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Spaulding Roundup: Looking Forward

We will start our “Spaulding” roundup with a little note on Ben Ball. Rick Neuheisel makes a reference to Ben Ball data points we have been pointing to for months. CRN looked back at Howland's first two years in striking hopeful notes while looking forward:

The winning percentage was .393 and included losses in 14 of the last 16 games. The team was low on talent, chemistry and almost everything else.

It was Ben Howland's first year as UCLA's men's basketball coach, but it seems a lot further back than the 2003-04 season. In the following four seasons, Howland's teams were 115-28, went to three Final Fours and won three Pacific-10 Conference titles. […]

"If you look at the resumes of the coaching staff on this team, and you see where they've been and what they've accomplished," Neuheisel said, "there's no reason to think that we can't have the same kind of jump that a Ben Howland had here."

UCLA is 3-6, including 2-4 in the Pac-10, heading into Saturday's game at winless Washington.

Howland's first UCLA team was 11-17, but followed it with an 18-11 campaign before reeling off three straight 30-win seasons.

"Ben Howland had a losing record his first year here and then he went out and he recruited," Neuheisel said, "and he got his own culture established, and the next thing you know he's been to three Final Fours. I believe the football program is capable of the same thing."

Now I get the fact that football and basketball are different give the difference in number of scholarship athletes in each programs. However, the similarities between our football program in Dorrell’s last season with Lavin’s last two years are striking. In fact, I think if DG hadn’t pulled the trigger at the end of last season, I am willing to bet right now we would be staring at a winless season (just like the Washington Huskies) given the fact that the offensive staff in previous regime didn’t display a shred of competency even with QBs like Cowan or Olson in charge.  As frustrating as our offense has been this year, it would have been utterly hopeless and ugly with the Law Firm or Osaar Rashaan leading this team under Dorvell.

The way it has shaped up finishing this season between 3 to 6 wins with our current coaching staff will not be a surprise (actually I will be ecstatic if we can 5-6 wins to finish out this season). We should also brace for a tough season next year as well (even though I will expect better results than this one). UCLA given the hole Dorrell put us in, will not be fully back for at least another two years beyond this season. It’s a consequence we now have to live with for keeping Dorrell two years too long in this program.

Anyway, enough of looking back, let’s move on and that is what CRN is doing wrt to his upcoming opponent this week in Seattle. CRN got ahead of the predictable storylines yesterday by taking the classy approach and saying “sorry” to the Husky fans:

"For me, this thing ... if there's any emotion it's between the fans and myself, and I just want the fans to know that I am truly sorry for the messiness of how things shook out," Neuheisel said Monday.

"Husky football is a great entity and a great program and I believe that good things are in store, and I believe that is also the case for UCLA football."

More from CRN:

"I have a fond, fond memory bank of great things that happened to me while I was the Husky coach. I've been in Husky Stadium when it was absolutely rocking. I remember many, many late wins that the place was jumping, and I remember the Rose Bowl season and great, great things during my time there, and that's what I choose to reflect on rather than the unfortunate, messy ending."

I think I have alluded to this before. I have always been a huge fan of Seattle and the Washington Huskies football program. The majority of Husky fans I have had a chance to interact with have been incredibly classy and justifiably proud of the tradition of their program. Honestly, I find the storyline about Huskies booing CRN and all that kind of boring. I am sure we will see a lot of that but folks will move on in the long term. I have no doubt Huskies will get a great football coach who will get their program back where it belongs, annually contending for Pac-10 titles. It will take some time, but eventually with CRN at UCLA and a good coach leading the Huskies, we will have some classic games between these two program down the line.

As for the current matchup, not surprisingly the numbers for both programs are not encouraging:

The Bruins rush for a paltry 77.8 yards per game. The Huskies are not much better at 85.3.

"We've just put ourselves in too many long-distance situations," Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch said, adding that "it's tough play-calling-wise to have third and 10, second and 10 every time."

As a result, the Huskies rank ninth in total offense in the Pacific 10. UCLA is eighth.

For weeks now, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel has talked about how his team's inefficiency on offense has left the defense in tough spots. He sees the same dynamic with the Huskies.

"Defensively, they've actually done some good things," Neuheisel said. "Like us, it looks like the defense has been the victim of having to be on a lot of short fields."

Not surprisingly, both defenses rank near the bottom of the conference.

More gruesome numbers if you care to check:

The Huskies are ranked among the nation's bottom six in these categories: rushing offense, total offense, scoring, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, kickoff returns, turnover margin, pass efficiency, sacks and tackles for loss.

Willingham has played 12 true freshmen with nine starting at least one game.

UCLA isn't as statistically abysmal, but the Bruins are eighth in the Pac-10 in both scoring (18.8 points per game) and scoring defense (31.0), just ahead of Washington in both categories.

UCLA of course has its own share of young kids getting their experiences this season.  Specifically if I have my notes via the official website right, 22 freshmen - 11 true and 11 redshirt - have played this year.

Also, nineteen different players have made their first career starts this year. Nine different offensive linemen have started a game and we have started seven different combinations in the nine games. That kind of experience will pay off in the long run.

As for our next game, wanted to share with you the following injury notes which included a very interesting tidbit re. Ben Olson at the end:

Wide receiver Nelson Rosario (ankle) should be available this week and is expected to practice in the coming days.

Defensive end Reginald Stokes, who played Saturday after having a recent knee surgery, should be more involved this week.

Neuheisel said the three players who were suspended for last week's game -- Jess Ward, Micah Reed and Scott Glicksberg -- would be back in the lineup, depending on how much they are needed.

Neuheisel said quarterback Ben Olson would likely travel to Washington and that he was hopeful Olson could play Nov. 28 against Arizona State.

I think that’s the first time I have seen CRN mention the possibility of Olson getting some action this season. I haven’t seen it mention anywhere else yet. Definitely something to keep our eyes on as we continue to look forward to both short term (yes this coaching staff keeps me intrigued about every game even though we are going through tough rebuilding times) and long term future.