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The "Eye Test": Bruins’ GPA After Our Moment of Clarity in Arizona

Well I think this could be the very last edition of the "Eye Test" on Bruins Nation for 2011 UCLA football season. I do not see any point to drive a sledge hammer through my already crushed soul by attempting analyze details after every football game under the current regime.  :-) Yeah, I really had a wry/bemused smile when I typed that.  It's just not worth it.

Still since I did not give this warning before the Arizona game, just for kicks I will take one last shot. Again, I don't think this is going to be exhaustive like my previous "eye test" posts.  There is just so much FAIL in every category it is not practicable and mentally healthy for us to dwell over all of them.  

I will try my best to build on freesia and gbruin's post game reflections. After all it is clear now that collectively the entire Bruin Nation, experienced a moment of clarity in the Arizona desert. It was a "corner turner," just not the kind we are used to hearing from weekly press conferences out of Westwood. So the results of these eye tests are going to be more lucid than ever.

So here I go after the jump.

1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?

Here I will just go with Matt Hinton's observations at Yahoo!'s Dr. Saturday:

Over the course of its five-game losing streak, Arizona had been outscored 146 to 37 in the first half and trailed at the half in all five; against UCLA, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on six straight possessions to open the game and led at the half, 42-7. They came into the night ranked 119th out of 120 teams in rushing offense at 71.8 yards per game; against UCLA, they surpassed that number in the first quarter and finished with 254 yards on the ground for the game. They came into the night ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in every major defensive category, and near the bottom nationally; against UCLA, they yielded a single touchdown and at one point forced the Bruin offense to go three-and-out on five straight possessions. In the words of Bruins Nation, "To call that game embarrassing is embarrassing to the word embarrassing."

I will throw in this comment from Gold on our defensive line:

Toddlers playing pattycake have more strength, moves up front than UCLA

Well put Jon. So the grade in this category is an F:0.0.  Is it possible to give an F-?

2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?

Well the offense hasn't been an EPIC FAIL like our defense. It is bad, sloppy and kind of boring to watch. Yet at times it shows some flickr of life as it trudges along. So we saw a little Flickr of life in our second series against Arizona when UCLA put together a nice drive resulting in touchdown. I mean there was a sequence when we connected on three straight pass plays featuring a quick pass to Fauria, completion to Josh Smith and a nice out to Jordon James.

When Neuheisel made the call for it to go for it on the 4th and 5 and we saw Prince connect with the Jet Ski in the end zone, it seemed that the Bruins were going to show signs of life.  That was the extent of positive from the offensive side for the right. Otherwise it was marred with ineffective running plays, fumbles and dropped passes. There was no fire, no imagination and no real adjustments to the new look "Bear defense" the Wildcats unveiled Thursday night. In fact at times even simpletons like Craig James and Jesse Palmer sounded completely befuddled at seeming lack of adjustments from the Bruin offense.

Bruin offense only converted 2 out of 13 third down possessions. The "power running" pistol-based Bruin offense rushed for 37 yards in 25 attempts, averaging a pathetic 1.5 yards per carry against one of the worst defenses in the conference. There is not much to add here. The grade for this category is a D-:0.7.

3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?

Hah. Do I really have to expand on this? Oh I "watched" the entire game. It was "on." I was "up." However, I kind of tuned it out after Franklin fumbled and the Wildcats went up 28-7. But for the sake of this category here are couple of bullets for this category:

  • Vespa clowns: Our defense looks soft and lost. Play after play we keep seeing our guys taking in poor angles (especially our DBs) when they make half hearted attempts to tackle. I have no idea whether out defensive frontline understand the concept of "gap control."
  • Burned time-out: This happened in our best drive of the night - the second series. During the second series we burned a timeout on 2nd and 3 in the red zone when once again players and coaches were not on the same page. The timeout was followed by a lame Prince over throw into the end zone in the direction of Taylor Embree. Yes, we ended up scoring a touchdown but it was just another moment epitomizing the total disorganization of this program on the field.

I don't find the total dysfunction of our team embarrassing any more. I am numb to it and expect it and sometimes just amuse by it. But it is jarring when even not so well informed national TV "analysts" are embarrassed to watch what is unfolding in front of their own eyes. UCLA players looked so bad at times that the announcers were stretching to find anything to talk about except the game. The grade for this section is an F:0.0.

4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?

The answer to this question is pretty. If our players played for 60 G-D mins against Arizona, the defense wouldn't have given up 6 TDs in Arizona's first 6 drives and over 400 total yards of offense at the half. Yes, we got a safety in garbage time and I appreciate some of our players not giving up but this is about a team. From that point the whole sordid affair was a total failure.

