Chiccoa: A New Dialectic?

BRO football columnist Charles Chiccoa decides wisely not to analyze the Oregon game, but presents a balanced, reasoned assessment of the torn and tortured Bruin fan's opinion of the program...

"Questions are the answers you might need"
…Noel Gallagher


We can pretty much dispense with any of the usual post mortems in connection with Rout 60. Suffice it to say the point-a-minute, hustle-it-up Ducks were not only running through creases and holes, they were running through virtual tunnels while their young quarterback, Darron Thomas - given the usual Chuck Bullough dispensation from serious pressure - was sitting back, slicing up the Bruin secondary to the tune of 308 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 picks, numbers the now aerial-challenged Bruins can only dream about. I mean, how ridiculous was it that LaMichael James, Oregon's legit Heisman candidate, had only the Duck's fourth best average-per-carry.

It seems as if Bruin timing is consistently off. Here was Oregon in all their #1 glory, their greatest team in history, playing at home, on prime time national TV, versus the perfect straight man. And, sure enough, 13-60 looked more like another dummy drill than a real football game.

On the Duck's initial drive, my heart immediately sank at the sight of the Bruin defense spread so wide and deep all over the field. I remember Terry Donahue teams lining up similarly when taking their ass-whippings at Oklahoma and Nebraska. And did you happen to catch the Oregon assistant coach ending his pre-game pep talk with this: "Have a lot of fun… have a lot of fun… have a lot of fun." And so they did. Must be nice… Last time I remember having that much fun was a dozen years ago, the 52-28 wipeout of a respectable UDub team. (As it happened, that was two weeks before "Miami.")

Generally speaking, these wood-sheddings usually take ‘til halftime, or midway in the third quarter, before the more sensitive Bruins either click off the game or head for the parking lot in order to resume their therapeutic drinking. This thing was over four and half minutes into the second quarter (though I'm sure some of you would afix the time much earlier).

Unfortunately, Richard Brehaut was no great improvement over Kevin Prince. With Prince out for the season, Brehaut now gets an extended shot at the job. It's obvious he's a more accurate passer, and he gets the ball off on time more frequently than Prince. When Brehaut's connecting, the passing game actually looks somewhat in sync (and when was the last time we could say that?). But Chow's game plans and design for the passing game still look elementary, passive and unchallenging. And Brehaut still has that maddening habit of freezing in the pocket, which inevitably results in horrendous hits and drive-killing turnovers.

Prince, in his season and a half, hasn't demonstrated much more than "toughness" and the ability to absorb punishment. And we know how much that's worth after sitting through the Kevin Craft Experience. If Brehaut doesn't demonstrate the ability to move the offense in these next five games, we could be looking at the prospect of a three-way quarterback controversy next year, provided Brett Hundley shows up in the spring (worst case scenario, of course, is that he pulls "a Nottingham").

*****

Fulton Kuykendall, the old All-Conference Bruin linebacker, currently living out of state, called up one of his old teammates in California in the middle of the Oregon game to ask him the classic Myron Cope question, "What's goin' on down there?!" After getting an earful of the usual disgruntled analysis we've become familiar with, Fulton announced he didn't feel like drinking anymore and was turning off the game and heading for bed. One wonders how many other Bruins did something similar.

Myself, I'm still curious. I stayed the course. As the seasons pass I seem to have built up an immunity to these sort of games, this sort of culture. Where I used to break various ceramic objects and such, I now just sit there with the same stunned and amazed expression we keep seeing on Rick Neuheisel's face.

*****


Remember that apparently glorious day when Rick and Norm Chow took the floor to deafening applause at Pauley? Today, all that subsequently hollow rhetoric smells like so much sour milk. But at least things have become clearer, which will happen when three out of your first seven games have been debacles, when those games were effectively over by halftime and when your program is coming off two straight 8th-place conference finishes. If Rick wasn't Rick, he'd be on the "hot seat" right now.

No surprise the knives are out again on the message boards, in the sports bars and at your work places.

In the black corner we have the Cranks who have seen enough. The season thus far -- piled atop all the previously irrelevant seasons -- have torn it. UCLA hasn't won a conference championship (if we count this currenet season) in 12 seasons. In those 12 seasons since 1998, UCLA has had one successful season, in 2005, where it finished 10-2, 3rd in the Pac-10 and ranked 13th in the country. In the other 11 seasons, the Bruins have gone 3-4, 7-6, 4-8, 6-7, 7-6, 6-6, 6-7, 8-5, 7-4, 6-6, and 4-7. Its average finish in the conference is a 5th. Right or wrong, these people are fresh out of patience. Many of them want this regime gone ASAP, Bullough and Chow at a minimum. They're convinced these guys can't succeed, that no matter how smooth Rick may be on the recruiting circuit, and how good a politician he may be, he lacks the steel will necessary to lead in the shark-infested waters of college football. They see Neuheisel as no more than a silver-tongued schmoozer, who, even at his best, resembles no more than your sweet-natured runner-up. The most radical Cranks would rather get an early start on the next rebuilding project… and take a flyer on someone, anyone, even though that search will be led by Dan Guerrero, whom they already credit with two strikeouts. They'd rather chance him picking another lemon than enduring another season of these guys. Above all they finally want to pull up the roots and salt the ground of the Donahue family tree. You could say their contempt bucket is overflowing.

And in the white corner we have the loyalists who are counseling… patience. They wrap themselves in the flag of reason and damn the skeptics as unsophisticated, blood-in-the-eye, sans-culottes. Rick's proven recruiting skills (and reputed political skills) seem, to them, substantial enough to counsel a "wait-and-see." Most of all, they're afraid of leaping into the unknown, starting over yet again. Would the next guy be a stranger to the west coast, an alien to the recruiting network Rick has built up? Would he be the winner of yet another third-rate "search"? Would he be a safe, "experienced" choice but past it? (a Rollie Massimino type). Would he be a young "up-and-comer," and could Guerrero, or his "search consultants," be expected to identify such an animal? And so on. They're hoping Rick can salvage this season (even though Rick, himself, has declared that hope is no basis for a serious program).

As usual, I'm still game to game, so I'm going to wait on these last five games, four of them conceivably winnable. And any fan with the least sense of history regarding this program knows the Athletic Department will do what it will without regard to the public brouhaha.

One would assume Rick is safe through 2011 except for one occurrence, that being critical mass. Try as we will to logically see into the future, events will always have the last word. Which is to say Rick needs to demonstrate, at the very least, improved play in the last five games, avoiding even one more crucifixion, which might be a bit difficult considering SC's recent resurrection (and God help us all if they upset Oregon). If Chow (but especially Bullough) needs to be replaced, Rick would be well advised to cut him (or them) loose, swiftly and decisively, after the last game. If next season tanks - whether or not Guerrero pulls the trigger on him - Rick will be one more dead coach walking.

Looks as if it's survival mode all around.


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