Into the Great Wide Open

<b>EDITORIAL</B>: With the announcement of Matt Moore as the starting quarterback, <b>Charles Chiccoa</b> takes a stab at the state of UCLA football, and even casts a bit of a positive eye toward the rest of the season...

Karl Dorrell pulled the trigger on the quarterback question and that sound you heard wasn't a gunshot; it was Bruin fans heaving the proverbial sigh of relief. The offense has obviously been blocked up, impacted. I think we can all agree that the defense has been primarily responsible for all these victorious "moral defeats." You could see and feel it for yourself on game days in the stadiums or at home, relaxed, watching your slow motion video replays. The numbers testify to it: the Bruins are nowhere in scoring, total offense, rushing, and passing efficiency. UCLA, tied for first in the Pac-10, is nowhere in the polls. On any Saturday morning since the Oklahoma train wreck, Kirk Herbstreit, along with that clown in the mascot head, will show more interest in some MAC "powerhouse" than they will in the Bruins. Nationally, UCLA has become the invisible team.

The shock of the announcement that Matt Moore would start the Arizona St. game is a measure of how conservative Karl Dorrell has come to be seen by Bruin fans. The feeling of surprise, not to mention exhilaration, was almost as if Anthony Morelli had dumped Pitt and committed to UCLA. But then KD is conservative. He does not move fast, change fast. He is methodical. What you see is what you get; he admitted as much from day one. And he also told us he wasn't particularly demonstrative (no pom-pom here). Many of us filed this stuff away and forgot it. Conservative, not rah-rah. So what? He was bringing a pro-style offense and pro-style defense to the Toledo-suffering Bruin masses. I remember a third and short at one of the big Spaulding Field scrimmages when the Bruins converted on a clever little swing pass. Hey, I thought, this is football the easy way - or at least easier than what we had become used to. Then, of course, came the real games and reality. It hasn't been pretty.

There are, of course, degrees of conservatism, and KD would have been very near the Woody/Bo class had he not made the move to Moore now. But he did. We all know Moore could have played two weeks ago since he did play two weeks ago. Had Arizona not run that perfectly timed blitz, or had that tipped pass not been picked, Moore might have regained his job in Tucson, or he might have started the Cal game. Had the Bruins not gone up 14-3 vs. Cal, KD might have felt less "comfortable" staying with Drew Olson. It's obvious, despite the diplomatic coach-speak, that Olson would probably be starting this week had he played better last week; Olson is not without talent. But Cal was his worst game of the year, and, yes, it was "the first thing" both KD and the rest of us looked at and thought about immediately after that field goal try bounced back off the left upright and we could finally exhale and vacate that Pasadena furnace.

One of the BROs suggested that KD was like some gambler at the craps table determined to ride a lucky streak until he went bust. So credit KD for backing away from the table and cashing in while he was still ahead. That the Bruins are lucky to be 5-2, and undefeated in conference, is an understatement. Football teams cannot keep living off opponent's missed last-second field goals, blocked field goals returned for scores, shovel passes picked off and returned for scores, and all the other good fortune that has enabled the Bruins to stay afloat when they could have easily gone dead in the water. If Moore can lead the team successfully up to and through Washington St., in Pullman, I think the Trojans, who are taking the Pac-10 championship for granted, might begin to sweat a little. But that seems miles down the road.

So now the pressure shifts to Moore. It's what he's been wanting ever since his unlucky first quarter in Boulder. He's going to get the reps and he's going to be the center of attention come Saturday. Since he's always been a premium athlete, I think the chances are good he can handle it. Or what else do you think all this "gunslinger" talk is about, if not self-confidence? We could all be wrong, reality could slap us in the face again, but this guy does have the look of a "natural." He makes what he does look easy. When he throws downfield he doesn't have to put everything on it, throw from the heels so to speak, in order to get it there accurately and on time. That memorable long pass he threw vs. Stanford, last year, in his first action, testifies to that. He can afford to put touch on longer, downfield passes because of arm strength - something like a golfer blessed with height, natural strength and an effortless swing. And because his movements are fluid and he has good wheels, his pocket presence is more relaxed than the average young quarterback. Whether these obvious talents will quickly pay off in first downs and touchdowns, time will tell. But who doesn't feel better today facing the meat of the schedule with the starting quarterback reinstated?

Now if Matt Ware and Rodney Leisle are able to go, and Jarrad Page is feeling better, maybe we'll begin seeing a more effective defense than we've seen the past two weeks. And with the possibility of a more abundant offense, maybe we'll finally see those cylinders we've been hearing so much about finally begin firing together. Maybe we'll see "those skies of blue."

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