There is not much to add here when the national announcers are clowning the players for their display of total lack of enthusiasm and pride in the program. Moreover, the lack of focus was evident through fumbles and the embarrassing drops.

Speaking of lack of focus I am not going to bother calling out one of the obvious culprits. He has been picked on enough times and frankly at this point it is hard to just blame him consider it's his coaches who keep putting him in the lineup without any sense of accountability.

Again, if I could give an F- in this category I would. I will just go with F:0.0.

5) Do our players execute?

Well on the defensive side the observations above answers this question. The answer is a resounding no. On the offensive side the sloppiness and lack of execution was evident on in the very first series. I saw Prince botching an easy throw to Josh Smith, which could have been turned into a first down. Then in second series, Prince threw another poor pass to a wide open Joe Fauria, who could have taken it for a huge gain. Instead Fauria had to scramble a little to catch it and got tackled for a short gain.

As mentioned above the game was littered with fumbles and ugly drops. Once again I am sick of mentioning specific players' names when it comes to easy drops. It's not worth it. Given how the players keep getting playing time despite their drops and lackadaisical attitude, it's clear the problem is systemic throughout the program. The grade for this category is an F:0.0.

6) Do we have leaders on the field?

To answer this question let's start with replaying  this video Telemachus put together last night. What happened before the half time was surreal and tells us what we need to know to answer this question. Here is Peter Yoon from ESPNLA (emphasis added):

"That's not something that should have happened and it's not what this UCLA program is about," tight end Joe Fauria said. "It should never happen again."

That UCLA showed a lack of restraint also shows a lack of control among the leadership of the program, but Fauria said the blame should be spread around.

"We all have to be leaders," he said. "There's only so much you can do to hold a whole bunch of guys back. We tried but there were guys that made the wrong choice and tried to fight back, which is not what we need right now. We need to rally together instead of lashing out at another team, which is just silly."

I thought it was poetic none other than Taylor Embree, who has been head scratchingly getting PT over players with untapped talent and potential, was the one to get the boot. The coaching staff has always championed Embree as the coachable and experienced one. Yet, it was him who the referees singled out for ejection. The symbolism couldn't be more perfect for how everything has gone wrong with Neuheisel's program.

I would also add that as much as I like Johnathan Franklin, it's been disappointing to see him not being able to take care of the ball when the game matters. I feel bad for singling him out because by all reports he seems to be a great student athlete, who we can all feel good about representing the four letters. However, part of being leader on the field is setting example on showing focus and concentration. Unfortunately for Franklin the same lapses keep taking place over and again.

It all goes back to systemic failures throughout every vein of this program. It's clear the issues with leadership on the field is a result of lack of effective one off the field. The grade for this category is an F:00.

Final Grade Card for Arizona Wildcats

Based on the discussion here is how it shapes up:

1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? [F:  0.0]
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? [D-: 0.7]
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? [F: 0.0]
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? [F: 0.0]
5) Do our players execute? [F: 0.0]
6) Do we have leaders on the field? [F: 0.0]

Arizona GPA: 0.13

The grade card for Washington State was 1.95, grade card for Stanford was 1.97, grade card for Oregon State was 2.12, grade card for Texas was 0.22, the grade card for San Jose State was 0.67, and the grade card for Houston was 2.05. So the cumulative GPA after 7 games according to our "Eye Test" is now at 1.30.

As the frontpagers mentioned in unison yesterday this is over for Coach Rick Neuheisel. At this point there is nothing he can do in the eyes of this community that can salvage the season. It saddens me to come to this point because I personally wanted Neuheisel to succeed badly at UCLA. I always admired what he did for UCLA as a player. I admired what he did as an assistant and how he related to the entire Bruin community. He came to Westwood and lifted up our spirits when we needed it.

Unfortunately and surprisingly to overwhelming majority of us we did not get the brash, aggressive Neuheisel we saw in Washington and Colorado, we were hoping to see in Westwood. We were hoping to see a hyper aggressive general who had learned from his off-field mistakes in the pass, and polished himself into a savvy, strategic and dynamic leader. Instead we got a Neuheisel who was a shockingly tired clone of boring, conservative and stale Donahue mindset that has rotten the core of UCLA football multiple decades.

I really wish Coach Neuheisel luck in his next project. I hope he finds happiness and success. As for the Bruin football program, we need a new beginning and a fresh start that is finally going to free us from the shackles of Donahue legacy at UCLA.

Unless there is an immediate change and an interim coach, caring about games for the upcoming coaching death-march is pointless. I hope Coach Neuheisel does the right thing and bow out gracefully, setting us up for a new beginning in Westwood.