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The Morning After, Part 12: Southern Cal

In what was our best all around performance of the year, the UCLA Bruins showed how far we have come, how far we can still possibly go, and the beauty and emotion that winning a game over Southern Cal brings.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  And more.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And more.
Ryan Rosenblatt

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. - John Wooden

A long time ago when my wife were in Madrid I made a special visit to the Museo de Reina Sofia to see Pablo Picasso's epic painting, Guernica. If you don't know about the painting, you should take a moment to read about it here and here and here.

It was something I had wanted to see for years, the combination of a legendary artist and the incredibly horrific event and the associated history that inspired it combined to produce a work of art that was epic in its size, its starkness, and above all its meaning.

Awe doesn't do that day justice. I sat down on the ground and stared at that painting in amazement for over half an hour and during that time I never said a word. I didn't really know it was over half an hour until my wife, who had gone off to look around and do some shopping, came back to get me and pointed it out. I had no idea how long I had been there. I just knew I hadn't spoken to anyone, and I hadn't taken my eyes off of the painting. Keep in mind that I was a robotic soulless South Campus guy, yet I was still mesmerized by that giant canvas streaked with just three colors and an encyclopedia of emotion.

That was in the summer of 1998. Our Bruins beat *$c later that fall for the eighth straight time, but that would be the last back to back win until last night, a 15 year span. The previous year's victory in that back to back was the last time we won in the Coliseum, our old home, until last night, 16 years. But last night it looked like we still owned it.

Last night's win doesn't match the perfection of Picasso's masterpiece, but it might have matched the emotion, and last night's win fell short of Coach's benchmark, but it was still a really really great performance. I guarantee that Coach Mora and every one on his staff and every player on the roster will tell you that as good as last night was, they all could find places to improve.

But last night's win gets credit for being the closest we've gotten to Coach's definition of success all year, and this season was as close as we've gotten to that definition of success since that 1998 team, too. And that is something to celebrate. The Bruins did some really great things last night. Recognizing that our offensive line would have a serious challenge against their front four, and seeing what happened last week against a similar front, our team ran shorter routes and got the ball outside to beat the rush and gave our quarterback time and confidence to make throws. This opened up running lanes for the QB and the running backs, and the offense moved steadily and efficiently all night long. Knowing their offensive line was vulnerable and their depth at skill positions was limited, we got pressure in their backfield and didn't let their few big playmakers at receiver get loose. Our special teams continually gave us great field position and backed them deep in their own territory. Everyone, players and coaches, stepped up. It was the most complete game we've seen from our Bruins this year, and maybe ever under Mora's reign. And it was probably Mora's biggest win so far, on the road, as an underdog, in a game that meant a ton to the team and the fans. I think we didn't play up to our capabilities in the three games we lost, but there weren't any Cal or Baylor performances this season either. When you consider all the injuries and the schedule that we faced this year, I think you have to be proud of what the Bruins accomplished this season.

But we shouldn't be satisfied. We should be even hungrier to keep going.

Of course there are areas for improvement. We didn't handle our emotions well at the outset of last night's game. There were still some plays we didn't execute very well. There were a few drives that bogged down with some predictable play calls. And it's fair to ask, seeing as that game plan was so effective last night, why didn't we see more of those plays and performances last week against Arizona State. Because if we had played more like that last week, or even if we had just come out of the tunnel without the mistakes, maybe we'd be playing for a shot at the Rose Bowl next week. The fact that we aren't shows that we haven't reached our ceiling yet. We can still get to 10 wins this year and win a bowl game. And to do so, we need to see bigger steps out of our players and our coaches in the preparation for the bowl game, and then in the next recruiting class, and in the build up to 2014. So yes, this team can get better, and that will be the task for Mora and the Bruins as we move ahead.

And happily, we have a win over Southern Cal to reflect on as we watch that scene unfold.

I'm keeping this relatively short this morning because, like me sitting in front of that incredible work of art, sometimes it's better to not say a lot and let the picture do the talking.

So please watch these highlights from the game.

Now watch the video from Edward Lewis and BSR of some of the scenes on the field and in the tunnel after the game.

And now watch Mora's post game comments to the media.

And take a look at some of the images on the Daily Bruin's facebook page here.

And finally glance back at the picture at the top of this article. It was taken by our own Ryan Rosenblatt, who bravely wore blue last night in the Coliseum, and it says far more than I possibly could.

Doing all that should only have taken about 15 minutes, a bit less than half of what I spent staring at that Picasso. But hopefully, instead of sitting in silent wonder and admiration, you found yourself cheering and pumping your fists and doing an 8-clap and yelling the names of our players and making all sorts of noise. Above all, I hope you found yourself moved by the joy and grandeur and history and meaning of the images from the masterpiece that the Bruins created last night.

Onward toward Coach's goal.

Go Bruins!