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Spaulding Roundup: Bruin Dreams

So sadly this will be the last Spaulding/game week roundup of 2008 football season. Just as many of us expected this has turned out to be a pretty tough first year for CRN. Yet we have seen some data points to remain optimistic. Brian Dohn from the Daily News today has an article on Norm Chow, which provides the following numbers re. similarities between Southern Cal’s anemic offense from 2001 (Chow’s first year across town) and the Bruins offense this year:

USC finished the regular season 6-5, then lost a dreadful Las Vegas Bowl 10-6to Utah. The Trojans had oneyard rushing and 151yards of total offense.

The Bruins (4-7) are not bowl eligible, and have failed to score an offensive touchdown in four games this season.

In both instances, inadequate play from the offensive line made running the football nearly impossible and put too much pressure on the quarterback.

"I think the biggest deficiency (at USC) was in the lines. It's always in the lines," Chow said. "I remember when we first got there, I asked Pete where the offensive linemen were. They were already out there practicing."

The major statistical categories, through 11 games, also support the ties between the 2001 Trojans and the 2008 Bruins.

USC was 109th (of 115 teams) nationally in rushing offense at 95.6 yards per game and ranked last in the Pac-10 in that category. UCLA is 116th (of 119) at 86 yards per game, and last in the Pac-10.

USC was 49th in passing offense (233.8 ypg). UCLA is 64th (208.8 ypg).

USC was 94th in total offense (329.4 ypg). UCLA is 110th (294.8).

USC was 61st in scoring (26.6 ppg). UCLA is 107th (18.6 ppg). Both ranked eighth in the Pac-10.

USC's leading rusher was Sunny Byrd, who had a team-leading 305 yards entering the bowl loss. KahlilBell leads the Bruins with 358 rushing yards.

The key difference between the two teams? QB ofcourse. Trojans produced those mediocre numbers despite having a second year starter in Carson Palmer, who was of course a pro/Heisman caliber QB. UCLA’s numbers this season came despite working with JC transfer, who was third on our depth chart as an insurance policy heading into spring football.

Oh and Caroll had the luxury of inheriting talents such as Kareem Kelly, Justin Fargas, Kenechi Udeze, Shaun Cody and Troy Polamalu from the previous regime. So given the cards that Neuheisel and Chow have been dealing this year, the results are not surprising.

As for Saturday afternoon, Kevin Craft is hanging out with the right people before the big game:

UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft has leaned on former Bruins quarterback Patrick Cowan plenty this season. The relationship between the quarterbacks has blossomed and they even had dinner together earlier this week, along with a couple of other players.

Craft has had a roller coaster of a season with seven touchdowns and 19 interceptions, and Cowan, a graduate student assistant, has been there as a sounding board through it all. [...]

Craft has watched that game a couple of times.

"He was a gutsy quarterback and played really smart," Craft said. "He managed the game and made plays when he had to. He got the win."

And what does PC think of Craft’s effort this season:

"He has the right attitude," Cowan said. "He's a leader on this team. They look to him, and they're behind him 100percent."

Asked what makes him smile the most after engineering the Bruins to their last win over USC, Cowan said: "the fact that I was with my friends."

Well Craft has made a lot of friends this season. It’s pretty clear his team-mates admire his guts and the courage he has shown all year. I am sure his OL loves playing for him because he has never thrown them under the bus. Here is some good news for Craft and the offense heading into tomorrow afternoon. For once we will have some continuity in our OL:

For one of the few times this season, Bruins coaches are not making a change on the starting offensive line.

"I think we'll be the same [as against Arizona State]," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

The Bruins have tried 10 starting combinations in their 11 games. The most recent adjustment had junior Micah Kia at left guard last week. Darius Savage had started at left guard before suffering a season-ending knee injury Nov. 15 against Washington.

Against USC, as it was against the Sun Devils, the line is expected to be Kia at left guard, Jeff Baca at left tackle, Micah Reed at center, Nick Ekbatani at right guard and Mike Harris at right tackle.

Needless to say they will need to play the game of their lives on Saturday.

They will be hearing a lot about it from their head coach, who knows a little something about gutting it out for this game. From David Wharton in the LA Times, who gives us some snippets of CRN’s greatest moments in the Rose Bowl:

1982, USC vs. UCLA

It was a dream come true, an undersized walk-on quarterback from Tempe, Ariz., finding a place on the roster at UCLA. Sure, Neuheisel was only the holder for kicks that season, but he got in the game.

Early on, the junior backup tried to turn an extra-point attempt into a two-point play and was hit hard, separating his shoulder. The trainer taped him up on the sideline.

"No way was I coming out," he said. "I told the center, snap it low because I can't reach up for the ball."

More than two decades later, there is a memento of that day in his office, a photograph of UCLA's Karl Morgan sacking USC quarterback Scott Tinsley on the final play to seal the Bruins' 20-19 victory.

"I loved being part of that game," Neuheisel said.

Here is to more Bruin dreams coming true.

Enjoy your Friday. We will have a special Friday game thread up as our #1 seed Lady Bruins will be taking on #1 UNC in the NCAA Soccer Final-4 ("College Cup") later this late afternoon/early evening around 4 pm EPST.