I can't remember the last time I was so bitterly disappointed following a UCLA football game. And that's saying something given the number of disappointments we've faced over the past decade or so. Honestly, I might have to go back to 1998 Miami (damnit, Melsby's knee was down!) to get to the general neighborhood of how I'm feeling tonight after Oregon still some five hours after the final whistle. I think what's really killing me about this game is that in my opinion, we lost before our guys even stepped out on the Autzen turf. In my mind, this game was inexcusably lost nearly a week ago when the coaching staff made their final decisions about the offensive game plan that was installed last week.
Frankly, we expect our coaching staff to have a higher standard for our team than the Talking Heads on tWWL who said we had no chance to beat Oregon. They shouldn't care that Vegas had us as a multiple touchdown underdog. (Aside: We should NEVER be OK with being a multiple TD underdog in our own conference. No disrespect to Oregon - they've built a great program. Sure, they've got that Nike money but there's having money and there's knowing how to use it. It must be nice to have a competent athletic administration but now I'm seriously digressing. Bottom line, though, is that if they can do it, we can do it.) They should have full faith that our kids can go anywhere and beat anyone at anytime because if they don't believe it, then how can the kids? Based on what we saw today, Mazonne and company clearly never believed we could beat Oregon and that is completely unacceptable. We expect more.
I don't really care what offensive system we run. I don't care if it's the N-zone, the pistol (I know, it's a formation, not a system), the west coast offense, or whatever-the-hell Norm Chow ran when he was here. What I do care about is offensive philosophy. Football is a game of aggression and the better the opponent, the more aggressive you need to be. I expect offensive game plans that attack the front seven, attack the secondary, and attack the endzone. Mazonne, inexplicably, did the opposite. Against a better opponent, he got less aggressive.
We saw swing passes. We saw read-option. We saw pre-snap motion that really never led to anything. We saw a predictable pattern of passive plays (alliteration at 1 AM - that's a first for me) that had some success early but were easily countered as the game went on. We saw no attempt to attack the middle of the field with the intermediate passing game. We saw no screens (and I don't mean swing passes or bubble screens - I mean traditional let-the-rush-through-and-release-the-linemen screens). We saw no attempt to get Hundley out of the pocket on bootlegs or roll-outs (I mean, why WOULD you want to take advantage of the most mobile QB UCLA has had in forever, particularly with a young offensive line). We saw no attempt to stretch the defense vertically. We saw no trick plays. We saw no adjustments at halftime. We saw complete coaching capitulation (ok, I'll stop!). Damnit, we expect more.
I've never been a football coach so I don't entirely understand the relationship between the HC and the OC. Mazonne is going to have to wear this loss for awhile because this was his game plan and his play-calling - frankly, I think he should lose his job.. But at some point during the week leading up to the game, I'm assuming Mora has a chance to give some input. Certainly during the game, I assume that Mora's headset isn't just for show. I assume if he's not happy with the play-calling, he can say something. My point is, Mora should have had multiple opportunities to direct Mazonne to dial up the aggressiveness and it clearly never happened. This is made doubly frustrating by the fact the defensive aggressiveness was right on point (we regularly attacked the backfield and put some hard hits on Oregon's skill players). So Mora has to wear this loss too and damnit, we expect more.
For some reason, I've been thinking back to the '95 u$c game. If memory serves, that was Cade's first 'SC game and his freshman year was pretty rocky. I don't remember the line or anything like that but I'm certain that 'SC was favored to win. And again, if memory serves, we won the game on the strength of a pass off of a reverse for an early touchdown (Kevin Jordan maybe with the catch?) and a naked bootleg by Cade to ice it in the 4th. I know it's not the perfect comparison for many reasons, but the philosophy going into that game by our coaching staff (I think that was Donahue's last year) was surprisingly sound.
Mora, I like the energy and attitude you bring to the program. I just want your philosophy on the field to match the philosophy your project off of it. This was a winnable game. It was a program-defining, winnable game. Your record in these types of games is not stellar and you're running out of time to fix it.
We will always loyally support the Bruins, but Jim, we expect more.