UCLA Pregame Guesses: Washington Huskies Edition

Stephen Dunn

All things considered, the Bruins are experiencing a very nice season

Los Lobos at The Ritz - Will The Wolf Survive (via angel luna)

I'm Shakin' - The Blasters 1981 (via paintdiva)

(Sorry in advance, I have to keep this short. This week’s video is "Will The Wolf Survive" by Los Lobos. The quality isn’t the greatest but I wanted a live version of the song performed in the 80s and this is what I found. The bonus video is Little Willie’s John’s "I’m Shakin’" performed in 1981 by The Blasters. I’m seeing Los Lobos’ 40th anniversary show tonight at The Whiskey and as a result I’m writing this in between meetings at work. I am really looking forward to the show – I started seeing Los Lobos in clubs when I was a UCLA student, then followed them up to larger venues like The Greek Theater. But it’s been years since I saw them in a place like The Whiskey. On top of that, The Blasters are opening for Los Lobos and are playing with both Phil and Dave Alvin. If any of you are fans of The Blasters, you know that Phil (the lead singer) has been ill for years and hasn’t been able to sing with them. Dave left The Blasters years ago, but the last time I saw them (at The Troubadour) it was a benefit for Phil and Dave sang all the songs in his place. These are two of the truly great Los Angeles rock and roll bands and seeing them together in one of the city’s great rock and roll spots is going to be great. But, as a result of my musical indulgences, Pregame Guesses is going to be short and sweet this week.)

As I noted in the post game comments after the Arizona game, Achilles’ is feeling a tiny bit vindicated.

I’ve been writing that we lack high end skill players on offense for a while now and also that most of our top players are on defense. Well, we all saw what happened when Jim Mora moved some of those highly skilled defensive players to the offensive.

Now clearly I’m not the only person who made that observation but I so rarely write something that manifests itself as accurate, you will forgive me if I feel good about making that observation.

There is no need to rehash what Myles Jack did when he carried the ball nor do we need to go over the fact that he was joined on offense by Jordan Zumwalt and a bunch of other guys from the defense and that without them playing both ways we probably don’t beat Arizona. But maybe we should take a step back and take a look at why it was necessary for Mora and Noel Mazzone to do what they did.

One reason is this: We have no fullbacks or true tight ends on our team. Maybe we have one fullback but he gets so little playing time that I don’t even know his name. So, when we needed to go big and run some power plays, we had to adapt and use linebackers and defensive linemen in what was essentially a diamond version of the pistol formation with two tight ends. Mora called Mazzone a "mad scientist" but let’s not over-hype this. Necessity is the mother of invention, not Mazzone, and if we were going to put in a power formation we had no choice but to use defensive players.

And highlights what I see as a basic problem with the team. At the very least, it’s a contradiction.

See, we’re a defensive team. I’ve written ad nauseum that our defense is way ahead of our offense and even Mora acknowledges that he focuses on the defense and leaves Mazzone alone on offense. So, on defense we’re coached by two highly thought of former pro coaches (Mora and defensive coordinator Lou Spanos) and on offense Mazzone is left to his own devices. How you feel about that is going to really depend on what you think about Mazzone’s offense.

For the purposes of this column, I’ll stay neutral on Mazzone. What I am noting is that Mazzone’s offense may not be the perfect fit for a "defense first" team. Our offense and the way we’ve recruited to that offense, doesn’t have any tight ends or fullbacks. It doesn’t have the personnel to grind out drives consistently or even to pick up first downs in short yardage situations. It’s a spread offense, with zone reads.

Maybe I’m making too much of this. I’m going to acknowledge right here and now that I’m still working through this and would love to read some criticisms and alternative takes below in the comments.

My concern with my own theory – that our offense is not really ball control enough for a team that leads with its defense – is that with Johnathan Franklin we were much more of a running team. It’s possible that if we had Jordan James and a more mature offensive line, we would in fact have more ball control ability.

Let’s leave that alone for a bit and talk about it in the comments.

In case you haven’t notices, we’re 7-2.

But we might be the most criticized 7-2 team in the country and that criticism is coming from within our own ranks.

We’re 7-2 and I’m reading commentary that suggests we haven’t been dominant enough in our wins. We should have beaten Cal and Colorado by more. We should have put Arizona away much earlier than we did. We’ll be lucky to win one of our last four. SC is really scaring me, we have to get much better to beat them.

I dunno, man, I’m so happy that we’re 7-2 that I’m not worrying about any of that stuff.

(Sorry the Pregame Guesses column was late this morning. I had a great time at the Los Lobos/Blasters show last night but I am not so young anymore – neither are the two bands for that matter – and I’m just not having a chance to finish up the post.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah.

Look. I’m sitting at my desk right now and I should be tired. But I'm not. I'm all pumped up and I haven't even had coffee yet. I’m really excited for tonight’s game. I’m leaving work early, picking up my kid at school and heading to Pasadena.

I’m going to wear a black t-shirt – some concert t-shirt most likely – and my black leather jacket. I even have an all black UCLA New Era 5950 cap to wear.

What more can I ask for, really?

It’s November 15 and we’re playing a meaningful game on national television. I don’t even care that I have to drive 28 miles across the city in arguably the worst traffic on the continental United States (do I cut across the Sepulveda Pass or go through downtown)?

I think maybe we should all be excited, we should all be happy.

It’s really easy, and I’m as bad as the next guy, to constantly worry about this or that. We’re not there yet. The program isn't there yet. There are still teams out there that we couldn’t beat on most Saturdays. But doesn’t it feel like we’re on the road to somewhere?

Go Bruins.

And with that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Washington Huskies edition:

  1. Name a defensive player other than Myles Jack who will run with the ball or catch a pass. Bonus points if they score a touchdown.
  2. Given the traffic on Fridays, it might impact attendance. Plus, we won't have all the high school kids at the game because Friday nights are high school football nights. Will the announced attendance exceed 75,000?
  3. Which team will be leading after THREE quarters?

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