I was at the WSU game Saturday. There is always a different perspective when one is at the game versus watching it on TV. While you definitely miss some things, you also get a feel for the game you don’t in person. That was also the good bad and ugly of UCLA fans and I thought I would try to describe the "vibe" I got at the game.
We won. I don’t think this was a "bad win" or a moral defeat. I was impressed with the way we overcame mistakes and did not let down after them. Two quick examples:
1. We stopped WSU 6 times inside the 10 to hold them to a field goal late in the second quarter after Joseph Fauria’s leaping penalty. No team should be able to stop any other team 6 times on first and goal. I realize it was WSU and not Oregon but I don’t care if it is SJSU, that is an impressive accomplishment. More so because UCLA is so emotional under RN that we always seem to let down after a big mistake. Not this time, the defense never gave up and was really pumped up. They were determined and got the crowd into it. The only time they let down was on the second FG attempt where literally I don’t think anyone moved to avoid another leaping penalty. It was great to see the team stay into it and the crowd as well.
2. At the end of the game, after Andrew Abbott's interception everyone in the crowd knew what was coming: three runs by Derrick Coleman up the middle. Everyone said it around me. Coleman would not fumble and we all hoped he could grind out a first down to seal the victory. But of course on third and 3, we committed a stupid penalty which made it third and 8. Most thought we would still run Coleman, set up for a punt and hope to hold on. I thought we might fake Coleman and run Prince but I was definitely in the minority. Instead we rolled the dice and were daring. Prince threw a nice pass for 12 yards to Josh Smith and the game sealing first down. When Prince went back to pass it was nervous city but we played to win, not to "not lose" on that call.
To me the player of the game was Eric Kendricks. I have been waiting for someone to step up on D and Kendricks did. He was everywhere. I am not sure how many tackles he really got but it was great to see him run all over the field and be involved everywhere. The only time we stopped WSU and made them punt in the first half it was because of Kendricks who was involved in three straight stops. While this game is rightly labeled only WSU, he made me hope we have a defensive leader going forward.
So why is this in the bad? Kendricks does not start and only played less than half of the game. Now let me be clear, I do not want people to attack the starter Sean Westgate. He was second on the team in tackles last year and is by all accounts a hard worker. So again why is this the bad?
As my buddy said: "Who is the guy with one hand?" It was Sean Westgate. You see Westgate's right hand was heavily bandaged. It looked more like a club than a hand to tackle with. Yet Westgate was playing over Kendricks. Westgate was not having a good game but ,come on coach, he only has one hand!?!?
In addition to this being another week to not throw the ball to Fauria, RN once again played a hurting player over an arguably better backup. But let me be clear: When Westgate is hurt, there is no doubt: Kendricks is better. This is bad because it goes to prove that RN not only does this for Kevin Prince who he has started multiple times hurt but for other players as well.
Play the best player RN!
There was a lot of controversy over the booing when Kevin Prince came into the game for Richard Brehaut. I heard only a smattering where I was sitting. Any booing is totally wrong and those who did so should be ashamed. However, I did overheard something else. The guy behind me was looking at the scoreboard and said "Why are they showing Prince's 2009 stats" on the jumbotron. It was a logical question . Prince has played significantly this year and last but they put up his freshman year stats when he entered the game.
Of course that was Prince's best year statistically personally and for UCLA. My buddy answered under his breath "because that is when we played a real offense." Now he hates the Pistol as a gimmick but at that moment it was hard to disagree with him. Brehaut had just fractured his leg when he ran the zone read in the Pistol and always looks a bit awkward in the offense. Prince has become progressively worse in his career and it seems just a matter of time before he gets hurt again. If we played the 2009 offense (the only time under RN when we had a wining record), how good would this team be? Obviously we will never know but it seems some of the ugliness of Brehaut running and Prince's passing would be reduced if we were still in a "regular" offense.