Tomorrow is going to be a very special day at the Rose Bowl not just because UCLA will be playing in a rare conference game to start its home schedule. Bruins are also going to be playing in one of the most significant days in our nation's history and they are planning to honor by doing something unprecedented in our program's history.
For the first time ever the UCLA coaching staff (and "non-performing" players) will be wearing a little "red" to honor the red, white and blue at the Rose Bowl. From the official site:
This will be the first game in the history of UCLA where the UCLA head coach will wear even a stitch of red on his sideline wear. (The entire coaching staff and non-performing players are scheduled to wear it too.). Because of the significance of the 9/11 game, UCLA will have a brief tribute commemorating 9/11 and the coaches will wear a shirt with UCLA outlined in red, white and blue in a flag design. There will also be a color guard presentation during the National Anthem celebrating Patriots Day
Neuheisel said. "It's important that we remember, and that we pay tribute, not only to them but to the families who've given so much. "Red, white and blue is the first team we're on."
For a program that has such a keen hatred of all things red - or is it just cardinal and maroon? - it would take a day with the significance of Sept. 11 to bring about the temporary change.
"We're going to focus on the fact that this is a great honor, to be able in some small way to pay tribute to those heroes," Neuheisel said. "When it comes time to play, we're going to be pumping some blue-and-gold blood, raring to go."
It will be interesting to see how the Bruins come out tomorrow night. If you hear the chatter and the general vibe in the traditional media the Bruin season is all but over. Never mind the fact that all off-season (except for few lunatics) we discussed how UCLA is projected to win somewhere between 5 and 7 wins in CRN's third season (you can look through our archives because I have linked up these discussions on expectations on the home page enough).
Never mind the fact that we talked about a reasonable sense of expectations of compiling a winning record in the conference (provided the team in healthy) without focusing too much on the brutal out of conference schedule, most of the reporters have declared UCLA all but dead. It has gotten to the point the question is now becoming by how badly Stanford is going to beat up UCLA (yeah, I will excerpt some hilarious grafs from a prominent Bay Area tradmed writer after the jump on).
There are not a lot of people on UCLA bandwagon right now (I kind of like that). A number of fans who got a little too punch drunk of practice/offseason reports (even though we always warned them about getting too swept up in them ... repeatedly) lost all sense of perspective after one game. So it will be really interesting to see how the Bruins come out and react tomorrow night. Chuck Bullough has taken a lot of heat since he became the DC (deservedly so I might add) for not getting our D off to good starts. If he and his unit wants to make a statement and inject some much needed energy around the team, tomorrow night would be a great start.
CRN not surprisingly believes his team is ready. He thinks his guys "understand the importance of the game, understand the chance to right the ship" from last week's disappointing loss. Let's YouTube up his post practice comments from yesterday talking about "getting it on" with a "great night at the Rose Bowl."
CRN specifically talked about getting "more guys in the game" as in more PT lot of the talented freshmen like Dietrich Riley and Owa we had heard about during the pre-season camp. Chris Foster from the LA Times posted some interesting comments from Chuck Bullough on the topic of playing freshmen:
"You put a guy in there if you have trust in them," Bullough said. "If you put a rookie in there and he's a bust, and maybe you lose the game because it, he can get overwhelmed."
Cornerback Sheldon Price appeared overwhelmed much of last season as a starter, a role he was forced into after Aaron Hester was injured. But Su'a-filo, now on a Mormon mission, played well.
To earn the trust, Bullough said a freshman "has to show it in practice. We practice, watch the films, and if he is making every call and every check, if he knows what he's doing, we feel comfortable using him. If he's busting all the time, then you can't play him."
While I see where someone like Bullough is coming from, the philosophy he lays out seems to be a little tad conservative for my taste. To be fair to Bullough, CRN (surprisingly) made similar comments about not playing Dietrich Riley (and Josh Smith) earlier in the week. While it is too early in the season, I do hope the coaches show a sense of urgency in their first conference game of the season. While I want a Bruin win, more importantly I want the Bruins to be the aggressors tomorrow night, and set the tone in playing to win. That should entail coaches thinking outside the (what sometimes appears to be) box, and pursuing every personnel option to unleash against the Cardinal.
