Chiccoa: Hot and Getting Hotter

The hands of our football columnist, Charles Chiccoa, were shaking as he wrote his latest piece, mortified by what could happen the rest of the season, but he concludes that one thing is clear: Karl Dorrell's seat is toasty...

I suppose Karl Dorrell will dust off the old "three-game season" gambit, but what are the odds of pulling off that trick again? Immediately following 27-34, BROther Derf described the UCLA zeitgeist best with his little play on Pink Floyd, "Uncomfortably Numb" (which further brings to mind The Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work"). In an earlier, less "sophisticated" age, some wag might've cracked, "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into, Karl." We've been reduced to glibness, and that's kind of sad.  

A Brief Look at the Latest Loss

Patrick Cowan seemed to me nearly as hobbled in Tucson as the week before in Pullman, and, as the game progressed, it seemed only a matter of time before he'd get carried off the field. Patrick being Patrick, he managed to stagger off under his own steam. Ever since the famous Rey Rey hit, he begins to remind me of such boxing martyrs as George Chuvalo, the great "bleeder," Chuck Weppner, and the aging Muhammad Ali at the cruel end of his career taking that awful beating from Larry Holmes. Given enough exposure in this offense, even Tim Tebow, Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart might get their heads handed to them. Rather than helmet and pads, the Bruin quarterbacks and running backs would be better off in a suit of light-weight armor. 

My heart sank when, on the first play of the game, Bruce Davis got to Willie Tuitama causing his long pass to flutter in the air, only to have Chris Horton fail to close on what looked like an easy pick. Then, a couple of plays later, Nick Grigsby took advantage of the Bruins' patented over-pursuit to set up Arizona's first field goal. Later in the quarter, 3rd and short, he would again cut back against the flow, Horton and Alterraun Verner would take each other out of the play, and this time he'd run for a 65-yard touchdown. 

After Cowan's one scoring drive, six and a half still remaining in the first quarter, the Bruin offense shut down almost completely until, early in the third quarter, Patrick could finally absorb no more punishment (a banged thumb, another concussion, a collapsed lung), whereupon Osaar Rasshan came on to scramble for 57 yards and go 3 for 9 passing, good for two field goals and a TD but too little, too late. The game was virtually over after Tuitama's beautiful, misdirection, cross field pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide, wide open for a walk-in score. Plays like this one, and the TD pass to running back Chris Jennings isolated on Christian Taylor perfectly symbolized the contrast between an effective, deceptive offense and KD's West-Concussed-Offense where every play, with the exception of a couple of options off the reverse, points the defense straight to the ball… no hesitation, no miss-steps and very little gain.          

…And What Did The Game Tell Us?

1) That Trey Brown has been getting it done with attitude and smarts but has not, apparently, impressed opposing offenses. His lack of size and speed is coming increasingly under attack by opposing coordinators. He should expect to see lots of action the last three regular season games.   

2) Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes, after a nice showing vs. Cal, continue to be prime targets in pass coverage. As much as the Bruins never attack over the middle downfield, other teams do just the opposite, smartly probing the "soft underbelly" of the Bruin secondary with slotbacks set inside split receivers. One of them, Horton it looked like, got completely sucked in on the Gronkowski TD, and Keyes was easily bumped off the ball by the receiver on the short slant pass for another Arizona TD. 

3) Though DeWayne Walker is trying to turn up the pressure with his front four and linebackers, even that's becoming problematical. Bruce Davis isn't getting enough help with pressure up the middle and from the opposite end, something we've all been concerned about since Justin Hickman's departure. (Wouldn't you think replacing one man out of eleven, no matter how good he may have been, shouldn't be that difficult?) Presumably the next move will be to come with more corner and safety blitzes. Certainly the base defense, with its four-man rush, isn't going to keep any offensive coordinators up at night.

