It's SC week and by Saturday morning I'll be as anxious as you to see what happens - but more in the clinical sense. I know... it's UCLA/SC, "you can throw the book out," blah, blah, blah. No, unless Matt Leinart goes down early or either Drew Olson or Matt Moore miraculously pulls a John Barnes (one of my favorite Bruins ever), or some other playmaker has a super-human day, this year the book should hold true. It no longer seems a question of what, but only of how much. And that's almost unprecedented. I can't remember a time when Bruin fans felt so buried by SC, so hopeless, so angry. 22 1/2 point dogs! A lot of us remember the 49-14 dismemberment in 1979 that almost cost Terry Donahue his job. But, luckily for TD (I don't know about the rest of us), the following year was the famous tipped ball to Freeman McNeil. Anyone here smell victory next year? To find anything comparable to the present, you'd have to dig through the archives to near prehistoric times: the blood bowls that curiously opened the 1929 and 1930 seasons (76-0 and 52-0), and which resulted in the five-year cancellation of the series. This was roughly twenty years before Red Sanders.
The Oregon game, played under a dark ominous sky before 56,000 (10,000 of whom must have been bored kids in on discount tickets or freebies), was something truly extraordinary: an ex-major college power, favored at home, playing a mediocre team, out of the game in the first quarter. At least the Navy parachute team kept us diverted at halftime, and may even have kept some of the more lubricated cranks from running onto to the field and spending the night in jail. As it was, they merely settled for booing the team off the field. Incidently, BROther Huffman's pre-game tailgate consisted of about half a dozen BROs, speaking in hushed tones, with only a modest roast beef and rice for sustenance (nicely cooked but only half eaten). Feeling the need for red meat, I had to slice off a piece to go on top of my morning pastry and thermos of strong coffee. And to think Brandon used to draw hundreds. Ah, such, such were the days.
KD's press conference after the game, duly reported in detail by Tracy, was more or less what we've been hearing all along. The shocking element was KD's passionate adherence to this failed offense after eleven games, and immediately after one of the worst offensive displays in Bruin history. Quotes such as the following were not edifying:
"I feel we prepared pretty well but for some reason we haven't been getting our best effort out there..."
"We have to go over it... We have to continue... the relentless pursuit to trying to do things better. That's something that I'm never going to give up on. So I'm going to continue to work and grind...
"I'm definitely sold on the offense... We need to get ourselves better at what we do. It will happen. It will happen."
"I'll try to tinker... Some way, some how, we'll make it work."
"There's no doubt they'll be a year better next year because they'll be more familiar with what's going on." (my italics)
This sort of talk is right up there with that memorable quote about "a tremendous game plan." It has indeed become "crystal clear" that KD is a classic Eric Hoffer "true believer." Unless he undergoes some kind of epiphany in the next couple of years, he will live or die with this offense. And if he does kick it into being, it should go down as the most heroic turnaround in Bruin history. Any takers?
Call it whatever you like, this elementary offense is easily the equivalent of Bob Toledo's passive, post-Rocky Long defenses, which were absolutely the worst in Bruin history. Sure, KD is conservative, but this increasingly inflexible tone is beginning to smack of classic Victorian perversity, the kind of thing that led to the "Charge of the Light Brigade." And isn't it odd that someone who looks as young as KD could be playing the role of the venerable Lord Raglan.
"My body is young, But my mind is very old," sang Noel Gallagher. I'm sure we all remember another prematurely old coach: they used to call him "young Terry." Before we came to know KD better, I was hopeful he would more closely resemble Mike Shanahan than TD. After all, Shanahan was his most recent boss and the apparent author of the offense he so earnestly believes in. Who wouldn't prefer the burning, beady eyed intensity of Shanahan to that worried, constipated look we came to associate with TD (or the already famous wooden demeanor of KD). But even that is just appearance, and appearance only tells so much. I must admit all this talk of fat coaches, "rah rah" guys, "used car salesmen," "psycho" coaches, and the like leaves me cold. Honestly, the only kind of coach most of us are interested in is a winning coach. That's the pre-requisite without which all other qualities are irrelevant. Winning is everything. Forget such deluded marketing shucks as "student athletes," the BCS and all the other plastic NCAA uplift. It's true: "winning solves all problems," and it can be accomplished within the rules, and with whatever reasonable academic restrictions one school may have relative to some other schools. Winning is also not necessarily consistent with experience. Just as talent means more than experience on the field, so also does it mean more on the sidelines. Ideally you'd like both, but it should never preclude taking a flier on inexperience. If KD ultimately fails, would you really like to see some respectable, 50-something veteran (and possible re-tread) next up on the hot seat? Finding these diamonds in the rough is always risky business and needs extra hard study, but the rewards can be history changing. Mike Garrett may have blown a shot at Bob Stoops, but then lucky Mike, soon after, fell into the Pete Carroll deal. Of course he didn't have "the curse" on his back, which might also explain how Carroll, against all reason, has managed to retain his genius, co-head coach, Norm Chow. Maybe Arizona or, preferably, BYU can finally lure this guy out of town. Certainly Chow's offense has been even more impressive than Carroll's defense.
Those preaching patience to the faithful, along with those cranks who think the program is headed for a decade long "China Syndrome" meltdown may all find themselves surprised by events. The ground is shifting weekly, almost daily. In something as volatile as the atmosphere today, with all that's preceded KD and all that's happened since... who knows what's next? Less than a year ago we were sure DG couldn't uncouple two coaches in one year, couldn't afford it, couldn't justify it. Then came the uproar in the aftermath of 52-25. Not to infer that KD won't have next year to work with - because he will - but something like 52-25 simply increases the pressure exponentially. At some point, next year, it's conceivable that KD will either make whatever modifications this offense requires or he becomes, like "Lav," isolated, a goner. The worst scenario, of course, would be a re-run of the last twenty seven years wherein the players consistently bail out the head coach. In that case, it'll be just my luck that I become the crank Bruin version of poor old, 90-something Giles Pellerin, who collapsed and ascended to Trojan heaven at halftime during the longest Bruin winning streak in the series. And I don't even believe in the hereafter.