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UCLA Football: Bruin Nation's Berkeley Post-Game Roundtable Discussion

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the 2014 season's seventh game, a narrow victory over a Berkeley Bears squad coming off a 1-11 campaign in 2013 that featured not a single win over Division I-AA competition.

Control + foot in bounds = interception to end the game and send Berkeley home crying.
Control + foot in bounds = interception to end the game and send Berkeley home crying.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

1.  The Bruins entered the season as the trendy College Football Playoff pick following a 10-3 season, while the Berkeley Bears came into the season pegged to be a conference pushover following a 1-11 season - yet Mora's squad was barely able to escape Berkeley with a win - how did we end up here?

Bellerophon: The fact we were playing down to the level of this Bears team is pretty sad.  Berkeley is better than last year (which isn't hard to do given how pathetic they were last year) but this UCLA team has so much more talent across the board, it's inexcusable that this game was as close as it was - swap out Jim Mora and his staff with Jimbo Fisher and his staff and this is a 40+ point beat down.  This season has fallen well short and that falls squarely on Mora and his coaching staff.  Kudos to Sonny Dykes for getting a lot out of a weak team - but make no mistake, this shouldn't have been close.

IslandBruin2: We ended up here by overstating how good UCLA would be, myself included. I believed the hype because I was comparing Mora's record to that of his predecessors, rather than to a top-level program. This may be partly talent, but I think it is mostly that our coaching staff does not put our players in the best possible position to succeed.

Tydides: I won't say that I ever bought into the notion that we'd be a playoff team, but that's nevertheless what I was going to expect out of a coach that had such a big Fing circus made of his offseason shenanigans - first with himself then with his most prized assistant coach. Throw in the fact that he's also essentially getting elite coach money without elite coach results and he got the biggest offseason gift of all with Hundley coming back, and frankly I was not in the mood for excuses. We're here now because our coaches are better PR people than actual coaches. You don't last a quarter century in the NFL without having your Coach Speak(TM) down pat, and Mora has that in spades. It's just a shame that it doesn't translate to on the field results.

AHMB:  Watching our guys live for the first time this year, I'm even more convinced that we have the talent to be a special team.  We're bigger, faster, stronger, and deeper than we have been in a very long time, but that talent isn't translating like it should.  The game at Berkeley was a perfect snapshot of this team.  We blew them out on a play by play basis.  We generally moved the ball at ease and stonewalled their running game, but turnovers and lack of recognition of their passing game nearly turned what should have been a blowout win into a loss.

2. It wasn't a pretty victory, and much closer than it should be, given the relative strength of each program - but since we haven't won in Berkeley in 16 years, are we happy to just get the win, or disappointed it wasn't the blow out it should have been?

Bellerophon:  It was nice to finally pick up a win in the Bay Area, but given the fact that Berkeley had a mediocre guy in Jeff Tedford for most of that time, if we had a half-decent coach, we should have been beating up on the Bears for years, no matter what part of California we were playing - being "merely pleased to win" lets Chianti Dan off the hook for saddling us with a shit program for a decade plus.

IslandBruin2: I am not happy to just get the win. I went to the Berkeley-Washington game, and saw this same Berkeley team get blown out by a team which had put in a game plan to counter the Bears' strength. What I saw on Saturday was a UCLA game plan that learned nothing from the Washington success. I saw a win which solidified UCLA's position as a middle-upper (not upper) team in the Pac-12, doomed to mediocrity without significant overhauls in philosophy (starting with the fact that DC position should not be on-the-job training at any program which aspires to national relevance).

Tydides: I'm probably in the minority on this but I don't give a rats behind about the streak. The streak is merely a demonstration of our own incompetence because we've out-talented I would say a majority of the Berkeley teams we've lost to up there, so there's no extra credit in my mind for going out and doing the thing you were supposed to be doing all along. I'm not necessarily down on the win either, because this team is essentially toast relative to meeting its expectations anyway, so if the season is basically a failure waiting to happen, the rest of it, like breaking the streak, is gravy isn't it? There's a reason that there's no such thing as an F-.

AHMB:  I'm always happy to get the win, but I'm not satisfied with the way we've played.  Again, we gifted them 4 touchdowns with turnovers (I count missed 4th down as a turnover).  I'm not sure how anyone could be happy with the way we played.  That said, this team could have easily gone into the tank after back to back losses to Utah and Oregon.  When they made mistake after mistake against a bad Berkeley squad, they could have given up.  There may not be much to be happy about, but the team fought back and won the game.

3. How does this team figure out how to stop playing down to their competition?  If the Bruins took care of the ball, that's at least 20 fewer points for the Bears - and this game is completely different - are the players just not focused?  And who is responsible for fixing that issue?

Bellerophon: We've been our own worst enemy this whole season - the only team with better talent than us is Oregon, and that's debatable.  We have simply shot ourselves in the foot at every opportunity, whether that has been turnovers or idiotic coaching decisions - the only thing that got in UCLA's way this season was UCLA.

IslandBruin2: I don't know if we are missing leaders on the field. That is for somebody closer to the program. So that could be part of the problem. But most of the blame has to go to the coaching staff. They are not putting the players in a position to maximize their chances of success.

Tydides: Two and a half years of experience, hell, at least a decade's worth of experiences tells us that this is what UCLA Football is. Perennially playing down to our opponents. Springing the occasional upset to keep people interested. Peppered with the not-so-occasional ridiculous blowout loss. We've had three coaches now with wildly different personalities, coaching philosophies, schemes, and monetary backing, and the result is the same. There's a "settle for less" mentality that exists throughout the AD like a cancer that has to be nuked into oblivion and surgically removed at the first opportunity. That's the constant here. The cancer's name is Doughnut Strap On Guerrero. What keeps the cancer in place to fester and metastasize? Our suck-ass, loser, my coach right or wrong segment of the fanbase. These people would be shunned like your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving in places like Tuscaloosa, Austin, or (insert SEC college town here), but here we embrace them and pretend that their attitude isn't antithetical to what UCLA actually stands for. Our commercials say we're optimists, but our fans behave like sheep.