4) Osaar Rashaan scrambles very well. He's got size and some good shake, something we've all known. However, he also remains a one dimensional "running quarterback" stuck in an ultra conservative offense. He's what I call a flip passer, snapping off his throws primarily with wrist and forearm rather than a conventional, full-arm follow through (David Koral used to throw like that). He also needs a more solid base, needs to set his feet better. Most of us now realize the Bruins would likely have one less loss if KD and Jay Norvell had taken the precaution of moving him back to quarterback and playing him once Ben Olson went down. In any case, he's the most intriguing aspect of the upcoming ASU game… the best reason, other than the always pleasant atmosphere of the Derf/Mood tailgate, for making it out to the Rose Bowl.                    

Hot, Hot, Hot                                                               

The question of KD's seemingly imminent departure, along with speculation over his possible successors, now overshadows everything about the program. The media finally admits it; the players know it; even KD talks openly about it. It's so obvious, in fact, that it's already set up the predictable backlash of sympathy, or, in the case of T.J. Simers, of outright perversity.       

The facts are that UCLA is a solid seven-point dog at home to Arizona State, even though the Sun Devils are coming off a huge letdown defeat in Eugene, and the odds-makers themselves might still be a little behind the curve considering they opened the Bruins as a slight favorite in Tucson. If the Bruins go down again this Saturday, we can expect them to be successively larger dogs, first to Oregon, then to SC. Which is not to say those games are stone-cold, in-the-bank losses for the radical Cranks (one hopes the Bruins at least make them sweat a little). And, of course, we all know by now how topsy-turvy this season is.

Some Bruin fans have become so unhinged they're afraid KD will escape the axe, even with a 5-7 or 6-6 record. Am I mistaken or is this evidence of a collective persecution complex, a particularly common occurrence around here? Unless, of course, Dan Guerrero really is a silly bugger, which is doubtful, or a masochist who's dying to see how much abuse he can take, which is even more doubtful. Why would anyone take a bullet for a coach he apparently wasn't even hot for in the first place? If anything (and provided the above scenario comes to pass), DG should be at the head of the line December 2nd, with walking papers in hand.

KD's chance of keeping his job is to win out and go to the Rose Bowl (not even the truest Blue has much faith in this). What would you make it? A 100-1 shot? Longer? Of course, the proverbial fly in the ointment is the scary 7-5 scenario, with a possible sour cherry (nowhere bowl) on top. This is the one we fear most… probably the one DG would personally least like to deal with. My hands are shaking even as I type.

Davis, Slater & Taylor

You've got to love this trio of overachievers. Davis came in a three-star 'tweener, then, his first two years, found himself yanked between his natural defensive end position and linebacker. Today he's a likely All-American choice, certainly all conference.

Slater, an even more modest three-star, found himself injured, then yanked between offense and defense and could make the field only on punt and kickoff coverage. Finally, this year, he was finally given a shot at returning kickoffs… and you know the rest. He may well play himself onto some NFL roster with his kick returning and outstanding all around play on special teams.

Taylor came in a complete unknown, and has now become indispensable to the defense. KD, with his repetitive, hollow clichés, seldom says anything worth repeating (except as a source of BRO humor). Not so Taylor, who really cut loose after Arizona. Addressing The Times about "the hot seat," he said, "You guys always talk about Coach Dorrell's future, but we got [a lot of] seniors… we have no control over that… It's up to the athletic director. Obviously if we win, he won't get fired. But we're not winning." He then went on to say, "Really I'm not even thinking about the Pac-10 championship right now. We just got to… win a game. You talk about goals, then we lose to these teams. You lose to Notre Dame, and I don't know if they've won since. You lose to Utah, you lose to Washington State, their first win in the Pac-10, now we lose to Arizona. It's ridiculous."

How's that for a concise, brutal summary of this misbegotten season (thus far). Hemingway himself might've been pleased with that. He used to call this sort of thing "the true gen" (for genuine). Too bad the kid's not interested in going into coaching.

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