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Pregame Guesses: Oregon Ducks Edition

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The loss to Utah raised questions both large and small.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

(This week’s video is "The Ascension" by Glenn Branca. It’s from the album of the same name. The Ascension is one of only a handful of albums that received a perfect 10 review from Pitchfork. It’s a difficult album to get into and a difficult track to get into but I’ve learned to really appreciate it. I think it’s four guitars, bass and drums. Glenn Branca is one of the guitar players and Lee Renaldo, who would go on to play guitar in Sonic Youth is also playing. It seemed to fit with the post below.)

The other day, I sent an email to a friend. He’s a UCLA alumnus who’s now a consultant, working with companies doing green business. He’s a smart guy and sharp fan. If doing the blog thing was his thing, he’d fit right in on Bruins Nation. I wrote him an email in reference to the Utah game:

Is it weird that I'm fine, disappointed but fine?

I was at the game and it’s really funny. Once the game starts, I undergo a weird sort of True Blue transformation. Once the game starts, I become the fan that I make fun of the rest of the week. I become an eight clap doing, stand up on third down and make some noise, rah rah fan. It’s particularly true when I'm at the game.

So, when I was checking the blogs and message boards during the game, it bugged me to read that we had a "terrible defense." Because I was really into it, I was up on third down and doing the 8-clap and all that shit. I dunno, sometimes I just want to watch the game and be happy if we win and sad if we lose and at the same time I try not to worry about "what it all means."

I went to the games with my son. He loves football. Loves it. He loved playing as a kid and in high school. And after the game, on the walk back to the car through a very quiet Brookside golf course, he said "That sucks, but I still want to go to the Oregon game. I think we can beat them."

And I don't think he's shallow. I just don't think he's analyzing everything and extrapolating from that. He just likes going to the games and rooting for the Bruins. I guess he's a rah rah. But in some ways, I am, too.

I remember reading, I think on BRO, but I’m not sure, it could have been in the Bruins Nation game thread, something like "We have a terrible defense" And I remember thinking at the time "We've only allowed two touchdowns." Because at that point in the game one of their scores was a Pick 6 and at that their second touchdown was a long bomb into double coverage. And you know what, maybe we have a terrible defense. But at that moment, it was like hearing "Hey, your wife is ugly." Maybe my wife is ugly, but she's my wife and I don't always like being reminded of it because I love her anyway.

And it's like that with UCLA football, too. It's my team. It's my school. I can't get divorced from it.  You know me. I can analyze this stuff and between us rip players/coaches/schemes. But in the moment, I must admit, I sometimes just like to root for my team and not look at the big picture.

To tell you the truth, if Mora turns out to be Terry Donahue with better talent, maybe I'll have to live with it. Donahue averaged 7+ wins on 12 game schedules. If Mora averages 9 wins on 13 game schedules -- I guess I'd take it. Maybe we're not Alabama or Ohio State. If we had Saban, we still wouldn't be Alabama, the school just isn't that committed to football. If we get the new facility recruiting we’ll be fine and we'll beat SC half the time and win 9-10 and maybe breakthrough to 11 once in a while and I guess I'll be fine with it.

The funny thing is, I often hear other fans say stuff like that and I think, "You’re the problem. If we as fans just made it clear how important football is to us, the school would become more committed to it."

In one of the weirdest acts of cognitive dissonance I’ve ever achieved, I might be type of the fan I hate.

And he wrote back:

Just got around to reading this email Achilles. I get it, and wish I was more like it.

I guess what kills me is watching talent get misused. At UCLA a good coach could absolutely turn UCLA into an elite team, and go on a run similar to Oregon, IMO. Oregon needed Phil Knight and a football genius to do that.

And Mora has the recruiters and some of the traits to get us there. If we had a better OC, and had just hired a competent DC, we'd be undefeated Top 3 right now going up against a beatable Oregon team. And with 12 wins this year we'd actually out recruit SC and be off and running for years to come.

The lost opportunity kills me. Cause we are close, and I'd like one good run in my lifetime. Howland was close too. Such is life as a Bruin.

To say I have mixed emotions right now is an understatement. During the week, I’m all in with everyone else. I see the flaws ask the same questions.

Klemm can recruit, but can he coach?

Why would Mora hire a guy who keeps getting fired like Noel Mazzone, then let Mazzone hire his own kid to be the quarterback coach?

Why did we promote a linebacker coach who’d never been a defensive coordinator in his life for what was supposed to be "our year?"

What’s happened to Myles Jack? Why is his name almost never called any more on defense? Is it because Lou Spanos is gone and his position coach (Ulbrich) is now the DC?

Why doesn’t Brett Hundley run with the ball more often? He’s such a thread when he does, why does it seem like he’s being told not to run or just won’t run?

This last, by the by, bothers me a lot. Because when I watch Brett Hundley now, it really looks like he’s been on a season long tryout for the NFL, trying to prove he’s a pocket passer and not a runner. I just don’t get this. I kept thinking that one quarterback draw would change the way Utah was playing us. But we never called one, we maybe never called one the whole game.

Watching the Utah game was sort of surreal. Our talent on the field was so much better than theirs it isn’t even funny. But we ran the most vanilla, predictable offense I’ve seen in a long time. I think we ran up the middle on first down almost every time we had a first down.

And the funniest thing is, when we just let out talent take over, they couldn’t stop us.

When we needed a touchdown, we just let Michael Vick Devin Fuller run down the left sideline and Hundley threw it as far as he could and we scored. And when we needed another touchdown we just let our giant receiver run down the other sideline and Hundley threw it out there and we scored again.

And Mora has the recruiters and some of the traits to get us there. If we had a better OC, and had just hired a competent DC, we'd be undefeated Top 3 right now going up against a beatable Oregon team. And with 12 wins this year we'd actually out recruit SC and be off and running for years to come.

The lost opportunity kills me. Cause we are close, and I'd like one good run in my lifetime. Howland was close too. Such is life as a Bruin.

Is that life as a Bruin? Maybe.

Is it okay that when the game kicks off I just become another fan, only to turn into a cynical skeptic afterwards? I think that’s okay.

Is it okay that I want Mora to succeed, even though I’m not sure if he will? Look, I don’t want to go through another coaching search.

Is okay to say, "Nine wins a year is pretty good. The tailgating is fun." I don’t know. I just don’t know.

In the end, I agree with my friend. What kills is the wasted opportunity, because we are so damn close. That just kills. And I envy my son, who put the disappointment of the Utah game behind him (and, in truth, he takes the loss harder than I do) quickly and just starts looking forward to Oregon.

Maybe that’s life as a Bruin?

And with that, here are you Pregame Guesses, Oregon Ducks Edition:

  1. Who will have more total yards, Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota?
  2. Will the winning team win by 10 points or more? (Don't even tell me who wins, just tell me if they blow the other team out.)
  3. How many total touchdowns will be scored in the game by both teams combined?