Look at Wyoming, Season, and Future

Ouy Xs and Os guy, <b>Steve Waters</b>, analyzes The Las Vegas Bowl in painstaking detail, and also has a final take on the season, the program, and hands out some awards...

Another post-season game, another Kafkaesque nightmare sprung to life. Our worst premonitions about the outcome based on the team this season came to fruition as the Wyoming Cowboys staged a come-from-behind 4th quarter victory over the UCLA Bruins, 24-21.

Despite battling back from a slow offensive start, a stiff wind and the loss of starting QB Drew Olson, the Bruins managed to rally behind 2nd string QB David Koral's two TD passes to take a 21-10 lead into the final stanza.

But it was not to be as the Cowpokes parlayed a punt return that Craig Bragg muffed by trying to catch it with his face mask at the end of the 3rd quarter into a touchdown, courtesy of a trick play.

Off of a reverse, WR Jovon Bouknight, a thorn in CB Trey Brown's side all night before DC Larry Kerr switched Matt Clark exclusively over onto him, lofted a badly underthrown duck into the end zone towards reserve QB J.J. Raterink. Trey Brown made a savvy play to observe that Raterink was going out for a pass and picking him up, but then flamed when he lost track of the ball and kept running into the end zone, picking off a Bruin DB in the process, and providing the leeway Raterink needed to lurch back and catch the dying quail on his knees and elbows.

Prior to the muffed punt, UCLA had successfully fielded a punt on the Wyoming 46 yard line, but holding was called on the Cowboys as they attempted to keep Chris Horton from blocking the punt, something he had come dangerously close to doing several times.

Karl Dorrell decided to put some pressure on Wyoming punter Adam Brooks by accepting the penalty. Brooks had struggled all nights with shanks, but the wind was at Wyoming's back. Kicking from his goal line, Brooks got a reprieve when UCLA decided to put the return on, and he launched a 30-yard knuckleball that hit Bragg in the face and bounced 10 yards upfield before the Cowboys could secure it on their own 37.

Given the 20 yard improvement in field position, the Cowboys quickly faced a 3rd and 10 after UCLA's D flew to the ball on a 1st down run and a 2nd down screen. The Cowboys came out in a "twins left and right" shotgun formation, and QB Corey Bramlet, a rangy 6-4, 218 lber, pegged a strike to smurf Tyler Holden for an 18-yard gain. Holden was the inside receiver on the right side, and he ran a skinny post, burning Ben Emanuel and LB Justin London in the process.

That crisis passed, and the Bruin D deflated after being so close to getting off the field, the Cowboys next ran a toss sweep right from a bunch formation. Unfortunately, Dennis Keyes (in the game as the nickel back) misstepped and got caught inside, which made JLon take a deeper angle, allowing the OL to get into him. Jarrad Page came up too fast and with a too aggressive angle to the inside, so when RB Joseph Harris bounced outside, Page was too out of control to stay with him. Harris picked up 14 on the run before landing on his head when Kyle Morgan pushed him out of bounds. Harris sprained his knee during the game, and starting RB Ivan Harrison was also knocked out the game, evidence that UCLA's D was bringing the wood when they could.

Even though the Bruins were now clearly staggering, the Cowboys were the ones discombobulated (the Cowboys were unfocused all night, committing 11 penalties for 114 yards and running out of TOs early in each half), and had to burn a TO before the next play was run.

However, it worked out well for HC Joe Glenn on the 1st down play as his QB Bramlet had the wheels and vision to scramble away from UCLA's DL pressure. Kyle Morgan and CJ Niusulu ran a "E-T twist": Morgan slanted hard inside towards Bramlet in the shotgun, and Niusulu looped outside. The OG picked up Morgan, but the OT drifted outside, as if expecting a designed roll-out. Bramlet at first stepped up into the pocket, but feeling Morgan thrashing around behind him, decided to take off to the right. Fortunately for Bramlet, the OT was perfectly positioned to block CJ as he made for the outside, and Bramlet accelerated away from Morgan, who was forced to jump over a blocker, or else he may have nabbed him right there.

