The anger and frustration is palpable all over the Bruin Nation. You don't have to read much to get a sense of anxiety that is flowing all over UCLA communities. You can discern that in few mins by going through the posts and comment threads here, our Facebook page, BRO, BruinGold, Bruinzone ... everywhere.
I would say it is not just Coach Rick Neuheisel, but the entire UCLA Administration starting from Chancellor Gene Block to all the officials in the UCLA Athletic Department should be on notice. Bruins have a big national game coming up against the Texas Longhorns this week. This game represents a tremendous opportunity for the Bruins to undo the negative vibes and bounce back in various categories laid out in our "eye test." However, we are not going to make the mistake about losing sight of the big picture even if the Bruins pull out a massive win against the Longhorns Saturday.
UCLA football needs to get off to a solid start in the Pac-12. This means getting victories against Oregon State and Washington State, and also putting itself in position to compete with the Stanford Cardinal. This means our defense should be prepared for every game. It means our offense and special teams should be focused on every play. It means our players should be ready to execute and be prepared to play for 60 G-D minutes in every game (and not promised to do it during their weekly interview on YouTube).
To date the Bruins results in those categories are not great. Terrible actually. But there is still some time to get this ship back on the right course. How can Coach Neuheisel do that? Well some big picture thoughts for him after the jump.
If Neuheisel wants to win back Bruin fans on his corner (they have mostly deserted him), he needs to show clear signal of wanting to fight and go all out in every play. He needs to shed the conservative mindset that hobbled his program towards the end of the season. He needs to show he believes in all parts of his team and put his players in position to succeed.
This means calling games that are not predictable. This means putting together a defensive product that is "firing out" (a phrase used by Dan Guerrero himself when he canned Bob Toledo) in every play. This means having a UCLA team that is constantly attacking, attacking, attacking and attacking some more. We have not seen that ferocious mindset since the days of Cade McNown and Rocky Long, and we are dying for it.
He needs to find a way to get the most talented players in his roster on the field, get them coached up so that the results of last three years of excellent recruiting can be finally seen on the field. You know what this exactly means. It means not having to see someone like Taylor Embree struggle for 2 yards in punt return. It means not having to see Sean Westgate flail around haplessly like his feet is stuck in cement, while pursuing opposing QBs and TBs.
I have no doubt Westgate and Embree are great kids. They are not a clown like Nikola Dragovic, who embarrassed the four letters both on and off the field. We know they are working their rear end off during practices to earn their shots. But we also want to see talents - who were hyped by our coaches and their allies - develop and succeed on the field.
We don't want to be left wondering what would have happened to kids like Randall Carroll, Josh Smith, Jordan James, and Malcolm Jones if they were playing somewhere else besides UCLA.
So Rick if you are reading this message. Time to go all out and pull all the stops. Use every weapon at your disposal in going for the win. Let me repeat that - "going for the win." We are tired of the "playing not to lose" mindset shown against programs like San Jose State.
Oh and even if the Bruins do well in the "eye test" against Texas, that is not going to be end of story. It will not matter much if the Bruins show up against the Longhorns, only to disappear when taking on mediocre teams like Oregon State. Bruins needs to be coming out on fire every freaking game.
We want UCLA to succeed badly, which means we are rooting for Rick to win. But as Tracy Pierson from Bruin Report Online wrote, "time is running out," while Peter Yoon from ESPNLA brilliantly summed it up by saying, "Bruin fans deserve better."
Enough is enough Rick. Time to go for broke in every game from here on out ... starting against Texas on Saturday. Time to coach with a mindset so that our team is "firing" out on every play. This way even if a storybook ending of a prodigal son's glorious return doesn't work out, there will be no regrets. Go big in every game or go home.