Today is Monday, except that it's like a Wednesday because our Saturday game is really on a Thursday, which means that we would normally have the coordinators speak after practice today. There weren't any post practice interviews today, or at least none that I can find on the internet as of now. Hopefully that's because Noel Mazzone and Tom Bradley are working their asses off to be prepared for Cal, and hopefully some of that preparation involves discussions with some of their senior leaders. It shouldn't hurt to at least entertain the discussion, right?
But in the absence of a few minutes of interviews and coach speak, we'll just plow the fertile internet and see what sort of U.C.L.A. related football news is cropping us this evening.
CB Ishmael Adams is back in the news, and no, he wasn't getting toasted by Ed McCaffrey's kid again. Misdemeanor battery charges were filed today stemming from the odd Uber driver cell phone incident a week before the season that saw Adams suspended for the first three games of the season.
Adams was arrested in August for allegedly using force to steal an Uber driver's cell phone. He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 16.— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) October 19, 2015
I'll leave it to our substantial legal presence on BN to discuss the implications and possible outcomes of this. Regardless, I don't expect that any more disciplinary action will result, and I'll leave it to the substantial intelligent presence on BN to discuss the implications of that.
Adams' presence in Pasadena will be critical this Thursday against Cal's prolific passing attack led by QB Jared Goff, who has put up some video game numbers so far this season. As Marcus Rios recovers from his recent sinus infection (fortunately not related to the life-threatening fungal infection two years ago) and Randall Goforth and Jaleel Wadood and Tahaan Goodman and others rotate through the secondary to find the best combo, the Bruins defensive backs will get tested repeatedly this week and will need to come up with a big game to slow down the Bears' offense.
The Bruins are currently a 3 point favorite over #20 Cal this Thursday night, which seems odd. Cal killed itself with turnovers but hung close last weekend to Utah, who is undefeated and currently ranked #3 in the whole country by the AP, whereas U.C.L.A. just looked terrible and isn't ranked at all. A quick eye test and a check of the calendar (yup, still October) would seem to make Cal look like the more attractive team, which is an indictment in and of itself. The line started even higher, but the public has bet on Cal enough to move the line down to the typical 3 point home field advantage margin. Meanwhile, Southern Cal is favored by that same 3 point margin over Utah this weekend. Considering the Bruins recent woes and the nearly vertical path to winning the Pac-12 South, it seems distastefully fitting that a Southern Cal win would actually be in our best interest this weekend. Ick.
This will of course be the Bruins' second consecutive Thursday night game, and we have such a good record on Thursdays already, but things will get back closer to normal on Halloween. Looking ahead to Colorado (and why would anyone be doing that?) the following week, U.C.L.A. will have the oddity of playing on a Saturday and kicking off in the daytime. Noon to be exact, according to the Athletic Dept today.
Finally, there was actually a pretty awesome story out of practice today, and it's literally just outside of practice every day. The Bruins have a doorman for practice, and it's a familiar name, Lacy Westbrook. Our friend Chris Foster at the LA Times caught up with Westbrook, who was a promising young offensive lineman that had to take a medical redshirt due to a intracranial aneurysm which ruptured as he was training just prior to beginning his football career in Westwood. In an outstanding move, when the medical staff refused to let Westbrook play again, the school kept him on scholarship, and he is about to finish his degree at U.C.L.A.
He is on schedule to graduate from UCLA next spring with a degree in history. After that, he is pondering graduate school, with ideas of becoming a professor or historian, or maybe a museum curator.
But while his playing career is in the past, Westbrook wasn't ready to stay away from the game entirely. So, for now, he's also the gatekeeper.
"I missed football," he says. "I wanted to get involved again."
It's really an outstanding article that speaks to the character of the kids who come to U.C.L.A., and reinforces the idea in my mind that the problems in the football program have more to do with the leadership than the kids themselves. Westbrook is no exception, as the story chronicles his upbringing in Compton and overcoming the challenges in that environment to his dedication to academics when his dream of football died.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora says "there was a period of mourning" about the end of a promising career, but when Westbrook approached him about staying involved in the football program he could not refuse.
"With all he went through, I just love the fact that even though he wasn't going to play football, it was important for him to get a degree," Mora says.
Along with manning the practice gate, Westbrook ushers visiting recruits at the Rose Bowl on game days.
"He found out he had a purpose," Stephanie Westbrook says.
Some mornings it's opening a gate. The rest of the time, it's about opening his mind, learning from the past and engaging a bright future.
I always say Line Wins Games, so it's extra cool to see an example of a particular lineman winning the game of life.