However, the play didn't look like it was going to produce much anyway because Eric McNeal was coming up strong from the secondary. McNeal was at about the 25, and Bramlet the 30, when McNeal started breaking down, while four Bruins (CJ, Justin Hickman, Kevin Brown and Morgan) were pursuing from the inside and rear. Alas, McNeal expected Bramlet to punk out and "Pac-10 QB" it for the sidelines. McNeal kept drifting to the sideline instead of keeping inside-out leverage and locking on to Bramlet's left hip. No surprise, then, that Bramlet cut up field inside McNeal, out-quicking him, and turned the almost-sack into a nine yard gain. Coaching? Desire? Intensity? Or just losing a man-to-man contest on that play?

The next play was the trickeration Wyoming touchdown, and that made the score 21-17, UCLA. Given the trouble Wyoming had running the ball (when UCLA wasn't taking bad tackling angles), and facing the wind in the 4th quarter, it was surprising that HC Glenn didn't elect to go for two at that juncture. 21-17 or 21-16, the Cowboys needed a TD either way to regain the lead.

With a precarious lead, a jacked-up opponent smelling an upset, and a QB who had not thrown a regular season pass forced into duty, things were definitely nervous for the Bruin faithful. OC Tom Cable responded with a great call on 1st down: with the ball in the middle of the field, TE Marcedes Lewis was flexed right, offset I in the backfield. The Cowboys were in their basic 3-4 cover 2 umbrella package. Each safety was on a hash, 10-yards deep, and the CBs were off 7 to 8 yards. On the snap, OK Koral rolled right, Lewis ran a 3-yard out, Bragg curled at 7, and Koral threw slightly behind Lewis, but Marc was able to snag it and turn up field for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

On the next play, with the ball on the right hash, the Bruins sent TE Lewis to the short side, the FL right and SE Joe Cowan left. Based on tendencies over the year, Cable loves to run to the strong side/short side of the field. The Cowboys anticipated a run, because they had four DL in the game, a SSLB over the TE, and the FS cheated up to put 8 in the box.

However, the Bruins mixed it up a little bit, running a lead draw to Maurice Drew (who was great on the night with 126 rushing yards). The RDT, Hoffschneider, he of the 5-8, 250 lb stature, slanted hard inside WG Steven Vieira, whose primary assignment appeared to be to get up field and into a LB. The problem was that C Mike McCloskey didn't recognize that the fire hydrant was his responsibility. McCloskey looked right first, and by the time he looked to his left, the plug's head was already by Mike. The penetration forced MoD to take it straight up the middle, where Manuel White was attempting to block stud MLB Randy Tscharner, 6-2 and 240 from Calistoga. (Imagine, a winemaking kid roping ball carriers out of state!) Tscharner blew full speed ahead and took on the Manster with his right shoulder while having enough left to pop MoD with sufficient force to shoot the pinball off at a 90 degree angle, where he crashed into Ed Blanton's man and was brought down for a 2-yard loss.

On 2nd and 12, UCLA reverted to form and ran into the short side of the field, gaining nothing in the process. Then on 3rd down, disaster struck.

From the moment he entered the game, David Koral demonstrated that he plays the game at QB in a manner far different than Drew Olson plays it. Whereas Olson is hesitant and slow to read and react, especially when given the chance to scramble, Koral if anything swings to the opposite extreme, trusting his instincts to find daylight. Koral is prone to take off and attempt to make something out of nothing before a play even unfolds. So far, it had worked for #7: his two TD passes were the result of nifty footwork in the pocket, footwork that didn't prevent him for throwing hyper-accurate darts for six. He also reverse pivoted out of the pocket to his left on a play to befuddle the Wyoming D and pick up a critical first down.

Facing 3rd and 11, the Bruins sent twins left, Lewis left, and SE Junior Taylor to the right, with MoD the ace back. As Koral dropped back, the Cowboys blitzed LCB Derrick Martin, who was lined up over Taylor. MoD stepped up and first looked left, then cut across the face of Koral attempting to pick up Martin. Koral, meanwhile, was only looking left and didn't see the blitz coming as he took his 7 step drop. When Koral hit his seventh step, no one was open because Tscharner was busy popping Lewis and jamming his route. Koral felt the pressure coming and did a good job to step up and evade the sack by Martin. He then tried to run right, but he saw nothing but a huge pile, so he immediately pirouetted and headed left and backwards, only to run into Martin's arms and get hit by MoD, which put Koral in the position to have the ball stripped free. It appears that, in the heat of battle, Koral forgot that the blitzer he just sidestepped was right behind him when he did his 180 reverse pivot move.

