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The Morning After, Part 7: U.C. Berkeley

The UCLA Bruins ended a 16 year drought at Cal yesterday, but does that mean our team is good, or Cal is bad, or did we just get the right breaks at the right times, and what does it mean for next week and beyond? It's relatively hard to know.

We are certainly glad this guy is healthy
We are certainly glad this guy is healthy
Thearon W. Henderson

Einstein once described relativity this way: Sitting on a hot stove for a minute feels like an hour. Sitting with a pretty girl for an hour feels like a minute.  That's relativity.

All appearances are relative, depending where your seat is. As such, it's hard to say anything with a high degree of certainty, and that continues to apply to the 2014 Bruins football team.

You might hear two versions of yesterday's game.

The Bruins lost two poorly played games in a row which killed their season hopes, then traveled to play a bad Cal program that has struggled in recent years and had one of the worst scoring defenses in the conference, but still settled for a couple of red zone field goals while the Bears erased our 10 point halftime lead, turned the ball over 3 times, and had to rely on a late field goal and then a turnover on a curious play call by the opponent when they were closing in on a game-winning field goal attempt to secure an ugly win.


Despite two losses, the Bruins remained in the thick of the Pac-12 South race, then went on the road to a place they haven't won in 16 years, faced the highest scoring offense in the conference, staged a 4th quarter comeback, made a clutch field goal late and then got a last minute game-sealing interception from a second string corner who missed last season with a life threatening fungal infection in his sinuses to preserve a valiant win to keep their Pac-12 hopes alive.

You can adopt either viewpoint, depending on which one suits you better. They are both correct and incorrect at the same time. I've always hated those glass half full/glass half empty arguments, because, by definition, the glass is both. One side cannot exist without the other, and so it then becomes defined by its opposite. But if you just consider the different frames of reference, Einstein (who was mostly a South Campus type) will tell us it's ok, they're actually still the same.

So to choose one side over the other is just an exercise in self preservation.

I wrote this line for the Cal SBN site on Friday about this game: If we lose this game, it's not a big surprise and it doesn't affect the season. If we win this game, it's not a surprise and it doesn't affect the season.

There you go. Equivalent opposites.

From a pure football standpoint, this game was pretty much like all the Bruins previous games. Our team did some good things and they did some bad things, and we have still failed to put together 4 quality quarters of football on the same weekend. The difference yesterday was that, like our 4 wins and unlike Utah and Oregon, we had an opponent that allowed us a greater margin for error. So based on the frame of reference we were observed in yesterday, we looked like a winner.

Also, it was great to end the drought in Berkeley. It has been 16 years since UCLA won there. I looked it up and that 1998 gave was played on October 24th, so it's possible there are kids who were born after our last win there who got their driver's licenses before our next win there.

But college football is a wacky sport and appearances can be deceiving.  Consider these examples from yesterday...

The Missouri offense had 99 yards rushing and 20 yards passing against Florida. Total. That's it. In the entire game. But no matter, they beat the Gators by 29 points. Only 2 teams in history have limited an opponent to less than 120 yards of offense and lost. Florida's Will Muschamp has coached both of those losing teams.

Oklahoma was the #11 team in the country before Saturday. Then their kicker had a PAT blocked and missed 2 short FG's, the second from 19 yards out with 3 minutes left in the game. Oklahoma lost by a point.

Texas A&M was in the Top 10 2 weeks ago. They lost by 59 yesterday and they will not be in the Top 25 this afternoon.

Baylor was the #4 team in the country before meeting West Virginia yesterday where the two teams combined for 32 penalties for 353 yards. That game film is going to be porn for the SPTRs

And closer (or farther?) from home, the road team advantage in the Pac-12 is now 16-6. So maybe there shouldn't have been any question about breaking the streak this year

Which of the above teams are good and which are bad? I guess it depends on your point of view. We've had our own adventures with winning with an anemic offense, unreliable kicking, falling rankings, and penalties, penalties, penalties. On the other hand, we are undefeated on the road

I don't know what any of it means, and I think my lack of enthusiasm - and direction - for writing this today reflects my ongoing uncertainty about this team. Last week I found some comfort by being relieved of the stress that came with watching our team try to meet ideals is wasn't playing up to. Waiting for failure isn't fun. But I still want to know something more concrete about this team and staff. We did see the coaches try a few new things yesterday like new personnel on the O line and more pressure from the defensive front, so if the possibility for change exists, maybe there is some hope for us after all.

But are we a good team? That's all relative.

If you're looking for absolutes that apply from any reference frame, you'll only find a few here. One is that yesterday's game confirmed that an ugly win is always better than a loss. Another is, after listening to large parts of the last three games on radio via the cool UCLA Gameday app, play by play guy Chris Roberts's eminent retirement will provide an enormous improvement for our broadcast. Silence would get more details correct. And finally, see the photo at the top of this article? We are grateful and happy for a young man who overcame a frequently deadly sinus disease. That he gets to continue playing football is just a bonus.