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What It All Means

I'd like to take a moment to do an analysis of the season thus far.  I flatter myself to say that the reason I do this is because you simply won't find this type of analysis elsewhere.  But the truth is that the community we have here is pretty good at analysis too.  

But you won't find it in the conventional wisdom-driven mainstream media, or the access shills elsewhere.

Let's look at a few stats for the season now that the Bruins have three games under their belts.

Rushing ypg 148 (58th)
Passing ypg 271 (25th)
Yards pg    426 (10th)
Points pg   42.3 (11th)

Pretty good.  The rushing offense has been down a bit, but thus far opposing teams have used the game plan of trying to stop the run and forcing Drew Olson to beat them.  Over the first three games, Drew Olson was up to the task, and the gaudy passing stats have proven this.  Against Washington, the Huskies effectively stopped the run, and for most of the game, Drew Olson was not up to the task, however, in the final and gamewinning drive, he was able to get it done.

This much seems clear: if this team is to be succesful, the Drew Olson of the first three games  and the end of the UW game needs to show up, not the Drew Olson of much of the Washington game.  This much seems fairly obvious, and Brian Dohn's game recap provides the narrative pretty clearly:

Washington was in control as UCLA sputtered through most of the first three quarters, dropping passes, having balls batted down at the line and suffering a general malaise.

However, Olson began to find his groove later in the third quarter, on the drive after Washington took a 17-7 lead on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Isaiah Stanback.

On UCLA's next drive Olson was on target as he went 6 for 6 for 46 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown toss to fullback Michael Pitre, on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull the Bruins within 17-14.

That set up the biggest drive in Olson's career. The Bruins took over with 3:39 remaining, and immediately looked to be in trouble again. But on a fourth-and-1 from the UCLA 36, Olson

looked right and connected with Andrew Baumgartner for five yards.

DO also noted, as an optimistic type might, that not playing well and still getting a victory can be seen as a sign of character.

Indeed, I will say that this is one of the first concrete signs of "character," that much pointed to but heretofor completely unsupported by evidence "sign" of reason for confidence in Karl Dorrell.

So credit where credit is due, but blame where blame is appropriate as well.

Results matter.  But process matters to.  Results matter, and that is why we were hard on Karl Dorrell for his career record.  But if results matter, then Karl Dorrell deserves credit for going 4-0 thus far.  But process matters too.  And that is why Karl Dorrell deserves blame for this, to name just a few things:

Being down 0-10 at home going into the half and the ball on their own 38 with 25 seconds remaining, Karl Dorrell elected to kneel down to end the half (with all his timeouts remaining).  That is gutless.  That is playing not to lose.  If you're really nervous about turning the ball over, throw the ball into the endzone or along the sideline.  Or run once and call a timeout, then take a shot down the field.  Nope.  No guts.  Playing not to lose.

That's one thing.

Another is the stats for the game

65 rushing yards, 2.5 ypc.  Giving up a whopping 213 yards and 5.2 ypc to a 1-4 team.  Giving up 401 yards to that same team.  

Being penalized 13 times for 110 yards.

Being penalized 37 times on the season for 325 yards.  That's good for 18th in DIA.  That's not a stat you want to be in the top 20.  

Having a third down conversion percentage of 41.3%.  52nd in DIA.  Not good.

First downs per game 20.3.  61st in DIA.  How good of a measurment is this?  USC is 5th.  Texas is 17th.  Texas Tech is 2nd, Notre Dame is 4th, Michigan State is 7th, Boston College 10th, ASU 12th.

Here's the defensive stats.

364 ypg (55th)
179.5 rush ypg (91st)
184.5 pass ypg (30th)
46th in pass efficiency defense
364 ypg (55th)
giving up 20.75 ppg (42nd)

These defensive stats are not good.  Look here for a more complete look, and it also lists national and conference leaders.  We lead the conference only in punt returns (unsurprisingly).  However, it's worth noting that the Bruins fare pretty well in turnover margin and a few other stats.

This is what we mean by process.  The stats are not comforting.  There is reason for concern.

Also note that Cal's defense tops the conference in virtually every category.  This means our strength (offense) will go against their strength, but I worry very much about Cal's offense against our defense.

There is a very real danger from putting too much stock in one game, whether it be the Oklahoma game, the Cal game, or the Washington game, for that matter.  This is true for those who have faith in Dorrell, and for those who are dubious.  Beating Cal will not erase all my concerns, nor should losing to Cal necessarilly mean that I am right in all my concerns.  This is why beating Cal will answer some questions, but it is not the end-all-be-all for me, any more than it should be for those who think Dorrell is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  The same is true of a loss.

And the same can be said for a win, although a very sloppy one over UW.  Yes, it raised my level of concern, and until the final gun sounded there was a very real feeling that the bad-old-days of losing games that we have no business losing were coming back.

But we won.  Again, credit where credit is due.  But that doesn't erase the sloppiness, the poor timeout management, the gutless calls, the questionable playcalling, the lack of preparation or a good gameplan.  

But neither do all of those negatives erase the thrilling come from behind victory, the first true display of character (although Dorrell supporters have been claiming this as a positive all along, you decide if they were right all along, or if the team just now displayed character for the first time), or other positives.

Being 2 for 11 on third down conversions.

The bottom line is, there's a lot we know, but a lot we don't know.  But let's hold off from giving Karl Dorrell the Coach of the Year Award, and let's also give him credit for a 4-0 start.