With the game clearly in danger of slipping away from them, the D stepped up big time: the Cowboys tried to run an option to the right, but Kevin Brown moved the LOS back about two yards and forced Bramlet to give ground, and pitch the ball early with no forward momentum for the RB. This allowed JLon to knife through the front to make yet another tackle for loss on the night, this time for -6. One great treat from the night was seeing JLon play at effectively 100% for the first time all year.

On 2nd and 16, the Bruins blitzed two LBs and dropped a DE, providing enough pressure up the middle to make Bramlet throw before he could really see the play develop. He threw the bomb to the outside, but Bouknight had taken his route inside due to Matt Clark's coverage. That left Clark all alone to make the easy interception, and after a 48-yard return, it looked as if the Bruins had turned the tide and would go on to seize victory.

A Junior Taylor lurch cost the Bruins five, but on 1st and 15 MoD was able to take a reverse pivot hand-off to the short side for an 8 yard gain on the edge. Marc Lewis on the play drove outside LBer Guy Tuell about 10 yards downfield, making the play go. Having not seen this play much from UCLA, the Cowboys were caught flat-footed and MoD's speed and power produced an easy gain.

On 2nd and 7, UCLA went strong left, twins left, leaving only MoD in the backfield. Faking the reverse after handing the ball off to MoD, the Pocket Rocket saw Ed Blanton collapse the DE inside and so he cut it back to the right. Luckily, OLB Aaron Robbins fell for the fake reverse, or else he would have nailed MoD in the backfield for a loss. MoD gained 8 and a 1st down on the play, but he was dropped hard and fast by S John Wendling, Wyoming's leading tackler on the year.

The Bruins than ran three more times in a row, gaining 3, 4 and 6 yards for another set of downs. On 1st and 10 from the 28, the series of the season ensued. With only 6:40 left, the Bruins appeared to be dominating the LOS. The Bruins clearly signaled their intentions with a double tight, FL left, I formation set. The Cowboys, no dummies, put 9 men within the box, with a rover stationed to the wide side, expecting a run. Perfect time for a seam route to the TE? Maybe that corner post route by Lewis that worked to perfection time after time vs. Arizona? Even the play-action corner route to the short side the Bruins used to start the game vs. Illinois?

Well, hindsight is 20/20, as they say. The Bruins ran the blast to the short side, and actually produced a nice hole, but Wyoming's safeties were up so tight that they limited the gain to just 3 yards. This made it six runs in a row.

On 2nd and 7, the Bruins went twins left, Lewis left, SE Taylor right, with Chris Markey the ace back. The Bruins ran to the short/weak side, but the Cowboys looped/twisted their DTs up front, and Shannon Tevaga failed to get his head in front of RDT Zach Morris, who slanted hard to the middle and made the tackle for no gain. Guessing right can sometimes offset a disadvantage in talent. Chalk one up to the Cowboy DC on that one. Should Tevaga have tried to cut block the Cowboy? Hard to say.

On 3rd and 7 and a rookie QB under center, the Cowboy DC made another great call. Predicting a drop back pass, he blitzed both ILBs straight up the middle (the 'A' gaps), which visibly flustered Koral enough to take his left hand off the ball - you can tell he was thinking of hitting the silk, pronto. However, the Manster picked up the blitz, as designed. Meanwhile, as the ILBs were shooting the A gaps, LDT Morris looped to the outside, where ST Paul Mociler picked him up. However, Mociler kept giving ground and didn't push Morris wide, so that when Koral inevitably stepped forward in the pocket, it was child's play for Morris to disengage from Mociler and sack Koral for a 2-yard loss along with Tscharner.

On the evening, UCLA gave up six sacks, five on Koral. Given that UCLA only allowed 17 sacks in the previous 11 games, the number allowed against the Cowboys was a season high, or low depending on how you look at it.

On 4th and 9 from the 27, Justin Medlock came on to kick a 45-yard field goal from the lucky right hash. However, it was not to be as even with the wind Medlock was off to the left. The Bruins ate nearly six minutes on the 9 play, 25 yard drive, but could not seal the deal.

So now there's only 4:02 left on the clock. Cowboy ball on their own 28, 1st and 10. Four wide, shotgun. The Bruins rush five with JLon and Ben Emanuel blitzing. Bramlet throws a pop up (just before JLon levels him) to the inside receiver, who doesn't make a play on the ball. Trey Brown is in perfect position for the game-winning INT, he sees it perfectly, he has enough time to make a fair catch signal, but the ball hits him squarely in the chest and bounces harmlessly to the turf. Hands of Fey!

