So slowly but surely things are becoming clearer in the wake of Saturday's historic win over Southern California. There have been endless articles and columns already in the traditional media reflecting on last weekend's magic. I can't get enough of them and it is an impossible task to thread all of them into one piece. However, there are two articles (a column and a blog post), which I think give us a template on what we are expecting in the short team (the upcoming Emerald Bowl) and what we are expecting in the coming year under Karl Dorrell.
Adande from LA Times nailed one of the main points on the significance of Saturday's win (emphasis ours throughout):
When the euphoria from this game wears off and the Bruins reconvene for practice, they will be preparing for the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27. Yet another season that will end before January. That's not acceptable to an increasingly intolerant UCLA fan base that has watched Carroll's successful run at USC over the last five years -- and UCLA's futility in this matchup that predates it -- and wondered why they can't have some of that success themselves.
Athletic Director Dan Guerrero shares their wishes, if not their frustration with Coach Karl Dorrell. If there's any heat on Dorrell, you won't find matches in Guerrero's pockets. Fresh off the victory Saturday, Guerrero didn't say "Told you so," but he did use the word "validates" twice.
"We made an investment in Karl," Guerrero said. "I don't like what I see in college athletics a lot, where coaches are being replaced without an opportunity to show their stuff in a general sense.
"That being said, we have expectations and we want to move this program forward. We want to compete on a national level. I understand that takes time. If I didn't think things were on the right track -- I mean, look at my career. I'm not hesitant to make those decisions [referring to his quick hooks for Bob Toledo and Steve Lavin after Guerrero took the job]. But I don't see that [with Dorrell]. I saw a lot of things this year that showed that we were on the right track."
It depends what parts he watched. This same Bruins team that took out the second-ranked team in the nation Saturday lost to the second-worst team in the Pacific 10 Conference 10 weeks ago. This three-game winning streak to finish the regular season was preceded by a four-game losing skid.
Now Saturday's victory against Southern California was an incredible and collectively cathartic experience for all of us in the Bruins Nation. As noted by bloggers at LAist, it may have some wider implications resulting in a paradigm shift in the UCLA football program:
Without question, USC had superior talent on both sides of the ball, with more heralded coaches. Didn't matter. UCLA simply outplayed the number two team in the country. There were no fluke plays, no major mistakes that USC made to give the game away. UCLA outstrategized and outworked USC. The Trojans had three times the number of penalties (9-3). On most of the critical plays of the game for USC's offense, the Bruin defense was so dialed in that it appeared they knew what play was coming. John David Booty, the Pac-10's leading passer, was the one who seemed flustered by the relentless pass rush of the UCLA front four, while Pat Cowan, the lightly regarded backup, made plays by keeping his composure even when the pocket broke down. If you had never watched a game of football before in your life and knew nothing about either of the teams, you would have thought that UCLA was the better team.
This is a major paradigm shift in the UCLA camp. Certainly, one win does not change the fact that the team lost five games and has a long way to go to close the gap with the USC program. And it does not all of a sudden mean that Karl Dorrell will necessarily lead the Bruins to a new level of success. But the win is HUGE in terms of getting players and recruits bought into the idea that the UCLA program is legitimate, that it isn't just second fiddle to USC. It showed that the leadership, which has been often questioned by Bruin fans, can put the players in the best position possible to win. As we saw, a team's confidence and belief in itself can lead to great things. UCLA stood toe-to-toe with USC and the Trojans were the ones who flinched.
As the post noted one win doesn't change the fact this team did not meet the minimum expectations for this season (which now looks even more than reasonable given how programs like Washington and Washington State ended up performing this season). However, now Dorrell has an incredible opportunity to build on this historic victory and follow up with a resounding victory over Bobby Bowden's weakened FSU.
Bruins need to finish this season out on a strong note. Because if they don't this season will feel like Lavin's Sweet-16 seasons where emotional, inspiring tourney wins were followed up with depressing and let-down losses. If this team comes out strong on December 27, and close out the season with a resounding win over Florida State, it will build on incredible momentum generated from December 2, and set us up for a magical run in 2007 and beyond.
After Saturday's inspiration the entire Bruins Nation will be rooting for Karl Dorrell to get it done.