1. There was a game against Cal! The game was bad, and I don’t want to dwell on it too much here, so go ahead and sound off on the game first.
AnteatersandBruins: We looked like a junior college trying to keep up with a D1 school. No one was into the game and even the defense was moving in slow motion. The only good outcome from this game would be the impending coaching changes. I’m extremely sad for the seniors that are leaving on such a sad note.
Robert Bastron: The players really didn’t want to be playing in this game, and I can’t blame them. There was no effort, on either side of the ball. The guys didn’t try to pick each other up after mistakes. It was a poor, poor effort by a team that had nothing to play for, and didn’t care if they won or lost. It was tough to watch.
Nirya: Much like the Bruins, I’m not showing up for this question.
Joe Piechowski: We made a mediocre UC Berkeley team look like a Top 25 team. I’m not sure what’s worse. The fact that I felt so uncompelled to watch this week’s game that I went to the UCLA Women’s Volleyball match against Southern Cal or the fact that I actually did watch this game in its entirety on my Tivo when I got home.
2. The Bruins ended the season 4-8, which has to be looked at as a massive failure by a team ranked in the top 20 in the preseason. At what point did things go wrong?
AnteatersandBruins: Way before Rosen got hurt. Coming out of fall camp, Mora claimed the team never looked more ready at that point in the season. They were poised for greatness and came out against A&M and looked decent, but we all saw problems. There was absolutely no improvement from there on and it only went from bad to worse when Rosen went out.
Robert Bastron: I think you have to go back to January, when Mora promoted Polamalu, who’d never coordinated an offense before, and tasked him to install the pro-style offense, which the Bruins didn’t have the guys for on the offensive line. I guess at that point it wasn’t yet clear that Benenoch wouldn’t return, or that Raulerson wouldn’t be admitted to UCLA for graduate school. Either way, the offensive line was filled with guys who weren’t recruited and hadn’t yet been coached to block in a downhill running scheme. Mora hired the wrong guy for the job, and failed to see that he didn’t have the right personnel for this kind of makeover.
Nirya: The easy answer is the day Polamalu got hired, or after last season when Adrian Klemm was retained, so I’ll go somewhere else and say September 24th. That’s the day UCLA blew a lead they’d held almost the entire game and lost to Stanford for the 9th time. It was the kind of psychological blow that can turn a season, and while there were obvious problems with the offensive scheme and talent evaluation, it’s hard to overlook the fact that UCLA had changed their entire offensive philosophy just to win this game, and it didn’t happen.
Joe Piechowski: This is an easy question. The point where things went wrong was the point where Mora decided to not listen to me after last year’s Southern Cal game and when he decided to retain Adrian Klemm.
3. Let’s talk offense first. UCLA made the move Sunday to let go of Offensive Coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, and word is that more moves are coming. So the question is: what direction would you like to see the offense go in?
AnteatersandBruins: First of all, we need to hire someone with a proven record. No more promoting from within. I want someone that has something on paper that says “success” and also someone that can develop players. Time and again we have talent that goes wasted. On that note, the offense needs to match the personnel we have. We don’t really have a dual threat quarterback, so we need a playbook that can highlight his talents. I’m actually surprised that KP was the first to go. I had hoped it would be Klemm, but maybe he’s next on the list. We also need someone that can develop an offensive line and a run game. These are all obvious points, but such big issues.
Robert Bastron: I think Mora has to go back to the spread full time. While Mazzone had issues with predictable playcalling and being bad at the “chess” game, the issue wasn’t with the spread itself. I’d like to see a guy who’s had success in the college ranks come in who can get some production immediately out of the talent available, rather than continuing to try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Nirya: My first big request is no NFL hires (this includes Cam Cameron). Get someone from the college ranks who knows the college game. Now, I would particularly like to see a return to more of a spread concept, since that’s an offense we currently have the personnel for. Bu seriously, get a college coach.
Joe Piechowski: What direction? This is another easy question. North-South. I want our running backs moving North-South. That’s the only way our running game will ever be effective. I definitely don’t want them moving South-North like they did much of this season.
4. Defensively, the Bruins looked very good this season, but the last few games have been worrying. The Bruins lose a ton of key players next season, so the question here is should the defensive coaching staff feel safe, or should the Bruins be proactive on that side of the ball?
AnteatersandBruins: I’m going to chalk it up to feeling defeated. How long can you play your heart out for 45 minutes a game only to have your offense completely fail you? I see the point that we are losing a lot of key players on that side of the ball, but I also have faith in Tom Bradley. Even though we had a major shake up with injuries last year, I still felt like Bradley was able to keep the defense running on fumes. He seems to have an eye for putting guys in the right spots no matter who he has to work with.
Nirya: So this is me setting up a #HOTTAKE: I don’t think Tom Bradley was all that good the past few years. Yes, you can talk about the overall performance of the defense this year relative to the offense, and discuss how the offense and special teams routinely put the defense in bad positions, but in the back of my head I can’t stop thinking about how the defense looked whenever Takkarist McKinley and Eddie Vanderdoes weren’t on the line, or how the passing defense became suspect when Nate Meadors wasn’t available. There was a pretty significant drop-off in the defensive performance whenever the top stars weren’t available, which you would expect, but it adds together with the defensive performance last year when three of the top stars were gone by the fourth game. Tom Bradley’s defense has been carried by elite players, and I’m a bit hesitant about the future when Bradley himself has been hesitant to take advantage of the talent UCLA has brought in on the defensive side of the ball.
Joe Piechowski: Let’s face it. The guy who needs to be proactive around here is Gene Block. Retire. Please. He’s 68, after all. Go enjoy your golden years. Please! You earned it! Then, maybe...just maybe, we can get a new chancellor in place who understands that the UCLA Athletic Department should probably be called the UCLA Marketing Department and who will insist on having revenue sports that win. That would lead to Guerrero being shown the door with Mora and Alford right behind him.
5. For good measure, let’s just lay it out there: Does Jim Mora deserve another year to right the ship?
AnteatersandBruins: Deserve? No. Will he get one? Yes. So make something of it.
Nirya: If this were any other school that pretended to care about football, no. But the combination of a $15 million buyout and the athletic director who is handing out exorbitant buyouts like they’re candy, I’ll say Jim Mora gets another year. But the heat shouldn’t be focused on him, but rather the incompetent athletic director who keeps making these coaching mistakes.
Joe Piechowski: Excuse me a moment.....OK, I’m back now. I had to put on the old Colts sweater Mora’s dad gave me so that I can rant properly. Deserve another year? Don’t talk to me about another year! He’s lucky that he deserves another week! Don’t talk to me about whether he deserves another year. Alright, Mora, Sr. can have the Colts sweater back now. I didn’t really want it. It kind of smelled like mothballs.
6. The Extra Point - Sound off!
AnteatersandBruins: I can’t believe we’re in a state where we are now forced to say, “hey, we’re a basketball school” once again. How many top five recruiting classes have been a complete bust? On top of a bad year, we waste talent and don’t develop players to their full potential. I think that is one of the most maddening issues this program has had in the long run. Sure, this is a bad year, but when you look at the bigger picture, the misuse of talent is more frustrating to me.
Nirya: I don’t blame Jim Mora for this year. Really, I don’t! It’s not his fault he’s an average coach. And I can’t blame him for maximizing his talent to get one hell of a contract. But the ire of Bruin fans should be turned fully towards athletic director Dan Guerrero. Most ADs in the country wouldn’t survive 2 failed football hires, and the fact that Dan Guerrero might get the chance to make a fourth hire should anger Bruin fans.
Joe Piechowski: Sound off? I think I already did.