Considering the debilitated state of an average MWC opponent, was the Utes massacre the worst loss in Bruins history? Who cares? It's like horseplayers comparing their worst days at the track. And who wants to wallow around in the press guide, sniffing out some equally foul-smelling slaughter. Come December, we'll be nine years removed from the watershed loss in Miami. I'm sure there's enough likely comparisons in that single sad time frame. All things considered, 6-44 is a strong nominee.
Has Bruin football finally come undone? Ever since
Miami, this program has been like a loose ball of yarn getting kicked around by
the cat. Garfield toys with it for a while, then loses interest. Today you have
to wonder if he's finally focused enough to finish the job, tear it up once and
Now in year five of the failing Karl Dorrell experiment
and we're watching the same routine, over and over again; yet this latest
absurdity seems finally to have torn it. How can you not feel that way, living
in this state of perpetual, mild anxiety, waiting for that gigantic Monty Python
foot, unseen but always poised overhead, about to stomp your team back to
irrelevancy. As they say, "on any given Saturday…" It is so tough following this
perverse, almost self-destructive program. Days like this you sometimes wonder
if there's a death wish.
Two questions hung over this season, both as usual connected with
the passing game:
(1) Was Ben Olson the answer for this sluggish
(2) Had DeWayne Walker learned his lesson about sustained
pressure against passing teams, against spread offenses?
Sad to say, both answers look pretty grim today. We can argue all day
about the relative quality of Bruin personnel. Some believe it's good enough -
not nearly as bad as it seems today - while others believe its just serviceable,
solid… both euphemisms for average. I'm going to take the players side. I think
the talent is still good enough to stave off ultimate humiliation (How's that
for going out on a limb?) Not so sure about the coaching staff.
offense can consistently move the ball without a competent quarterback, and save
some kind of Drew Olson redux, Ben Olson does not look like the man. Right now
he's moving in on Stuart Gray as one of UCLA's biggest recruiting busts. At
least he's got some time left. Is this a cruel thing to say? Isn't he just a
hard-working college kid doing his best on Saturdays? Isn't he entitled to some
kind of pass? In my opinion, that would be a sentimentality. High profile, D-1
football and basketball programs are involved in a million-dollar, high-stakes
game and, as has been oft stated before, the best, most high-profile jocks are
there generally to play their sport and hopefully hit the jackpot in the pro
leagues. They are not normal students. Most even look different.
would also be a misunderstanding of why we come here. BRO, and places like it,
are for the frank discussion of what's up with your college team. How honestly
can that discussion proceed - and why would we keep coming back - if some
absolutely key element like blunt evaluations of the players was off limits,
soft-peddled, tip-toed around?
Ben's been around awhile, and ever
since that Rice game many Bruin fans have progressively begun to suspect that
what we saw in his debut was a mirage. He hasn't played real well since then,
not in the many practice sessions I've seen, and not in the games he's started
(which are now beginning to pile up). Today his problems are clear: He doesn't
see the field well, his actions are more mechanical than fluid and instinctive,
and he still hasn't grasped the offense as a whole, and is thus at a
disadvantage knowing where to go with the ball. We've all noticed that once his
primary option is shut down, it becomes desperation time, and you almost want to
cover your eyes in fear of what can happen next. Add to the fact of this slow
learning process, it's now obvious he has an important physical limitation,
i.e., Ben's not quick, he's not nimble, and he has huge problems handling the
least pressure. In a word, he's a statue. In basketball terms, he can't get his
own shot. He looks lost and he's evidently not getting much useful help from KD
and Jay Norvell. Does he lack confidence? How could he not? Unless an athlete is
totally and completely delusional, only success on the field can give him real
confidence. Only success can lead to that Cade-like "swagger" which so often is
the sign of a winner.
No matter how Patrick Cowan has played in the
past, he now needs to start and Ben needs to stand and watch and hopefully
learn. It should be better for all concerned, certainly including us up in the
stands. Which brings us to the coaches.
Norvell's stock seems to have
taken a hit, Walker's is declining from a previously comfortable high, and KD's
stock is in free-fall. Other than being able to identify with those who find
themselves in a bad spot, how many here feel real bad for them? Yeah, that's
what I thought.
Compared to the rest of us, coaches have it quite good.
They're able to stay in a game they love, they get lots of fresh air and travel
opportunities, they work amid nice facilities and the pay is good. Assistant
coaches are recognizable, while the head coach is often a national celeb (at
least in the sports world). For him there are opportunities for speaking
engagements, the offers based mainly on his position, not any special talent for
speaking. And there are various other perks, such as "camps," financial bonuses,
sweet buy-out deals, and a fair shot at the various celebrity goodies the media
and advertising world are happy to dispense. They've "paid their dues" (to
greater and lesser extents) and, if they're talented and/or lucky enough, if
timing and circumstance favors them, they too become, in effect, lottery
winners. Some, of course, are merely jumped up little time-servers who fall into
a sweet situation which, itself, gets sorted out in the end (Hi, Lav!).