Coupled with Eric McNeal's 1st quarter drop of an INT that had Bruin six written all over it, these two plays were back-breakers. Until UCLA's highly-regarded players make the big plays that are handed to them on a platter, don't expect any trips to high-profile bowl games, or impressive wins over good teams. At some point, big time players have to make big time plays in big time situations, or they have no right being called big time players.

After a series of surprisingly good performances over the second half of the season, Trey Brown finally had a game every CB who's ever played the game dreads. You come out amped and hyped, confident that you can shut their ace down. If you shut their ace down, you win, because they have no other weapons. But oops! They get you to bite on a fake and nail you with a bomb early. And now they're in your head. You're down, and you're dying to get back in the black. But pressing makes it worse. Every time you guess, you guess wrong. Down near the goal line, they run a slant, and you're supposed to have inside help from S Jarrad Page. But he's too late. And the camera is focused on you. Chump city.

Many 'gurus' discount the play of CBs, but they fail to recognize that the easiest way for an underdog to pull off an upset, no matter how large the disparity in supposed 'talent,' is to isolate the favorite's weakest man defender and go after him relentlessly. All it takes is a couple of mistakes by the weak link in the chain to turn a game around and have the D turning on each other and pointing fingers. Cal almost beat Southern Cal with this strategy, and Wyoming pulled it off v. UCLA because Brown wasn't alone on Gilligan's Island. Matt Clark was victimized by two PI penalties that had a huge bearing on the game's outcome.

Sporting more lives than the randiest alley cat, Bramlet exhales a huge sigh of relief and comes back with an awesome throw on 2nd and 10. From the 'gun, Wyoming sends trips right, with Bramlet rolling right by design. Kevin Brown doesn't take a wide enough angle, and Bramlet gets outside him, lofting a perfect rainbow to Tyler Holden (the inside WR) running about a 20-yard out after the point WR ran a streak and cleared out the safety from the deep third. Luckily for UCLA, Holden had his foot on the sideline when he made the catch, and the side judge saw it that way. Incomplete.

That brings up 3rd and 10. Crunch time. A chance to put Wyoming away. There's only 3:45 left on the clock, but maybe Glenn would punt being deep in his own territory if the Bruins hold. Shotgun, twins left and right. Previously, Wyoming had burned UCLA from this formation with a skinny post to the inside WR, picking on Emanuel. The Bruins have four DL poised to rush, the CBs are in press coverage on the outside WRs, JLon is in the middle, and Keyes and McNeal are over the inside WRs, 5 yards deep. Page and Emanuel are 15 yards off the ball on the hashes. (You could call this UCLA's dime package due to the six DBs on the field.)

On the snap, Holden, the inside WR to the left side, runs a seam route. Keyes, the rover to that side, jets to the outside to provide help against the out instead of running with Holden. Bramlet takes a quick five step drop from the gun and lofts a balloon 23 yards up the hash, right where Ben Emanuel is stationed. The ball hangs in the air seemingly forever. Holden turns to the outside because the ball is slightly behind him. Will Emanuel take the body or play the ball? Before you can say "What Would Don Rogers Do? I *Know* What Don Rogers Would Do!", Emanuel jumps into the air to catch the ball, losing all ability to make a hit, but Holden has inside position and gets there first, never flinching for an instant, and hauls in a 24-yard gain and a 1st down. Desire? Concentration? Intensity? Or Ben Emanuel just being Ben Emanuel? Ben made the tackle, after all, by wrapping an arm across the WR's helmet.

After an incompletion, Bramlet connects with Bouknight on a crossing route, but McNeal concusses Boo-Yah with a perfect form tackle that snaps Jovon's head back. More tackles like that earlier in the game and maybe the Cowboys wouldn't be going across the middle so fearlessly.

But now the Cowboys are on the Bruins' side of the field (the 48) with a fresh set of downs. The 'boys have thrown the ball on five consecutive plays, but UCLA's front four are unable to put pressure on Bramlet when he's in the gun and able to get 10 yard drop almost immediately.

Shotgun, twins left and right. The Bruins bring six (3 DL and JLon, Page and Emanuel), with DT Chris Johnson dropping into coverage. But Bramlet casually flips the ball wide to outside WR Dustin Pleasant on a deep out, who is being single-covered by Trey Brown, for the 9-yard completion. The protection was excellent, even though UCLA gambled and rushed six.

