Here's the thing: Despite the job situation with Rick Neuheisel, and all of the funky vibe that comes with it from the program, it sure is good to watch a Bruin team win. When UCLA jumped out to a 21-0 advantage in the first quarter, it conjured up feelings of the distant past, when UCLA was a college football power and did that quite often.
You have to feel good for the entire Bruin community – for the fans, the players, and the coaches -- and Neuheisel.
If you really want to analyze the game realistically, which is kind of a waste of time at this point, because it really doesn't mean anything, you can narrow it down to three points:
Colorado is really bad. If you're doling out feelings for other people, some have to go out to Colorado Head Coach Jon Embree and Offensive Coordnatior Eric Bieniemy, two former Bruin coaches, because those guys are working with very little talent at Colorado. I don't think any new coach at UCLA, between Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell or Rick Neuheisel, had to deal with such bare cupboards in trying to re-build a program. Colorado desperately lacks team speed and athleticism. San Jose State was a more formidable opponent for UCLA. Embree and Bieniemy definitely have a tough job ahead to turn around the Buff program.
The homefield advantage in college football is significant. At home, this mediocre UCLA team this season is 5-1. In its last three home games it was decisively better than its three opponents. And it looked like a different team on the one road game that was mixed in there in the last month. And on the flip side, Colorado was a different team Saturday night than it was last weekend in Boulder when it soundly beat Arizona, the team that trounced UCLA at home in Tucson.
It made you realize, really, the level of UCLA's talent. This team steamrolled the Buffs much like a dominating team should, on both lines of scrimmage. UCLA ran for 328 yards, and allowed just 87 by Colorado. It was far superior in terms of skill position talent. UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince was 15-for-19 for 225 yards and four touchdowns, while Colorado's Tyler Hansen was 16-of-31 for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Heck, UCLA's former walk-on defensive back, Andrew Abbott, showed more pass-catching ability in his interception than the Colorado receivers. And yes, while we conceded that Colorado isn't very talented, the game did plainly show that UCLA is.
In our running tally of whether the team played up to its capability, this was an easy one in the playing-up-to-capability column. So, the team is 3-7-1 on the season.
And in realistically looking back on the season, it's easy to see, after watching the Colorado game, how Neuheisel put his job in jeopardy. This team should, with its amount of talent, realistically be at least 8-3. Really the only team it is less talented than that was on the schedule was Stanford. If the team was coached moderately well this season we'd concede a couple more slip-ups, to get it to 8-3. If it were coached very well, heck, it should have 9 wins or more. If it were coached brilliantly, UCLA has enough talent to have even bamboozled a win out of Stanford. It wouldn't have been like Colorado trying to beat the Cardinal.
This game, then, makes it all very clear.
And it makes it clear that, when you're a coach with your job on the line, you can't have the team play up to its capability just in three games on the season, and, in three of its last four games because it was at home. It has to come out firing from the first snap in September. It's clear that, with this level of talent, the team was unprepared for the season.
It was good to see some Bruins have good games. Johnathan Franklin running for 162 yards was a beautiful thing to watch, even despite his requisite fumble. Nelson Rosario had 6 catches for 102 yards, some actual yards-after-the-catch, and had one of his most all-around impressive games. It was a game where he was consistently productive, instead of the type of game we're accustomed to – lazy on some receptions and then making one spectacular catch. Joseph Fauria had 5 catches and 2 touchdowns and looked like the weapon he should have been all season. Shaquelle Evans had the one deep ball for a touchdown, and looked like the long-ball threat he's supposed to be. The offensive line was very good, allowing very little pressure on Prince from a Colorado pass rush that has been good in getting in the opposing backfield. Prince was sacked just once. On defense, the team was led by probably its two best defensive players for the season, Abbott and linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Then you have to give it to Prince. Not only did he put up those solid passing stats, but he also ran for 91 yards on 10 carries, and again was a devastating weapon on the zone read. It doesn't get any less stunning when he turns up field, gets into the secondary and turns on that straight-ahead speed. It appears that the defense looks stunned by it also. We don't want to somehow conjure up bad mojo and jinx it, but now that Prince has played in a number of games without getting injured it does make you ponder whether or not he truly is brittle or just remarkably unlucky.
Also give credit to the offensive play-calling. For the first and fourth quarters, it was dynamic. It mixed in the pass and the run, it rolled out Prince, it utilized most of its talent, and it did so in terms of down-and-distance that kept the defense on its heels.
In analyzing the game, you also, then, have to point out the ditch the UCLA offense fell into in the second and third quarters. In the first and four quarters, UCLA punter Jeff Locke didn't see the field. In the middle two quarters, he punted three times and UCLA also threw in a fumble. In quarters 1 and 2, UCLA scored 35 points and just 10 in the 2nd and 3rd. It was a little bit that Colorado made some adjustments, and limited UCLA's running game some. It was also that the dynamic play-calling of the first quarter went a bit conservative.
It was a crazy night in terms of the Pac-12 South race. Earlier in the evening it looked like UCLA was going to get a leg up on Utah. The Utes were going into overtime against Washington State, in Pullman. But the Cougars hiccupped with an overtime interception, handing the win to Utah. If WSU had won, coupled with the UCLA win, the Bruins would have clinched the Pac-12 South title. Then, it appeared that Arizona State was going to take hold of the pole position when it was leading Arizona 27-17 in the fourth quarter in Tempe. But the Sun Devils melted down, giving up two unanswered touchdowns to the Wildcats, and subsequently taking them out of the driver's seat (and putting coach Dennis Erickson on another type of seat). So, in a strange, topsy-turvy world, UCLA is on the verge of firing a coach – and justifiably -- who is one win over USC away from going to the Pac-12 Championship game.