Which team are we, coach? The team that outthought and outfought Nebraska? Or the team that was outcoached and outplayed by OSU? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Same old U.C.L.A.?
Maybe. Maybe not. I can't tell. I guess it depends on your perspective.
On one hand, you can look at yesterday's game and say that OSU is a very solid team with a very good defense and they had two weeks to prepare for us. They took advantage of a gaping hole in our O Line (a unit we were worried about preseason) at right guard with run blitzes that killed our running game before it ever had a chance, and flushed our QB out of the pocket repeatedly. They took advantage of a weak spot in our secondary (a unit we were worried about preseason) and kept going at it to the tune of maybe 17 points. They took advantage of a QB who clearly isn't running full speed because he got dragged down by pursuing defensive players on multiple occasions. They took advantage of our shaky kicking game by being prepared for the swinging gate formation which we showed in the Rice game. I wrote twice this week that whichever team executed better would win, and OSU did that. U.C.L.A. will still be ok, and Oregon State should get all the credit.
On the other hand, you can look at yesterday's game and say that our coaching staff overthought things with cards and play-calls and got away from our strengths and coached us right out of being ready to play. We are thin on the all-important offensive line and our offense will be grounded until that gets fixed. We just don't have enough talent in the defensive secondary to match up with the opposition's best skill players. Our offense did not find a way to attack a solid OSU defense and is hampered by being unable to play a power game in the red zone, and did not capitalize on OSU mistakes and turnovers. We don't have a reliable kicker and we are going to lose close games because of it. Experienced players who should be our most reliable playmakers and leaders are not. I also wrote twice this week that this year's Bruins still needed to prove that they were mature enough to win tough games like this, and they didn't. U.C.L.A. should get all the blame, and nothing has really changed.
I don't know which one it is.
Man, I'm having trouble with perspective tonight.
I watched this game from a hotel in the mountains. My son has hockey games here this weekend and we left home several hours earlier than necessary so I could get here in time to watch the football game. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do to him, but from my perspective, I was excited about what's happening with U.C.L.A. football, and I wanted to see this game.
So after making the extra effort to get here to watch, it was especially frustrating to see how well prepared OSU was - or discouraging to see how unprepared we were; frustrating to see how well the OSU players executed - or disappointing to see how poorly some of our key guys played; frustrating to see the game thread comments of Bruin football fans with PTSD who just couldn't handle our team letting us down again - or disappointing to see the entitled fair weather bandwagoners who were pissing and moaning in the first quarter when they really had no right to do so. Either way, whether it was them or us, it was an unhappy ending.
And to add salt to the wound, my son's team lost by one tonight, on a power play goal with 2 minutes left. It was pretty gut wrenching on one hand, but on the other, it wasn't an official league game so it doesn't count the same. But it's my son. Should I be more upset at my kid's hockey team losing a heartbreaker or at my Bruins for losing a game with not enough heart in the first place? I guess it depends on perspective. And from that standpoint, there are others around BN who suffered bigger personal losses this week that make a bunch of games seem absolutely tiny in comparison.
So taking everything into consideration, this game was not purely one side or the other. It was everything. A good offensive scheme by OSU was made better by our poor tackling and pass coverage. A good OSU defense was made better by our weakness on the O line and a hobbled QB which created a one dimensional offense. A good OSU coaching job was made better by our lack of planning and preparation. OSU gets a lot of credit, and we get a lot of blame. It explains some of our shortcomings, and shines a spotlight on some others.
This is exactly the kind of game we are unfortunately used to seeing the Bruins lose. A game where we are favored. A game at home. A game where it looks like we have a better roster. A game where it looks like we are on a roll. A game where we go put and under perform and look uninspired and get out-coached. Been there, done that.
But I don't really know if it's that simple. I mean, this is the same team and coaching staff that beat Nebraska pretty good. That was a game where we weren't favored. We weren't sure if we had better players. We had no basis to know whether we were any good. And that time we played very well and looked motivated and were well prepared. So which Bruin team is this?
This team had a chance to bury the ghosts of the past two coaches and 10 years by coming out and living up to new expectations and playing its game and making OSU adjust and react and finally capitulate. Instead, it rekindled the fading sparks of our fears into a bonfire of questions about lousy coaching and sloppy play and poor fundamentals and another enormously wasted opportunity.
No one (realistically) expected this team to go undefeated. Most of us would have taken 3-1 a this point. But after the way this team started, the current 3-1 looks a lot sketchier than had that L come against Nebraska. So I don't know how to look at this team right now.
But here is what I am sure of. How this team responds next week will be very revealing. Was OSU an aberration? Or was Nebraska the aberration? Time will tell if Oregon State was a speed bump on the way to better days for this program, or if Oregon State was the game that exposed the pipe dream of culture change in Westwood. It's not time to jump off the bandwagon yet. But maybe we should spend less time gloating and more time making sure we are as good as we can be.
Let's see how the Bruins look against Colorado next week. You know them. The Buffaloes. The worst team in America as of last Friday?
Well, they are in first place in the Pac-12 South as of today. And guess who's in last.