The Morning After, Part 1: Nevada

Wait, I've seen this before. - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If only I'd remembered my North Campus philosophy and history classes at UCLA, halftime would have been a lot more peaceful and pleasant, and a brief glimpse of serenity might have lasted.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it - George Santayana

Those who forget the past are condemned to be unnecessarily nervous at halftime. - gbruin's Santayana corollary #1

Bruin Revolution or Bruin Rewind?

Game one for U.C.L.A.: our team has high expectations but still has several question marks especially surrounding a large group of young players; we face an opponent from a smaller conference that, on paper, we should beat easily; the game starts with our promising young QB popping a big TD run early and the offense clicks well through the first half but the defense struggles against a scrappy mobile QB and gives up lots of yards and we find ourselves in an uncomfortably tight game at halftime.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s last year’s opener at Rice that I’m talking about. Forget Bruin Revolution. This was Bruin déjà vu. And Santayana would have told me to remember the past, relax, and look forward to what was coming.

Of course, I didn't spend enough time in North Campus. So I have to admit it. I was kind of nervous at halftime. And a little bit irritated, too. I guess learned helplessness dies a slow hard death.

I mean, last year, we really didn’t know what to expect from our football team, and recent history had been so bad we really had no right to expect that much right out of the gate. But this year was different. This was clearly supposed to be our best football team in ten, if not twenty-five, years. We hadn’t had a roster this good or this deep in forever. We hadn’t had a recruiting class like this in forever. The coaching staff looked complete. Most players had a year in the system under their belts. Everyone looked bigger and faster and stronger. We have guys that we think should get consideration for Heisman campaigns. The coaches and the players alike talked in all earnestness about championships.

And yet, there we were, watching our supposedly overmatched opponent march right down the field on us before halftime and score. And yes, I'm still talking about Rice. And it took a great defensive turnaround and score to finally flip the game in our favor, and from that point the Bruins dominated the second half and made the game look like an easy win.

Yes. Rice, still. Weird, isn't it?

I'm sorry, George. If I had listened to you and simply remembered the past, I could have known a monster defensive turnaround was coming and from then on the second half would be smooth sailing. But South Campus didn't prepare me well to be a philosophical football fan. I forgot my history and philosophy, and just like last year against Rice, I was condemned to a particularly uncomfortable and stressful halftime full of anxiety over what might befall us in the second half.

So it wasn't Taylor McHargue gashing us but Cody Fajardo. And it wasn't a 44 yard fumble return for a touchdown that turned the tide but a big sack and bigger blocked punt returned for a touchdown. And it wasn't a convincing 14-0 second half finish from that point but a dominating 27-7 rout. Still, in the end, the results were the same: U.C.L.A. 1-0 on the season. Rice, Nevada, it doesn't matter. The W was coming all along. Close your eyes. Breathe. Trust. Relax. Ommm...

Hey, this feels...good! So this why Alabama fans always look so calm?

Now, with peace discovered and reason and sanity restored, we can look back at some of those parallels and see that last night’s game makes a bit more sense now. It was the first game of the year so naturally there are still some kinks to work out. The players were maybe too amped early on and ran themselves out of gaps and allowed yards that shouldn't have been there. There were lots of freshmen playing their first college game and it takes a while for those kids to settle in to the speed and power of a live college football game. Our opponent was an unknown with no previous games to for us to study and prepare from, and this was compounded by facing a new coach making it even harder to know what to expect.

So maybe it’s understandable why it took a half to get our feet under us. It should, in retrospect, be pretty comforting that once we had a chance to go in at halftime and consider the first half and make some specific adjustments, we came out in the second half as a different team and our size and speed and athleticism took over and produced exactly what we thought should happen. In retrospect, this was a very valuable game as we got to face a really good running quarterback and learn what we did right and where we need to improve, and that will help because we are going to see a bunch more good mobile QB's this season, like, for instance, Taylor Martinez at Nebraska.

And guess what! Our next game is against Nebraska! Yes, just like last year!

So have I learned anything from last night? Have I realized that I can relax and watch the game and have faith in my Bruins that they may start steady but not flashy, but Mora and his crew will make all the right adjustments and we will pull away and dominate as the game goes on? Have I gained the reassuring confidence that this team has done it before and they will do it again? Will I look at Bruins football like I look at a sunrise, not with the fear of it failing to occur, but with peaceful anticipation of the daily beauty of nature's first rays on the Rocky Mountains - or the Pacific Ocean for you non-exiles?

Am I learning anything yet?

I think not! Because when I look ahead to the Nebraska game, I'm certain we cannot count on déjà vu this time. Last year I think we were the unknowns who snuck up on them a little bit. Last year, the Nebraska game was our home opener played in front of a fired up Rose Bowl. Last year, Taylor Martinez was still working on throwing a football properly. This year, we won’t be a surprise to them. This year the game is going to be played in a sea of red in a hot humid town in Nebraska. This year, Taylor Martinez is one of the top dual threat QB's in the country. It's not at all like last year. Can we really go to Lincoln and win? I mean, Aikman didn't. But we're not facing Tom Osborne. And we don't have Donahue. Nor do we have Matt Darby. But wait, that was in Pasadena. And we had real stripes on our jerseys then. So it's all different now and we can't rely on the past. Who knows what can happen! Anything can happen. Anything at all! Oh man, this uncertainty is killing me now!

See, déjà vu doesn't really work. It's not logical. History and philosophy? Come on, you can't expect the past to repeat itself. What were we saying again? Something that Santayana said, right? Wait, what was it? Oye como va? Yeah, something like that. I always liked that song, but I'm glad that part of his band split and formed Journey. I used to listen to Journey all the time while walking to South Campus. Wait, what were we talking about again? Shoot, I don't remember. But dang, I love my Bruins like none other, but I am already anxious like a long tailed cat in a rocking chair factory over going to Lincoln. Oh man, this feels...stressful!

Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others. - George Santaya

Never build your emotional life on the weakness of your faith in your college football team - gbruin's Santayana corollary #2

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