2nd and 1: double tight, twins left, ace formation, Bramlet under center. Wyoming decides to run the ball, and JLon makes the hit in the backfield but can't drop RB Harris, who dives forward for what appears to be a first down.

This is where things get surreal. First, the Bruins get a favorable spot and the officials signal 3rd and inches. Then the Bruins catch another break when Bramlet decides to call a TO before the 3rd down snap. On 3rd down, the 'boys fake a reverse before handing to Harris, who has his elbow jostled and proceeds to put the ball on the turf. Do the Bruins recover? Well, does a bear use a butt-wipe in the woods? But it is now 4th and inches. The Cowboys line-up in a power formation, the Bruins have eight men in the box, about six zeroed in on the center, and Bramlet tries a sneak. The Bruins make one of their best surges of the year on D, totally selling out on the play. Bramlet appears to make very little forward progress before going sideways and backwards. ESPN broadcaster Ron Franklin exclaims, "He didn't make it!" Which is code, of course, for "1st down, Wyoming."

Actually, you have to give credit to Bramlet for his second effort on the play. The refs spotteth, and the refs spotteth away…

With the ball on UCLA's 27, coming off an emotional play, sensing that the D was rattled, the Cowboys decide to go for the jugular. Bramlet sends Bouknight into the left corner on the go route. Matt Clark lets Bouknight get behind him, and is too far off of him to the inside, so when the ball goes in the air, instead of trying to play the ball, Clark decides to play the man and hope for the best. Unfortunately for Matt, the ball was thrown poorly (to the inside), which allowed Bouknight to climb through Clark to get to the ball, drawing the obvious PI flag. Where's a perfect throw when you need one? If the ball is over the WR's outside shoulder, Clark probably makes the play, or at least gets away with it.

Conversly, if Matt Clark had the confidence in his ability to just turn to the inside, crane his neck to locate and keep track of the ball without losing any speed, and then go get the ball Willie Mays style, he wouldn't have decided to play the man. 'In the air' ball skills are precious and rare talents that few players have, and they're not easily ferreted out in scouting combines.

With 1st and 10 on the 12, the Cowboys go double tight, double wide, ace back with Bramlet under center. SSLB Wesley Walker is lined up over the 'boys TE, John Wadkowski, and has primary coverage responsibilities on the TE, with Emanuel providing help over the top. At the snap, Wadkowski takes an outside release and angles to the post about 8 yards into his route, and Bramlet puts the ball right on the money 5 yards deep in the end zone, leaving Emanuel to play two-hand touch because he let Wadkowski gain inside position. 24-21, Cowboys.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end. The Cowboys dominated the beginning and end of this story, even though the Bruins scored 21 unanswered points in the middle.

Why did Wyoming dominate the beginning? They had the wind and a game plan designed to avoid Wyoming's weaknesses and to exploit UCLA's weaknesses/tendencies. The Cowboys realized that the Bruins were stronger up front in the trenches, and so they decided to attack the UCLA CBs, successfully as it turned out.

On D, the Cowboys knew that UCLA planned to establish the run early and often. So the Cowboys' DC devised DL stunts, loops and twists designed to foil UCLA's zone blocking scheme, and used UCLA's well-established tendencies to consistently win the chess match.

Winning the beginning was critical for Wyoming from a confidence perspective. Given some hope, the Cowboys quickly began to see that they did belong on the same field as the Bruins and had a legitimate chance to win the game, as long as they continued to trust their coaches, believe in each other, and put aside thoughts of Vegas betting lines.

The strong start was enough to keep the Cowboys afloat during the rocky middle phase of the game, when the Bruins started to assert themselves behind the play of MoD, JLon, OK Koral and CBra. Once the unbelievable series of events started to unfold (the muffed punt, the 'here we come, try to stop us, oh you just did' play calling, the missed kick, the dropped INT, the DB misplays, the PI), the Cowboys had to be thinking that this was their night with Destiny. Until her shift started at Crazy Horse II…

So where does this leave "the program?" First, keep in mind JLon's words: "This {the Wyoming game} says nothing about our future. This is a different team in a different situation than teams in the past. We're going to be cool. We're going to show how we learned from our mistakes."

