When will we learn? This is UCLA football after all, football the hard way, a cursed tradition since August ‘58. The Sanders Affair, Danny Graham, phantom catches, O.J.'s friggin 64-yard run, Cotton Spyrer, Zenon Andrusyshyn, Vermeil (2 and out), Donahue (20 and in), SC hype, Bruin poor-mouthing, bad calls, bad breaks, bad coaches, and injuries, injuries, injuries. Why should ‘03 be any different? Perhaps football has to pay for the sins of John Wooden's superhuman excellence (Naw, that‘s too hippy-dippy). We waited nine months for something good to happen; we can wait another week. Hunker down BROs and bring on the Illini.
Sure, 14-16 was a huge letdown. Aggressiveness, confidence, imagination? Where were they in Boulder? Was UCLA the better team? Probably so. Were they out-coached? Again? Ah... yeah... So, what now? Hey, we're hardcore. We can take anything; anything but another eight clap. Leave that for Geoff Strand and all those pom-pom waving Blues at the Rose Bowl. What we do is what we always do. We stand up and take it. What else is there? You gonna sign up for a Big 12 satellite pass and become a Sooners fan? Nut it up and quit whining, just like you're always telling your beloved Bruins to do.
The good news is, the Bruins are about as talented as most of us figured. The defensive front is as good as advertised. Spencer Havner was certainly missed, and Justin London wasn't particularly noticeable. But the rest of them certainly were, particularly Rodney Leisle, Brandon Chillar and Mat Ball and Dave Ball. For the time being, we can quit looking for "the next Robert Thomas," and just hope London starts focusing more and woofing less. He's young and he needs to start mastering his position quickly. Matt Ware was fine and seems to be carrying that weight well. Colorado certainly avoided him. Matt Clark, except for a few plays, looks to be iffy. He's very slight, of course; he didn't look real good in run support; and his coverage instincts were distinctly conservative. Was it just the schemes? I doubt it. He's obviously going to be tested early, every game. He'll need to be challenged in practice. Next to Drew Olson, he has the toughest job on the field.
Both quarterbacks looked okay. Olson was prepared, and any lack of reps in practice was certainly not in evidence. If he can come through the next three or four games in one piece, and Matt Moore shows up by, say, Arizona or Cal, that position looks less worrisome than anticipated. Actually, Olson's been handed a great opportunity. He's obviously playing Major Applewhite to Moore's Chris Sims, and you know how popular the underdog, Applewhite, has become with Longhorn fans.
Marceces Lewis is everything we expected. His father may not be in the NFL Hall of Fame, but he may give Winslow, the younger, a run for his money when they move to the NFL. Craig Bragg's drops were surely anomalies, and they should only make him work that much harder (and nobody's ever questioned his work ethic). I also don't look for Junior Taylor to become another BPD. Or Maurice Drew to become another fumbler on the order of Wendell Tyler or DeShaun Foster. Junior and Mo are way too good to hold this game against them.
The offensive line certainly didn't turn up any player's of the game, nor lessen any of the pre-season anxieties about them. Even some three-man rushes were giving them trouble. On the other hand, they were often (as usual) outnumbered, and the backs were not a great deal of help blocking. It's not impossible to shake loose a tailback through a stacked front, but it's playing football the hard way to keep trying, which is what the Bruins did with Tyler Ebell (and I'm not sure Manuel White would have put up anything close to a hundred yards in this game either). But for Manny not to touch the ball at all? Axman needs to second-guess himself hard on this one. Or the head coach for not insisting Manny's number gets called. I can't help feeling Manny should be in a three man rotation at tailback and not at fullback.
That the Karl Dorrell era didn't get off to a roaring start is the understatement of the weekend. Now we'll have to listen to that ugly, little, squeaky voiced Bowden dwarf on ABC dump on the Bruins until the Oklahoma game. (He's probably already got San Diego St. lined up as his upset pick of the week for September 27th. The old man must be nearing his centenary and the kid at Clemson should be finished any day now. Are there any more members of this infernal family out there, and how do they stand on the abortion question?)
Running up to the Colorado game, KD frightened the hell out of us with those two words, "conservative" and "overwhelmed," along with that little item about feeling "in the way" on the sidelines. Not what we were waiting to hear. Especially from a comparatively young, rookie coach stepping into such an angry, high-profile atmosphere, in the immediate post Toledo/Lavin period. Unfortunately, what we appeared to see on the sidelines was something approximating conservative and overwhelmed. Something about KD, which I hadn't been able to put my finger on, finally crystallized after the Colorado game. I think he might be a tad naive, just a little innocent when it comes to understanding the level of dissatisfaction among Bruin fans. Somebody (Dan Guerrero) needs to make sure he understands the lay of the land in Westwood. KD's been seen to focus pretty hard on the job at hand, putting a staff together, repairing the recruiting, installing his systems, etc., etc. After all, though he's a Bruin, he's been away for a while, and the neighborhood has changed. When he was last here, it was during what passes for Terry Donahue's glory days. I doubt he anticipated how those words would go down. The "overwhelmed" feeling should pass, hopefully by this week, and so should the business about feeling "in the way." If he can win with a basically conservative approach, then God bless him. But Bob Stoops and the Florida schools have not, and do not, play conservatively, and they are the current model for college football success, not the Big Ten style of Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr, despite those national championships. "Execution" and "fundamentals" are obviously necessary to succeed, but deception, misdirection, surprise and a feared passing attack make everything else easier. Miami and Oklahoma (and Norm Chow) all understand that the passing game opens up the run, not the other way around. Until Olson and Moore begin to burn opposition secondaries, the Bruins will continue to see seven-, eight- and nine-man fronts, and not even Jim Brown and Larry Csonka could consistently crack those fronts. Cory Paus and BT failed because they were never able to make coordinators back off the line of scrimmage.
KD is likely not the prodigy some of us were hoping for, but there's no reason to believe he can't learn or won't become more assertive, particularly in play calling, over what we witnessed in Boulder. Colorado was only one game, his first, and to believe nothing will change is to be as mule-headed as stubborn Bob, himself. But I sure wouldn't want to go into Norman 0-2.