AHMB:  Does this team play down to their competition or are they not as good as everyone thought?  Look, there is a ton of talent on the team, but talent alone doesn't make a team good.  We are very good individually, and we have guys all over the field that can win one on one matchups, but we're far from being a well oiled machine.  That has to land on the coaching staff.  They have to do better.

4. What positives do you see coming out of this game as the Bruins prepare to head to Colorado to take on a Buffaloes squad that can put up points?

Bellerophon: It was a great feel-good story for Marcus Rios.  Recovering from a serious, near-fatal fungal infection to not just survive, but return to the field and make the interception that sealed the win is a great deal, especially doing it in Northern California, where he's from (coming out of Elk Grove up by Sacramento) - hopefully it gives him confidence going forward.  Otherwise, the offensive line looked solid and Perkins continues to be strong going forward.

IslandBruin2: The biggest positive from this game is that I found another great bar near the Berkeley campus- this is essential as a UCLA supporter.

Tydides: Gonna go with Bellerophon here. The stories were that his very survival was a coinflip at best. He figured to be lucky to be able to walk out of the hospital a healthy man. Contrast that with what we saw take place and the story basically writes itself. Unfortunately given what we've seen out of the team, I don't know that we can make any statements about CU. Maybe we'll see an inspired performance. Maybe Ulbrich will quit his job for the second time this year. Who the hell knows?

AHMB:  Remember when the Berkeley guy came onto my preview and touted their running game?  The Bears ran 31 times for 56 yards.  We played a base nickel with two high safeties the entire game and consistently beat them on the line of scrimmage.  That's a very good sign in terms of effort and will, and I hope we can keep that up throughout the rest of the season.

5. It's been a long time since the Bruins played in a Rose Bowl game (1999) but even longer since our Berkeley brethren saw Pasadena (1959) - who is more likely to get their team back to the top of the conference and a spot in the Rose Bowl - Sonny Dykes at Berkeley or Jim Mora at UCLA?

Bellerophon:  Neither.  I don't think Berkeley will ever play in the Rose Bowl game again.  Their program hasn't been relevant since the 1950s and while Dykes will get them back to respectability, they will be lucky to make the Holiday Bowl in any given year, considering how strong the conference is.  UCLA will return to the Rose Bowl game at some point, but I doubt Mora will be the one to get us there.  I certainly hope he does, but seeing how he hasn't been able to win a big game yet, it's hard to believe he'll be the guy to get us there.  Now, if he turns it around and wins out this year and gets UCLA in the conference title game, I'd give him a 50/50 shot at it.

IslandBruin2: Mora. This does not mean that he will, just that he is more likely than Dykes.

Tydides: Wow, I was all ready to say us for sure, but can a team that can never beat an elite in conference squad ever get to the Rose Bowl? That would seem to be a disqualifier but then I look at Berkeley, and they just seem destined to never smell roses again. 1959? Berkeley played in the Rose Bowl. Over three years AFTER THAT, President John F. Kennedy said "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". I think of that quote sometimes when I think of the masochistic exercise that is Bruin football. I guess I'll still say us. The P12 sucks almost across the board at basketball now, so maybe the same will happen in football in 8-9 years and Mora will go to 1-24 against Stanford/Oregon to send us to the Granddaddy.

AHMB:  Mora.

6. The extra point - fire away:

Bellerophon:  If UCLA wants to show that it's still for-real this year, they need a big road win by 14+ points against Colorado this weekend.  We've looked mentally soft all year long and except for the win against Arizona State, we have not looked like the dominant team we should have given the talent on the roster.  This weekend will be an interesting litmus test for this program under Mora.

IslandBruin2: It is going to be harder to be a UCLA fan for football and basketball going forward at Berkeley games. With the push to recycleable grocery bags in Alameda County, I won't be able to wear a paper bag over my head. Please- we need Doughnut to go, so that we can be proud of our team in public.  And complete side note- I ran into a couple of our water polo team members at the game, who informed me when asked that they had taken down Berkeley (ranked #2 at the time) 13-8 that morning. When the water polo team and the soccer team (UCLA 3, UCB 0) have better margins of victory than the football team, you have to wonder.

Tydides: Hundley deserves better than this. The rest of the players including Rios deserve better than this. I don't know if these coaches are capable of turning this around, and I'm actually pretty doubtful, but it's just a damn shame if they can't and/or won't. I haven't worked out the permutations from where we are, but I don't think it's out of line to say that the path to Levi's Stadium looks narrow and that I don't think we control our destiny in getting there. Seeing the attempts at lowering expectations makes me sick, especially when you know these idiots were the first ones on board in August when the national media was talking about how good we were gonna be. In the light of 2 losses, suddenly it was all unrealistic. How convenient. Get lost, sunshine pumpers.

AHMB:  Every week, this team shows flashes of how good it can be.  Seven weeks into the season, I can't help but think they've missed a great opportunity to be special.  Yet after the game, I still found myself tallying up the ways we could make the Pac-12 championship game.  Am I an optimist?  Undoubtedly.  Am I delusional?  Probably.

That's it for this week folks. Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the Berkeley win as we figure out where UCLA football goes from here as the team gets ready for an showdown with the Colorado Buffaloes this Saturday.