True enough, this one is easy to whisk away given future prospects. But just to be sure the program stays/gets on the right track, here are some suggestions:

Make a Big Deal out of Pro Day. Invite the seniors to stick around and workout at UCLA. Yes, the '05 Bruins need to begin establishing their own identity and their own in-group. But the program needs to bleed the message that once a Bruin, always a Bruin. And openly acknowledging that it is okay to have professional aspirations will attract kids who have professional aspirations. Think of it as a graduation ceremony. Bottom Line, embrace marketing your program to HS players, HS coaches and the sports world.

Invest in an all-digital play-by-play video database system. Input all the UCLA games from 2004. Document your tendencies in living color. Adjust play calling accordingly in 2005. Remember that all warfare is based on deception.

Improve start of the game production. Allowing the other guy to score first or to stuff your initial possessions puts tremendous pressure on the team. Against Wyoming, of UCLA's first 11 plays, 6 were negative (gain 2 or less yards). Four were incomplete passes, and two were runs for little, if not negative, gain. Note that the only quarter where the Bruins were out-scored on the year was the first (99 to 90). Lose the "Hulk Will Smash" play calling and use some innovative X-ing and O-ing to get the O jump started. Amazing to think that a team with Tab Perry, Marcedes Lewis, Craig Bragg, Junior Taylor and Joe Cowan on the edge didn't run one "lateral hand-off" WR screen all year. Probably half of Breylon Edwards' catches on the year were from this play alone. Score early often enough and there will be plenty of snaps to establish the power running game.

Scrape the rust off of The Needle. Tab Perry has a bad ankle? So does Justin London? And MoD? CJ's leg is swollen? Paging Dr. Pete! (Just kidding, keep this program concerned about the health of the athletes.)

Force turnovers. Your opponents look too secure and comfortable on O. Make them forget to bring the ball with them more often and they might taper off on the long run business.

Make the players navigate the LA freeways to get to the Rose Bowl on game days. Karl, if ever a team needed a serious case of Road Rage, yours is it. Where is the aggression? Where is the malice? Football is a game of emotion, and the Bruins are not in touch with their inner marauder when the whistle blows. Want to learn how simple it is? Listen: "He brought a lot of intensity to the defense," safety Phillip Geiggar said in the LA Times about Texas DC and BRO favorite Gregg Robinson. "He has us running to the ball every play, and if you don't, you deal with the punishment. {And it ain't forty lashes with a wet noodle.} That's been the biggest difference on the field."

Running to the ball = intensity…check. See? Try that next year, and tell me how it goes…

But enough about next year. Time for the soon-to-be-internet-famous BROphies, awarded to the best Bruin in his position group, in an attempt to acknowledge those who delivered during the year.

Defensive Lineman of the Year: Kevin Brown. His stats aren't gaudy: 5 sacks, 25 total tackles and 8.5 TFL won't put him among the elite DL in the nation. But in a year when UCLA battled severe attrition along the DL, The Bear was there for all 12 games. After playing OG the latter half of last year, KB was returned to his desired position of DT. His ability to shed blockers will have to improve dramatically next year if UCLA is to improve substantially its 106th ranking in total defense.

Linebacker of the Year: Spencer Havner. His 125 tackles are the most in the Pac-10, which is one of the benefits of struggling against the run. Spencer had a breakout year, following in the footsteps of St. Louis Ram Brandon Chillar (127 tackles last year). Given that his strength is his pass defense abilities, Spencer is a great fit for the NFL. Let's hope he gives it another year in Westwood to settle some unfinished business before he steps up to the big leagues.

Defensive Back of the Year: Matt Clark. Playing the second toughest position in FB because it is the most isolated, QBs learned that you throw intermediate passes Matt's way only if you don't value the ball. Rewarded with a coveted first team All-Pac10 for his performance this year.

Runner-Up: Trey Brown. A surprise pick given the game he had against Wyoming. But UCLA's defense (run and pass) began to improve when Trey took over in the ASU game. Trey brings a physical presence to the CB position, something the Bruins sorely need to get on the field wherever they can.

Wide Receiver of the Year: Craig Bragg. Although he missed several games with a shoulder injury, CBra was still able to become the Bruins' all-time leading pass receiver. Craig provided one of the highlights of the year when he caught a punt against Southern Cal on the 4-yard line ("Oh, No!"), and returned it 96-yards for a TD ("Oh, Yes!") It will be fun to watch his career in the NFL, he'll be a great fantasy pick-up.

