In some ways I am not as crushed about yesterday's loss because everything just seems so predictable. It's like clockwork for UCLA to lose a big game in October year after year. It has happened so many times that it's not worth making a list. The reactions after these losses are also predictable.
Some of us (like yours truly) get upset and sarcastic.
Some of us look for silver linings and look for all the excuses (it's the "football gods"! They hate our Bruins).
Some of us look forward to ways to salvage the season.
Some of us just look forward to next season
MEH. This happens year after year as somehow we work ourselves up to a tizzy thinking "this will be the year" before another "big game."
Yes, I get how UCLA has been moving toward the right direction under the current coaching staff after 0-50. I get how we have been recruiting really well.
But yet in the back of my mind (and I am sure many here), it's tough to wipe out the memories of last 3 games of 2012 and also the ugly losses against Oregon State and UC Berkeley.
Those questions are fresh this week after another less than impressive performance against a beatable Stanford team led by an ultra-conservative head-coach, who seemed to keep daring Jim Mora to take the game away.
I guess it is not going to be a fun week here on BN. Bruins have a date with the Ducks in the national spotlight. Realistically it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Bruins can prevail next Saturday. Especially given what we saw against Stanford, it's unclear whether we have made any progress as a program from last year's 9-5 season. There are questions, problems and issues on number of fronts in this program with not a lot of encouraging answers.
Here are some of pointers after watching the game in person in Palo Alto this weekend.
GHOSTS OF 2001
Earlier last week I wrote in a post how the circumstances going into yesterday's game was very similar to our Stanford trip in 2001. Well, it's too bad it appears that the same ghosts showed up. I don't need to go into detail what happened after that letdown loss against Stanford in 2001. But once again very similar to 2001, UCLA had to follow that Stanford trip with another road-trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on Washington State (the Cougars were pretty decent back then). And here we are facing a game-week against no. 2 Oregon with sentiments such as hoping to play "respectable football" in Eugene. Ok. Then.
PUNTING IS WINNING
The first moment came early in second quarter. The Bruins were down 0-3. Our defense was playing solid (man, those guys played their hearts out all game) and the offense was showing some signs of life. The Bruins had 2nd and 15 on Stanford 44. Hundley IIRC completed a pass to Perkins for a 8 yard gain to give us a 3rd and 7. What happened next?
- Brett rushed for 1 to get to Stanford 35
- With a 4th and 6 and a chance to make a Statement on Stanford 35 - MORA decides to punt. #BruinRevolution
At that point - couple of Stanford gentlemen - sitting infront of us in section 120 just turned around and told us, "thank God you guys have a conservative NFL coach. He is keeping us in the game, just like our guy will give you new life by running up the middle in second half." LOL. Boy, did they turn out to be right.
One thing is for sure. There are lot of Stanford fans, who are not happy with Shaw at all. But hey, I guess for the Trees punting is all about winning and after two years, I get the sense Mora may not be all that different. We will see.
DEPTH AT OL
Going into pre-season camp in 2013, we were all fired up about our OL depth:
Consistency is not a word that has commonly been attached to the U.C.L.A. Offensive Line. Several years of misadventures with injuries and grades and transfers and varying personnel were the norm for the Bruins. When I'd write this preview in past years, I would look long and hard for positives and we'd fall back on potential and stab at position changes and in the end we'd be left relying mostly on hope.
Fortunately, times have changed, and Bruin fans have a lot more than hope to rely on this season. The Bruins return 4 starters from an 2012 offensive line that was generally quite good. I haven't gone back and look, but I'll bet it's been a very long time since we had that many starters coming back. And while it is comforting to have not just hope, but also talent and experience returning, the 2013 OL unit is also bolstered by an incoming class of linemen can legitimately push those 4 starters and may even be good enough to supplant them by the time kickoff comes. Things in the trenches are good and getting better. And for a welcome change, the Bruins offensive line can reliably be seen as a known strength, rather than a work in progress, as we head into the 2013 pre-season camp.
Yet here we go again.
And, we don't have Jeff Baca to blame this year for one maddening penalties after another from the offensive line. Looks like this is a problem across the board except for XSF. Is this on the players or the coach in charge of the unit?
I get it. We are young. This is all about next year. It's always about "next year" and the "future" for UCLA football, which seems to be forever young. We have been young team for more than a decade now. That's the magic of Dan Guerrero. He's found the fountain of chianti youth, that keeps our major revenue programs young year after year.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES OUR "QUARTERBACKS COACH" DO DURING WEEKDAYS?
I'd love to get more insight on this from folks who have attended practice regularly. Something is off here. Taylor Mazzone was promoted from a graduate assistant to "Y receivers coach" back in January, but in the official site he is specifically listed as a "quarterbacks coach." What exactly are Mazzone's job responsibilities at UCLA?
Because right now it looks like Hundley has been regressing through his third year in Westwood. Both his decision-making process and mechanics look like they are getting worse every week (even though Mora called Hundley's issues as "correctable decisions" earlier last week).
WHO SETS THE RUNNING BACK ROTATION?
Another question for both Mora and Mazzone. UCLA's RB rotation was beyond baffling on Saturday. Malcolm Jones got a surprising start for the Bruins and started out in fire. He gained 28 yards in his first 3 carries in UCLA's first series and then was promptly taken out. He didn't get to return to the rotation until third quarter. Seriously what the f**k happened there? Mazzone sounded as clueless as Ben Howland used to in his post-game conferences in recent years when he trotted out responses like "I should have played ___ more today."
Who sets UCLA's RB rotation? Who coordinates the setting of our RB rotation with our offensive playcalling? Because it was a cluster you know what yesterday and it's not the first time it has been a mess.
STANFORD FOOTBALL FANS ARE PRETTY COOL
I mentioned this above. This was my second trip to the Farm for a UCLA football game (maybe we will finally win for my third trip in 2015) and my experience both times have been different than charnaw's. In general, I found the Stanford fans to be pretty cool. Yes, there was one loudmouth in our section who was being a little silly. But in general the fans around us were very gracious and knowledgeable about the game. We had some good-natured back and forth, but we got to chat up a lot about Stanford-UCLA football and the conservative mindset of both coaching staff during the game. It was pretty pleasant except for the final outcome.
TAILGATING AT THE FARM = FUN; NICE SHOWING BY THE BRUIN CROWD
Tailgating at the Farm is pretty fun. It was a perfect AM on Saturday for early tailgating and the Bruin Nation IMO was out in force. Our fans were great through the game. Yes, we were subdued because of our inept offensive playcalling and conservative mindset (can't really get fired up after the head coach decides to punt Donahue/Dorrell/Neuheisel style in first half with the ball on opponent's 35) in the first half. But in the second half when we got to within 10-17 and the defense held the Stanford O multiple times (thanks Shaw!) - the Bruins made some serious noise.
Hey, even I can find some silver lining.
Or maybe we all care just way too much. We should just worry about tailgating and the band, and just stop caring what actually happens on the field and the final scoreboard ... just like Cubs' fans.