for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her
and to wonder what would happen next."
Alice in Wonderland
Welcome to Alice's world. As Bruins fans, we're every bit as helpless as Alice in her slow-motion freefall down the rabbit hole (although she was certainly less horrified than we are today).
So is this wreck of a football program going to begin righting itself in the foreseeable future – by which I mean the next nine games - or will it sink ever deeper into this unprecedented Dark Age? Either Rick Neuheisel will, along with his reconfigured staff, somehow "miracle" UCLA to six more wins or will Dan Guerrero, come November 27th, be taxed with his third straight coaching search… and the specter of possibly taking a called third strike.
So much for any lingering "curiosity" over Kevin Prince. (My bad, I take full responsibility.) Sure, Prince is a "good kid" and "bleeds Bruin blue," but then so did Kevin Craft. Though he's more talented than Craft, Prince did look Craft-like with those three horrible picks and a near fumble. The first pick looked like adrenaline overload. He locked on, threw the ball early and nowhere near the receiver. The one in the red zone was a panic throw, and the one down the sideline fluttered, was perfectly defended and deserved to be picked.
It should be clearer than ever that Prince is a backup talent and that his "body of work" argues strongly against him becoming a successful Pac-12 quarterback. I mean, it's a bit late in the day to be developing QB instincts he should've possessed as a high school freshman. Even an athlete the caliber of Drew Bennett was never going to be a major college QB.
You can't afford to play an insecure "fifty percenter" who throws more picks than touchdowns and has such difficulty completing throws downfield. And Kevin is far from a rookie. He'd have to average at least a hundred yards rushing to justify his mediocre-to-poor passing performances. And even the potential damage he might do off zone reads, or scrambles, doesn't approach what a competent quarterback could produce through the air. Hopefully UCLA may still find that competent-to-good quarterback this year.
Yet even now, the quarterback question Neuheisel has been fiddling around with since preseason practices still seems unsettled. He may have finally conceded that the people's choice, Richard Brehaut, has "surged ahead" in the competition and will start the Oregon State game, but a close reading of his statement suggests Richard is still only a bad half from returning the job to Prince.
You would think Bruins fans would have suffered enough quarterback controversies, but then that's what you get with this whole string of conservative, belt-and-suspenders coaches. The new kid isn't seasoned enough and obviously doesn't know the play book as well; yet the experienced vet often has the wrong sort of experience, i.e. failure, and he may also lack the necessities for the position, may in fact be in over his head, merely all heart but short on talent. Going back to post-Cade McNown, we've had Drew Bennett vs. Cory Paus, Paus vs. (the self-made) Scott McEwen, Drew Olson vs. Matt Moore (that one was a dilemma), Patrick Cowan vs. Ben Olson, Kevin Craft vs. oh, any warm body… and now this.
Pete Carroll was right: If a position is unsettled, go with the younger, more talented guy. Accelerate his learning curve, see if he can handle the course, then live with the growing pains. Because the less talented veteran will also make mistakes, but he won't make many plays, won't be a playmaker on Saturdays.
To use another of Neuheisel's favorite expressions, Brett Hundley must now be "chomping at the bit" after the Prince Experience, the play of Texas's young QBs, and Brehaut's rather ordinary forty minutes and change on Saturday. I'll give this to Richard: He was able to drive the team to four scores, and likely a fifth had Joseph Fauria been able to hold onto the ball after taking that hellacious hit.
Right off the top, I don't buy that the defense was "demoralized" by Prince's three picks. Maybe the last one, a little, but nothing more. The Bruins had fought to within 15 points late in the third quarter, and they couldn't (shouldn't) have been tired considering their liberal use of situational substitutions.
But even before Prince got yanked, did you notice Tresey's answer to Texas's first significant third-and-long of the day> That's right: the dreaded three-man rush. The result: Case McCoy steps up in the pocket and effortlessly slings a pass to a wide open receiver crossing the field unmolested in the Bruins' deep, blue, inviting secondary. None of that nasty "rerouting" for our Bruins. Once again, "When was the db beaten?" And the class responds, "At birth." In this case, it was merely an Aaron Hester brain cramp. But whether its brain cramps, a physical mismatch, stiff hips, bad hands, whatever, a good quarterback loves seeing soft coverage like that… what I think of as the gentlemanly three-man front. Oh boy, an early Christmas.
After three games, I find that dealing with Joe Tresey's defense is a little like listening to progressive jazz; It seems unnecessarily complex. Like most conservative DCs, Tresey's style of attack is not to, but rather to "contain," to not concentrate his defenders: Engage the blocker, protect your flank, keep the play in front of you, do not worry about making plays, trust your teammates (trust someone else to do it), and do not, under any circumstances, get beaten deep. Better the death of a thousand cuts than the long bomb. General George McClellen - Lincoln's pain in the ass - would have loved it.
Now the best DCs, particularly at winning time, seriously contest the line of scrimmage and turn the heat way, way up, with the idea of putting people on the ground whether they are QBs, ball carriers or receivers. They would rather act than react and so would their players. Rocky Long made it work even with undersized personnel.
If I were a religious man, I'd pray for Brehaut to play well in a victory at Corvallis, see what he can do as a huge underdog at Stanford, then somehow find five more wins on the schedule. Of course it's a long shot, but looked at in a certain way this year it's almost a win-win situation… that is if the word, win, can be used in the same context as UCLA football.