Runner-Up: Marcedes Lewis. His catches were up only slightly from last year (32 this vs. 28 last), but his 7 TDs placed him behind only MoD and Manny White (8 each) for paydirt points. Hopefully 2005 will see his production potential realized by the coaching staff and QBs. If so, UCLA football will certainly be entertaining to watch.

Offensive Back of the Year: Maurice Drew. The Pocket Rocket had the third best game of the year nation-wide with his record-setting 322 yard, 5 TD performance vs. UW. MoD clearly established himself as UCLA's #1 weapon, rushing for 1,007 yards on the season, and made the zone wide play as explosive as the deep strike. Even a simple check-down pass, like the one vs. Cal, is all MoD needs to make a big play.

Runner-Up: Manuel White. When the Manster went for 145 yards v. Oklahoma State in Game One, reeling off a 60-yard TD run in the process, it looked like the classic story of a senior stepping up in his final campaign to have a monster year was possible. However, the Bruins had just a few too many other good options in the backfield this year with MoD and true FR Chris Markey. However, Manny did gain 764 yards on the year, 8th best in the conference, and his versatility may find him a home at the next level.

Offensive Lineman of the Year: Mike McCloskey. The running game bombed when he wasn't at center, and did very well, usually, when he did play. His athleticism and footwork meshed well with Cable's positional blocking principles. He's back for another season, one which has big offensive potential for the Bruins.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Chris Kluwe. The numbers are damn impressive: a 43.4 average, with 25 punts downed inside the 20 and only 8 touchbacks all year. Very importantly, there was only one punt returned for a TD this year. Chris' outstanding punting helped UCLA limit its opponents to an 8.4 punt return average, and only allowed 20 returns all year. (In comparison, UCLA had an average of 15.0 per return on 34 chances, with 2 TDs.) In a year with a better D, Kluwe's punting would have been a tremendous field position weapon, and put a lot of points on the board for UCLA.

Runner-Up: Riley Jondle/Justin Medlock. Okay, Medlock made 15 of 20 FGs, and was a huge weapon vs. Oregon. But Riley Jondle was the plate setter for both Kluwe and Medlock. There is no more thankless role in football than being the team's Long Snapper. Everyone expects a perfect snap every time, but your head is between your legs and nasty DL are knocking you on your butt as soon as they are allowed to.

Some final thoughts on the past year:

Lord Kelvin (William Thomson), he of the absolute temperature scale, once said: "When you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind."

For most BRO readers, the most important number is six. As in, they are six of the last six years of Bruin football. And who can blame them?

But on the offensive side of the ball, it is only fair to note that the Bruins showed substantial improvement this year compared to last, playing a fairly comparable schedule. Remember, there was no guarantee that things were going to magically improve this year. The Bruins were very close to the bottom of the scale last year, because the (returning) O-line couldn't seem to run or pass block, the game planning and play-calling were highly questionable and resulted from/ produced tremendous friction within the staff, and UCLA's skill position players didn't display much of it.

So to go from the 107th O in total offense in 2003 to the 26th most productive O in 2004 is tangible progress. The 2004 O was the best that UCLA has had in the last six years, easily, and produced 28% more O yardage in one less game than in 2003. And this O was producing with some components that aren't ideally suited to the offensive system Dorrell and Cable want to run.

The yards rushing per game average increased 101% (from 91.9 yards to 184.9), the points per game increased 58% (11 points better in 2004 than in 2003), and TD passes increased 83% (10 more in '04). On the whole, UCLA scored 16 more TDs in 2004 than in 2003, a 55% increase.

UCLA was able to improve offensive production because it cut way back on penalties and sacks. The Bruins improved 35% on the number of penalities/game, dropping to 5.4 flags per game in 2004 vs. 8.4 in 2003. Even more dramatically, the Bruins only allowed 23 sacks in 2004, as compared to 51 in 2003, a 55% decrease in this negative area.

Some people following the program doubted that Dorrell's O would ever work at the college level. That claim is harder to make with a straight face today. Given non-predictable play-calling tendencies, and sufficient talent at key skill positions, it is easy to see after watching this season's games that there is hope that UCLA FB will have an entertaining O on the field into the future.

While the O demonstrated tangible and quantifiable progress, the D regressed. Even when it was statistically sound in '03 (18th best in nation), the D didn't produce enough intimidation nor fumbles. After another year with Doc Kreis' regimen, and practicing advanced techniques now that the basics are established, the D should perform better in 2005.


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