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Dorrell's West Coast Offense: Now A Public Joke

I know many of you here like yours truly are regular subscribers of Bruin Report Online (BRO) and man it is worth it. Sure I have serious issues with a number of takes I read in BRO’s message boards. However, when it comes down to it the information on recruiting, previews, game wrapups, Tracy Pierson and Greg Hicks churn out every week is more than worth the piddly subscription cost. I have been subscribing to those guys for years, will continue to do it, and I recommend it highly for rest of my friends on BN.

In any event, as some of you have noted in the comment threads Pierson who until this year has been somewhat mute wrt to the performance of our Sleeping Beauty, has been really speaking out and zeroing on the failure of Karl Dorrell’s WCO. From Tracy’s Oregon State Game Review, which is behind subscription firewall (excerpted with his permission):

We said it a couple of weeks ago, and it bears repeating: UCLA’s offense under Dorrell is a failure. Such a complicated offense can’t work consistently in college, utilizing college players. Its philosophy of a short passing game based on precision, timing, split-second decision-making and exact execution demands too much from 20-year-olds to consistently produce. The only time in four years when Dorrell’s offense has been successful was when it had Drew Olson, a fifth-year senior quarterback with some guts, and two NFL players, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis. And it only did well that year, in 2005, when, after three quarters of a game, it couldn’t move the ball and it came down to the offense having to throw the ball down the field and those three somewhat abandoning the offensive scheme to improvise and make plays. They were probably drawing up plays on their palm in the huddle.

Everything that was bad about the Oregon State game was related to UCLA’s offense. First, of course, is the inability to gain yards, which is a pretty big one. But the Bruin mistakes – the penalties, burning unnecessary timeouts, and the turnovers – are all a result of this offense. Heck, 7 of the 14 points scored by OSU were given to it by UCLA’s offense.

Imagine if you plugged in, say, Texas Tech’s offense into this program – to go along with the talent and UCLA’s defense. There probably wouldn’t be any issues, would there? Would anyone probably be complaining? (I mean, other than those Cranks that are complaining that Ben Howland can’t win the big one.)

Again, it’s all about the offense.

UCLA has a decent amount of talent, and it’s the coaches’ primary job to put that talent in its best position to succeed, which this offense hasn’t done.

There are some that insist Dorrell’s offense needs to be scrapped, but realistically that’s not possible. It’s not just that it’s too deep into Dorrell’s tenure to switch to something else, but Dorrell doesn’t know anything else.

If Dorrell ultimately fails to keep his job at UCLA it will be because of his dogged dedication to this offense. It’s like a ship, and Dorrell is a stubborn captain, and it’s his only vessel. He’s decided he’s either going to sail the mother, or go down with it.

Four and a half years into the voyage, the ship is listing.
From the same review, Tracy went on to vent some more about Dorrell’s miserable offense:
I remember my first day of high school football as a freshman. My old, concussion-raddled freshman coach, who could barely complete a sentence, said something that was, actually, brilliant in its simplicity: "I’ll tell you the secret to football. The offense knows what it’s going to do and the defense doesn’t. The offense has the element of surprise and it should never lose it." I grew up always thinking of that, and seeing how it repeatedly proved to be true while observing football, and how it could be applied to life.

And it’s still proving itself to be true watching UCLA’s offense. UCLA’s offense has given up the element of surprise. There is no surprise to its running game. There is no misdirection. Its philosophy is: We know what we’re going to do, and you know what we’re going to do, but we’re going to do it so well you can’t stop it.

Yeah, well, it’s proving that it’s difficult to do that well enough unless you have ten-year NFL veterans.

And that’s just the running game. The philosophy behind UCLA’s passing game is even more mind-boggling. It seems a vast majority of the time it consists of dink-dink-post. First down, throw for five yards. Second down, throw behind the line of scrimmage to a receiver. Then, on third and 8, throw it deep down field to a streaking receiver.