During spring and fall practices, Norvell was very conspicuous… looked
like an alpha personality, and a lot of us started making comparisons to another
Bruin alpha type, DeWayne Walker. Three games into the season and both guys are
looking shaky. But so much of the offensive headaches are chicken and egg
propositions. Is it Ben or is it the offense? Is it Norvell or is it KD? Is it
the overall personnel? Is it all of the above? We used to think of poor Jim
Svoboda as KD's creature, which is what he was. If things don't change quickly,
Norvell is liable to find himself being painted in the same pastel colors. Is
Norvell even aware of this? Does he care? And if he does, why doesn't he begin
distancing himself from his predecessor. Right now this offense needs something
like an electric jolt, maybe even shock treatment.
passing schemes don't look much different, nor does the play calling. We still
see a lot of 2nd and 10 running plays, theoretically "to keep the defense
honest." Of course it's almost always a wasted play, leading to 3rd and long,
which is just what Ben doesn't need. And why do coaches think the best way to
protect a troubled quarterback is to limit his first down passes? First down
pass plays are exactly what they need; third and long is what they don't need.
And why no running plays out of the shotgun? I was thinking these were possibly
being saved for the closed, pre-season practices and we'd see them when the real
games began. So much for that.
Running plays are still the old
straight-forward, here-we-come, execution-heavy things we've become used to.
Still little or no misdirection or counters. Deception is still a dirty word, an
ungentlemanly concept: "By God, sir, you can't do that! If it's not against the
rules, it bloody well should be." And of course there's the head-scratching
personnel decisions. Was the anointing of Ben in the spring perhaps somewhat
hurried, a bit premature? It was unsurprising, but it did put me in mind of a
shotgun wedding. I mean, Ben didn't seem to have distanced himself that much
from Patrick. Was Ben perhaps being forced into place in the hope that his
"natural talent," his prep domination, would reassert itself more easily without
the day to day pressure of winning the job? Obviously it's not working.
Another alarm bell went off when Kahlil Bell didn't start the BYU game and
was still splitting carries with Chris Markey last Saturday. What was KD
thinking? Was it that Chris was the incumbent, his numbers last year were
respectable, we owe it to him to give him back his position, and, anyway, he's a
good kid, never given us any trouble. All this despite contradicting the
evidence of the eyes? What was it Pete said? "It's not about keeping people
happy, it's about winning." Sounds like something Red might've
So much of the offensive woes lead back to the
common denominator, KD. Forget terms like the WCO; this thing we've been
watching for over four years is more properly called the KDWCO and, as noted
before, it may be complex to learn but it's not hard to defend. If Norvell has
any ideas of how to make this troublesome beast work right, he needs to start in
immediately before the sky completely falls.
I wonder how many Bruin
fans are still hot for Walker as a possible replacement for KD (should the
necessity, after the season, of bumping him off arise). Probably not as many as
just after 13-9, but who knows?
Could it be that in practices Walker may
have been led into a false sense of security regarding his pass defense?
Remember how we used to wonder how this offense would fare against a defense
other than the Bruins. Now the question is: Why did we assume this secondary
would be so formidable since it was only going against the KDWCO, and some
I could be wrong, but -- just like last
year -- it's beginning to look as if moderate pressure from the defensive front
won't get the job done, especially up the middle. I wish Walker would play with
more desperation, bring more heat, more blitzes from different angles, more
press coverage on the outside. In short, get back to seriously hunting
quarterbacks. And give Brett Lockett (when he returns) and Aaron Ware a shot at
the field. Dennis Keyes also seems to be getting the Markey treatment, and it's
not as if he hasn't had time to prove he's a playmaker, which apparently he is
not. Even Chris Horton has been disappointing. And when will we see a return to
the Easley/Rogers style of free safety (please note I am not saying the player
has to as good as those guys), which is to say an instinctive athlete not just a
one-dimensional "hitter" disguised as a
I know some of you out there would rather see your beloved Bruins
crater this year than see KD survive, but it's still too early for me to
surrender. Anyway, I have tons of experience in handling Bruin football
letdowns. In elementary school I remember the huge disappointment of the '53
Rose Bowl team, losing a 14-0 lead just before halftime when Michigan State's
Ellis Duckett blocked a Paul Cameron punt, leading to a 28-20 loss. Two years
later Ronnie Knox's Bruins lost an even worse heartbreaker, again to the
Spartans, this one on a last second field goal set up by a rare
coaching-from-the-sidelines call. I still remember trudging home, cursing a blue
streak, after watching the tragedy on TV at a friend's house. It took weeks to
get over that one. And then… and then… but you get the idea. I'm sure you have
sob stories of your own.
Times like these I think of The Who's "Won't Get
Fooled Again" and the sound of Daltry's primal scream: Aaaaaaargh!!! Then, "Meet
the new boss, same as the old boss." Something, or someone, needs to break this
Chiccoa: Unprepared, Uncompetitive
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