives. I can understand an occasional holding call on the O Line, or a pass interference by a DB who knows he is beaten. But I don't know what gets into a player's head that makes him throw down an opponent who is already out of bounds, or punch his opponent even in retaliation, or grab for a face mask in the open field. I know that player went out after that last infraction, but was right back in on the next series. Yes, they need to be held accountable, but the players know the rules. Discipline counts for some, but penalties are still on them.
7. 5: the number of incompletions by Cal's QB. Cal's QB was 25-30 on the night. He is their offense's weakest point. He has been sacked more than any QB in the country this year. He is an interception machine. And he tore us up. Sickening. Come to think of it, we've made a lot of opposing QB's look pretty good this year. That used to be a combo of players who can't do the job, and the coaches sticking with them anyway, but now the coaches should know better.
8. 8 - 14: The win - loss record of the 4 teams we have beaten this year. I really wanted to think that our fast start and high scoring offense was all on us. It's looking like it had a lot more to do with our opponents than we'd hoped. Now consider the current win-loss record of our opponents for the rest of the year is 19-13.
9. 2007: the last season we were ranked. 2012 - 2007 is 5 years ago. We had a 4-1 record and were ranked number 25 in the country that season. Sound familiar? We lost that next game and didn't see a national ranking for the next 5 years. When do you think we'll be back in the Top 25 again? 2012 + 5?
10. 7: The number of losses in a row at Cal. We are single-handedly keeping Jeff Tedford employed, which is actually a good thing for D-1 football as a whole. The only problem is that we seem to be the only team who can't take advantage of it. Oh, the irony. They do give out medals for falling on the grenade right? Maybe we'll get one of those. Or seven.
Those are some pretty ugly numbers, and there are a lot of other nasty numbers I left out, too. So what do all these numbers mean? Well, I guess that's where the South Campus data and the North Campus philosophy need to come together. On a quick analysis, I'd say the players are partly responsible for all but 5 and 8. The coaching staff is partly responsible for every number, and are solely responsible for 5. The culture can be blamed for 6, 8, 9, and 10, and is indirectly responsible for all of them. And Dan Guerrero just needs to be fired yesterday.
What the numbers show is that U.C.L.A. has problems at every level of the football program right now. U.C.L.A. still has a lot of the problems it had 1 year ago, and 5 years ago, and 10 years ago. It has a lack of discipline and accountability and playmaking and leadership. The culture might have changed a little bit, but it hasn't changed enough. Not enough to prevent the 1-4 team from beating the 4-1 team by 26. Not enough for us to get to the 8-9 wins that looked easy after week 2. Not enough to justify the $750K Guerreror is making. Not enough to fill 96,000 seats in our rental stadium. Not enough to make a win over 2-3 Utah next week give anyone any legitimate confidence that the big picture is really ok.
Man, the numbers don't lie. They just look really bad right now. Almost makes one want to be a dance major.
It's 6 days until our next game, Bruins. And it has been 26 years since our last Rose Bowl win. For you North Campus types that struggle with numbers, that is way too long.
There is one more number this morning, as today is my wife's birthday. I don't know if she wants me telling everyone that number, but unlike the football numbers, this one is beautiful.