Well folks, there is another Saturday of UCLA football in the books. And sad to say, that performance was indicative of the current state of UCLA football. I'll be filling in for gbruin this morning, as he recovers from his journey to see Journey (as well as the recovery of his bank account - what, you think that Journey scheduled their Denver concert for the evening of the Stanford game by sheer coincidence?). For that matter, I spent a long night in Palo Alto, and an even longer night on the train home without the benefit of seeing how you all reacted to the happenings, so this is going to take a broad (and somewhat brief) view of the game and my view from the visitors section.
From the day that Andrew Luck announced that he was staying at Stanford for his junior year, we knew that this would be the most difficult game on the schedule. No matter how well coached this team was, or how well the players could execute the game plan, this was going to be a challenge. The operative word being challenge. Not dominated, or blown out, but challenge.
One thing that I was able to take away from this game is that the Bruins have the talent to compete in the Pac-12, and compete well. While he still has his issues operating the pistol, Richard Brehaut has steadily improved in the weeks since he was given control of the offense and the practice reps that come along with that. The coaches seemingly remembered that Joe Fauria is on the team, and an eligible receiver to boot. Though considering the animated discussion that I saw between Fauria and Coach Neuheisel on the sideline early on the drive that ended with Fauria's first TD, maybe the coaches did not remember. And those are just two of the guys that have really have the ability to make a run in a very soft Pac-12 South. That is, make a run if they were being coached well.
As an aside, I took my dad to the game. He has played or watched football for nearly 45 years, and he was dumbfounded by the coaching and preparation of the Bruins. The utilization of talent and some of the playcalls were easy enough to pick on, but the lack of defensive fundamentals was obvious and a heavy point of discussion on the trip out of Stanford. The consequence of the absence of tackling in practice was obvious to him, and the crazy thing is that the tackling last night was really not that bad as compared to some our other games this season, at least from my vantage point.
It seems that the San Jose area has finally discovered that a quality football team is in their midst. For the first time in memory, Stanford Stadium was sold out, and while there was a solid Bruin crowd as usual for our games on the farm, most of the stadium was in red, and cheering at the appropriate time for the home team. Crazy, I know. This was my second time seeing the Bruins in person this fall, after having made a trip done to LA for the Texas game.
While the in game feeling or vibe from the UCLA section last night did not have the degree of negativity that developed in that game at the Rose Bowl - or last fall's game at Cal - there was never the feeling that the Bruins were going to break out and contend with the Cardinal, rather a hope that we would just keep it close.
Another telling note that I have taken away from both the games that I have attended - I have not heard a single person in the crowds defend or try to excuse Coach Neuheisel for the performance of this team. While I do not claim this to be universal among Bruin supporters, or even all of those going to the Rose Bowl or traveling to see the team, it shows that we are far from alone here.
This is now fully Neu's team, and the results - good or bad - are on him. This is Neuheisel's make or break season, and from what I have seen and heard, most of the Bruin Nation think that if he has not already broken, he is going to break soon.