It Has to be Over

Even if Rick Neuheisel dramatically turned around the team for the remainder of the season, there's no erasing the images and feelings from UCLA's debacle against Arizona...

Don't even expect me to analyze that game. It's not that I'm speechless, it's just that analyzing that game is beyond my job description. It would be like asking a coal miner to go into a coal mine after the canaries had died. Or forcing the official Greek drink taster to take a sip of Socrates' hemlock, after he had keeled over. Or being a nuclear plant inspector in 1986 – in Chernobyl.

There are some words and phrases that come to mind.

Strange.

Unsettling.

Embarrassing.

Surreal.

Ugly.

Bizarre.

Stunning.

Rock bottom.

The wheels have come off.

The question is: Is it over?

UCLA is currently 3-4, with 5 games remaining. Could Rick Neuheisel pull off a "successful" season? Wow, not only would the team have to win 4 of its last 5 games and go 7-5, it would have to turn it around so dramatically that it erased the damage that was done Thursday night.

And there was some considerable damage.

It was truly a strange, unsettling feeling to watch UCLA get trampled in the first half. It was embarrassing to watch one of the worst rushing teams in the country rush for 174 yards in the first two quarters, and get their per-game rushing average after just 7 minutes of the first quarter. It was surreal to watch UCLA players – in those familiar uniforms and that script on the helmet – appear to be almost disoriented while they got smacked by a 1-5 team. And then, all of that ugliness was tinged with another, different sense of ugly when the first half was capped off by a bizarre brawl.

At half time, you had to wonder: Had the UCLA program hit rock bottom? Was there any other time in the last 13 years – which is the worst stretch in UCLA football history – that it was this bad?

With the aftertaste of the fight, and the bewilderment in the eyes of the coaches and the players on the sideline in the second half, it was easy to define it as the wheels having come off.

It is an extreme longshot that Neuheisel will be able to turn around the season, and be able to erase the images of Thursday's loss to Arizona out of the minds of fans, recruits and, you'd have to think, the UCLA administration.

I can't speak for the UCLA administration, but I can certainly express the feeling of the vast majority of UCLA fans. It's over for them. Even the ones who were clinging to the Neuheisel ship jumped overboard Thursday night.

In recruiting, Neuheisel, so far this season, had been dead-man-walking in the eyes of most recruits. If you hadn't noticed, UCLA was falling off the lists of every elite prospect, and UCLA's committed players – even some that were stretches to take to begin with – were suddenly "keeping their options open." UCLA was starting to look at clearly second-tier recruits. Now, after that performance on national television, he's not dead man walking in recruiting, he's just dead.

This was the game in which Neuheisel sincerely had his chance to salvage the season, coming off a bye week, getting injured players back, and still very much in the race to win the Pac-12 South, all on national television. With all of that riding on the game, it was bizarre, strange and surreal that the team played with such poor execution and lack of a sense of urgency.

It was truly rock bottom and the wheels have come off.

It'd be stunning if the Neuheisel era wasn't over.


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