Back in day (like when we were attending UCLA or before then) Thanksgiving was special for a very specific reason. Back then the last regular game of the season was usually scheduled for the third Saturday in November. The way it would work out was Ohio State and Michigan would start our morning brunch (on the West Coast) at 9:30 and then carry us over to UCLA-U$C.* We never lost to U$C* when many of us were students and it was something truly awesome going back home to see all the Trojans (fans and students) over the Holidays. Guess now with BCS, TV Ks, things are a little different. Things have been specially painful last 10 years of a dark and gloomy stretch when except for one aberration (and it was a sweet one), we have had nothing to gloat about.
Are things going to turn this year? I don't know. I always consider Bruins having a chance to win everyone of these games because I don't think it's a contest you ever concede (no matter what the situations are). It's not one of those games which you use to find silver linings and moral victories when the scoreboard doesn't come out in our favor. Yet what we want to see from our guys this year is to make sure when they enter the Mosoleum on Saturday, they don't get caught with the deer in headlights look we found our Bruins in during Toledo's last two years (staring with that 0-27 disgrace in 2001) and Dorrell's first two trips. We want our guys to come out there on Saturday and emerge as the aggressor. Trojans are going to come out and attack like rabid, hurt, desperate dogs on their end. I have no doubt Pom Pom will have them fired up and ready to go for our throats from the first snap. We are going to have not only match their fire, but one up them. We not only don't want them to give an inch, we want them to throw that first punch on both sides of the field.
Thankfully it sounds like we have a football team that is approaching the game with right perspective. It's clear from reading the stories this am about our players and coach, they have the big picture in mind heading into Saturday. Reggie Carter doesn't sound all that upset about the Trojan attack on the Bruin:
"You feel disrespected, but I'm positive whoever did it wouldn't come up to me and tell me they did it," Carter said. "It's fine. As long as I get to suit up and play this game, I could care less what an aluminum bear's doing right now. He's not hurting; it's OK.
"(USC) will feel some hurt on Saturday, though."
Sounds like Reggie. I think it will be interesting to see how he and his team-mates handle McKnight on Barkely on Saturday. I have already written how worried I am about our LBers being able to contain McKnight and Bradford. Whenever I think of the Trojan RBs, I have nightmares of Jahvid Best (best wishes to him on this day) and Shane Vareen slicing through our defense. I wonder if our defense has gotten its grove back since that ugly afternoon in the Rose Bowl. From what we have seen in recent weeks, it looks like our defensive front-7 still has rough time in the early going against opposing RBs. They were manhandled along the edge by Arizona. Chris Polk had a great day against them early on at the Rose Bowl and then they were gashed last weekend in first half by the ASU running attack (before our D stiffened up).
So what is going to happen this Saturday? Here is what the Trojan OC Jeremy Bates had to say to the LA Times:
"We're going to be aggressive, but were going to be smart about it," Bates said. "They're ball hawks back there."
Bates said he was encouraged by the sight -- and the sound -- of the offense this week during practices that followed last weekend's open date.
Interestingly Bates team has not scored more than 21 points in its last 3 games. However, as mentioned before they are getting Damien Williams back for this Sat (which should help them a lot). The Stanford team that bottled them up doesn't exactly have the best defense in the conference. So, the Bruin defense are going into this weekend's game with a mixed bag of factors going for and against them. I really can't tell which way things are going to break right now. However, if we can keep those guys contained (on the scoreboard) in the first half, and hold our own on offense, I think I like our chances. Speaking of our offenses, few great stories around them to pass on this Thursday. Come with me after the jump.So on the offensive side, it will be a huge game for our OL. This is their final test (before heading into finals week on campus) and Jake Dean is as excited about it as anyone else on the team. Jake is going to start at RG, as Ryan Taylor is still questionable with his ankle injury. From the LA Times:
"This means a lot," Dean said. "Growing up, you want to play in this kind of big rivalry game. I'm getting a shot to finally go out and do it, and not just watch. You come here to play this game. All that matters is how you perform in this one."
Dean started seven games at center a year ago, but with the influx of offensive line talent this season, he was relegated to a backup role. He has practiced at center, guard and tackle before getting his first start of the season against Arizona State last week.
"It helps to have played already this season, but this is SC," Dean said. "They're the best. This is the one that matters."
Dean continued to work even though his future as a lineman was in doubt, given the younger players in the starting lineup. The Bruins have started three sophomores and a freshman on the line all season.
But "my dad always tells me you never know when it will be the last you get to play, you have to go out and have fun with it."
Last year, Prince missed having Thanksgiving at home for the first time. The Bruins were on the road at Arizona State and he had to say grace over a hotel ballroom Butterball. He had been stewing through the end of a redshirt and losing season and awaiting spring football and a promotion.
"This Thanksgiving," said the tall, funny but soft-spoken player with a fuzzy, reddish beard, "I have a lot of reasons to be thankful."
Now Prince is a starter who has been improving every game. His newly bowl-eligible Bruins (6-5, 3-5 Pac-10) are running high from three consecutive victories. He's healthy, feeling no lingering wooziness from the concussion he got from a Washington Husky, no ache in the jaw fractured by a Tennessee Volunteer.
He's chasing the football dream his older brother, Austin, 22, wanted but couldn't have because of battered, surgically repaired knees. He's playing a game that his East Coast cousin, Madison, born 22 hours after Kevin, loves but can't fully grasp because of autism.
Most of all, Prince is grateful to be home for the holiday, in the oven-warm company of the people and the place that shaped this young man whom Rose Bowl spectators have only known beneath a golden helmet and No. 14 jersey.
Someone correct me if we are wrong. One of our readers have sent in a tip saying this Saturday also happens to be the Birthday of none other than Number 14. Is that true? Either way, UCLA has to feel good about how the season has developed for Prince, given the challenges he faced after a solid start in his first two games.
I cannot wait to see how he comes on Saturday. I am getting goosebumps thinking about. I will not be surprised if he struggles a little. He is a freshman after all. However, at the same time remembering how he handled himself in the pressure packed situation in Neyland stadium, I also get a sense of real hope (I haven't felt in more than a decade before our team heading over to South Central).
Lastly, the one guy who will do everything in his power to get these guys in the right mindset on Saturday is none other than CRN. Great article by Jon Gold in the Daily News today on his reflections on the trip he took this summer to Iraq. This was my favorite part of the story on CRN's trip:
Eight days into the May 28-June 4 trip to visit U.S. soldiers along with six other prominent college football coaches, a trip that has brought him to hospitals and war zones, to dirt lots that have gone from battlefields to ballfields, Neuheisel meets the captain of a naval base in Rhoda.
Throughout the trip, all he'd seen was orange and red - orange for Texas' Mack Brown, red for OhioState's Jim Tressel, two other coaches on the trip - and he needed to see some blue and gold.
The plane touches down, the coaches deboard, they climb some stairs to get into the base, and the captain greets him in a UCLA hat.
"It turns out, he was the guy who, in our first game against the Trojans at the Rose Bowl in 1982, got up on the crossbar," Neuheisel says, breaking into a wide smile. "There's a picture of when Karl Morgan sacked Scott Tinsley - no time on the clock, they're going for two to win the game - the crowd rushes the field and one guy gets on the goal post. That was this guy."
It took Neuheisel eight days, seven countries and thousands of miles to find him.
Well, not sure if this is going to happen BUT what if those UCLA students, who have taken so much heat (from us) last few days, are also hanging on the goal post this Saturday. Can you guys picture that? Envision that for a bit.
Happy thanksgiving to you again.