Chiccoa: More Yang, Please

BRO Columnist Charles Chiccoa provides his take on the mixed message of the Washington State game, and delves a bit more into the Kevin Prince/Richard Brehaut debate...

Leave it to Rick Neuheisel to introduce new and interesting language into the sometimes-tragic saga of Bruins football. I was getting tired of the old nomenclature anyway. So, goodbye for at least a week to "roller-coaster" and that everlasting "corner," and hello yin/yang, or yin and yang as it's more commonly known to Americans. We needed some refreshing.

I'm no Taoist and I doubt Rick is either, but apparently yin represents a more feminine side: dark, slow, soft, yielding, while yang represents a more masculine side: bright, fast, hard, focused, aggressive. For our purposes, think of Alabama and UCLA football in historical terms (less Sanders, Prothro and Vermeil). In common with both yin and yang blended into the whole, 42-28 was, for the Bruins, perhaps weighted toward the yin.

With momentum gathered from the week before, and a great opportunity to stomp an inferior opponent into the turf, the Bruins came out firing with both barrels before their weapon, unfortunately, jammed. Thus Washington State was given the chance to hang in there with their one and only weapon, the passing game. Of course there were the usual Bruin blunders, not to mention blunders of the stripped ass persuasion. In the end it made for thrilling, up-and-down, back-and-forth drama, but with a satisfying ending (at least for us). I wonder what Lao-Tsu would have made of the spectacle had he been alive and well and, no doubt, living in the Bay Area. Probably a bit alien for his eastern sensibility (can't imagine him doing an eight-clap).

*****


The first turning point came at a familiar juncture for Bruin fans: 1:51 before the half, the Bruins holding a semi-comfortable 20-7 lead (which could easily have been 34-6 but for a couple of curious offensive play calls). And now, one of two things happened:

1) Chuck Bullough decides to trust his secondary, falling back into soft coverage. Or…

2) His players, according to Bullough's feeling, were like, "Okay, we're up 14," Chuck suggesting they got complacent.

Either way, it gave WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel, who had thrown for minimal yardage up until now, a chance to drive 80 yards and seize the momentum, which he did in quick order. We've long contended that the biggest mismatch on most football fields is between wide receivers and defensive backs, particularly if the DBs are in a straight zone. (Someone will inevitably blow their assignment or the secondary will leave a hole down the middle and in front of the safeties.) That, combined with the generally superior size and speed of the wide receivers, spells trouble for any secondary that's without benefit of a serious pass rush. And of course third down conversions, especially third-and-long, have been a scandal for the Bruins. Yet, Bullough still believes in "coverage" over hunting quarterbacks.

What figured to be a pleasant day's work had suddenly morphed into the usual sweaty palms ordeal we've become familiar with. How many times, from Bobby Field through Nick Aliotti, Phil Snow, Larry Kerr, DeWayne Walker, right up to Bullough, have we seen this story repeated? It's just so Bruin.

Once Wazzu took the second-half kickoff and converted a couple of third downs, including a beautiful 55-yard bomb, Tuel to the talented Marquise Wilson, in which Wilson went up and took it away from Tony Dye and Sheldon Price, things were no longer "okay." More like, "Hey, Rebecca, that sideline must be jumping down there for Washington State." Nothing like re-animating a stiff. When Johnathan Franklin dropped the ball, leading directly to a 28-20 Cougars lead, some Bruin fans were doubtlessly flashing back to that infamous 30 - 34 in 1988, second only to the immortal Black Day in Miami.

But all's well that ends well: three exhilarating Bruin scores in a little over fifteen minutes, Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman running wild, the O-line crushing Wazzu's defensive front, Rahim Moore's memorable touchdown-saving collision at the goal line, Coleman's 73-yarder (what a day it was for him). I mean, considering what happened to SC later that afternoon, things could have been worse. The flattest note of the fourth quarter was struck on the very last play of the game, Akeem Ayers getting piled on by a couple of burly Cougars after sacking Tuel and recovering his fumble. As of Tuesday evening I've seen nothing mentioned about Ayers possibly missing the Cal game, but we all know how these injury stories go.

*****


So it's back on the road, first Cal, then the scary date in Autzen Stadium. Today most Bruin fans would be satisfied with a split. Then again, with a good showing in Berkeley things could change drastically in a week. The Bears, with journeyman quarterback Kevin Riley, and that Nevada disaster still fresh in their minds, seem less dangerous than in recent years, even in Strawberry Canyon. They will have had two weeks to prepare, and you'd have to think they'll need every day of it. But then our Kevin [Prince], thus far, hasn't seemed a lot better than their Kevin. If the Bears sell out with eight or nine in the box and the Bruins are having problems shaking loose Franklin and Coleman, or wearing down Cal, the game will likely be decided by one of the Kevins. For the Bruins, the pressure to throw downfield, to keep the secondary honest, is always lurking in the background. You wonder how long this Pepper Rodgers scene can continue.

Even had Richard Brehaut thrown for 300 yards, I doubt he'd have gotten Chow's nod for the start at Cal. He didn't complete anything downfield, or break off any long runs, but he did look relaxed and confident, got the ball off on time and accurate for the short routes, and he hit three nice intermediate routes, too. In short, he "managed" the offense competently. He looked allright for a quarterback making his first start. In any case, he's not the Chris Forcier or Osaar Rashan some overly-defensive Prince supporters believe him to be. And the experience he got last Saturday should make us all breathe a little easier.

Prince is the better runner, bigger and faster, and he operates the primary option better; but then he should given his advantage in experience. I would never try to sell Brehaut to the BROs since Prince is overwhelmingly the people's choice, but if Prince doesn't relax, doesn't start playing more fluidly, doesn't start hitting a higher percentage of his throws when it comes time to throw (and it surely will), I'm not convinced this contest is completely over. Personally, I'm rooting for both of them and hoping both are more yang than yin.

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