The second thing I learned in life (the first being that nugget from my freshman football coach) came from some nice, gum-smacking old woman I met at a craps table in Caesar’s Palace when I was 21 years old: You have to always play the odds. If you have any sense or logic, you are perpetually making decisions based on a quick assessment of probability. If I roll dice, how often will they come up seven? Can I change lanes fast enough to get to the off-ramp? Would it be smart to move to the other check-out line? Is this woman I’m talking to in the bar worth the five drinks I’m going to have to buy her?

Life is about risk/reward assessment. We’re just all little risk-reward assessment machines going through life.

There are many physicists all over the world that, in fact, spend all their time working out the odds of certain occurrences and probabilities. I’d love to know how they would assess the probability of UCLA’s dink-dink-post passing game. What are the odds that you can progress at ten-yard increments with this approach? Isn’t it more likely to advance if you attempt 12-30 yard passes, rather than one five-yarder, another five-yarder, and then a 50-yard bomb? Isn’t it more worth the risk to attempt a 15-yard pass than two five-yard passes?

These are legitimate and just not rhetorical questions. It’d be interesting to actually find out – if there has ever been a study in college football of the percentage of completion on, say, five-yard passes as compared to 12-yard passes and 40+-yard passes. And then to figure the risk-reward in terms of gaining first downs.

We’d probably find that the risk-reward for two five-yard passes and then a bomb, when you want to move at ten-yard increments, are most likely lower-probability ventures compared to three twelve-yard passes.

Dorrell’s offense, on the college level, doesn’t make risk-reward sense.

So, UCLA has that going against it – then add up some of the things that happened in the first three quarters – like the penalties, turnovers and general mistakes and blunders – and it makes it far more imperative that this offense utilize better risk-reward ventures. Because, as UCLA has repeatedly discovered with its offense, and almost discovered Saturday, you need to score enough to make up for this offense’s mistakes if you’re going to win.

UCLA’s offense, as it has in its first three games, repeatedly shot itself in the foot in this game. When UCLA was looking at a 14-12 score with 9:30 left in the game, every single Bruin fan was starting to believe that it was entirely probable that UCLA, which had taken over the game because of its defense, would lose this game because of its shooting-itself-in-the-foot, bad risk-reward offense. How many times could OSU practically hand the game to UCLA in the first three quarters, with botched special teams, bonehead mistakes or turnovers – but the Bruins were too obtuse themselves to take advantage of it? With OSU, luckily, it was just a matter of time until that sequence took place at 9:30 left in the game.

Luckily, UCLA’s players, sometimes, also eventually step up and succeed despite the offensive scheme. That is -- sometimes -- that’s why Bruin fans were thinking there was a good chance UCLA would continue its offensive futility for the last 9 ½ minutes and lose, 14-12.
I know it’s Humpday. And we shouldn’t still be harping over the Oregon State game, given we have the Irish coming into town.

But honestly does it even matter? We know given the horrific Irish defense, and our players being fired up over this "big" game, they will come out and score just enough points (despite Dorrell’s "scheme") and get Bruin’s first ever victory against the Irish.

Yet the concerns Tracy so eloquently alluded to his game wrapup points to the core of Dorrell’s lackluster program, which cannot be swept under rug because of a deceptive 5-1 record against horrible to average teams.

I know we are going to be inundated with endless hype following our victory against the Irish, how everything is swell at Westwood, heading into a big time game against Tedford’s (#3 ranked) Cal Bears. And who knows Dorrell will get lucky in that game in some weird/bizarre way again just like he did in 2005 when Tedford had a brain cramp and decided to punt right to MJD. Yet, the underlying problems of this program under Dorrell are not going away.

His offensive schemes have proven to be a total disaster. It has been a failure. It is now a public joke. And the longer UCLA decides to stick with him beyond this season (in case he fails to deliver a Pac-10 championship), the harder it will become to resurrect its football program after the it inevitably craters down the line.