There is no doubt the Bruins will have their hands full with Andrew Luck. To attack someone like him they can't just keep doing what is predictable from our defense with the same personnel. It would mean different looks and whenever possible use players like Owa and Dietrich Riley, who through repeated accounts brought a lot of physicality with their sheer talents at our practices this pre-season camp.
Luck is not the only one posing issues for UCLA tomorrow. The Bruins will also have to deal with a veteran Stanford OL, who are apparently chomping at the bit of playing our front-7. Peter Yoon from ESPN LA identified the Cardinal center as one of the lynchpin for Stanford OL:
Chase Beeler, C-Beeler is the leader of an offensive line that returns four starters from the group that helped pave the way for Gerhart's 1,871 yards rushing last season and led the Pac-10 in fewest sacks allowed with seven. He's started 21 games since 2008, including all 13 last season.
Beeler according to Ted Miller took note of what the Wildcats did to Bullough's defense:
Stanford senior center Chase Beeler, however, is focused on something that stands out specifically for him and his fellow hogs that is no mystery because it's a measured number published for all to see: Last weekend, the Bruins' rebuilt front seven surrendered 313 yards rushing at Kansas State.
"As an offensive linemen, that's something that excites me," Beeler said. "If myself or any of the other offensive linemen were operating things, I don't know if we would ever pass the football. We'd always be running."
Well, I sure hope Bullough is fully awake and in an aggressive mode from the get go. There is no doubt Stanford is going to come out with a balanced attacked and look to overpower the Bruin defense. They are not just going to depend on the arm of Luck. They will try to throttle our front-7 with their physicality stemming from Harbaugh's "Big-10 mindset." The question is going to be whether Bullough is going to let Harbaugh just attack and dictate the tempo (like the Cardinal did last season) or whether UCLA defense will make a statement early and set the tone on its home turf.
Going back to the big picture outlook to say folks around Stanford are feeling a little cocky would be an understatement. Check out what Jon Wilner, the San Jose Mercury News reporter (and "blogger") wrote about this game. Not only he is expecting a Stanford win, he goes further by assering a Stanford win over UCLA is not going to mean much for the Cardinal:
If the Cardinal is as good as its preseason projection (No. 4 in the Pac-10) and its current ranking (No. 25 in the AP poll), then it should beat UCLA ... and doesn't that say so much about the turnaround on The Farm and the stagnation in Westwood, now in its fifth year. [...]
A victory over the Bruins, even on their home turf, doesn't establish Stanford as a Pac-10 title contender - not in the emphatic manner a victory at Arizona, USC, Oregon or Oregon State would.
But a loss would signal the Cardinal may not quite have what it takes to remain in the title chase for the duration.
Of course Wilner is filling up his takes with BS as he conveniently lumps Dorrell's total destruction of the UCLA program with CRN's rebuilding efforts which pretty clearly took positive steps (in terms of three extra wins) in his second season. However, facts are not convenient for tradmed when they have a narrative to advance. And, the narrative around this game is that Stanford should blow right through lowly UCLA, sending lot of Bruin "fans" into further panic and jumping off the bandwagon mode. Kevin Prince had some interesting comments regarding those fans:
"I know how fans are. I was a big time UCLA fan before I joined the squad. I used to freak out over games like that, too," he said. "But it was just the first game of the season. There are still 11 games to be played. And then a bowl game. There is plenty of time to get better, but we've got to do it quickly."
Hope that "blue and gold blood" is pumping all night tomorrow for Prince and his team-mates through a focused and determined effort. They proved to be a resilient bunch last season, responding after a tough 5 game mid-season skid featuring multiple heart breaking losses both at home and on the road. It will be interesting to see how they come out and respond given how thoroughly conventional wisdom is stacked against them this early in the season. I will be there rooting the Bruins on. Hope the Bruin Nation rallies, shows up and get behind our team as well.