The View from the Bunker

<b>EDITORIAL</B>: Our resident crank, <b>Charles Chiccoa</b>, peeks out from the bunker and provides us a quick, mid-season Survival Guide to the rest of the UCLA football season...

Well, some of those pre-season nightmares have come true. Midway through the season there's no quarterback, a vote of no-confidence in the coaching staff and the season potentially in a shambles. It's cold and dark out there, and what's a Bruin fan to do?

The signs were there after Colorado popped that little bubble of optimism that came floating out of Cal Lutheran. Chris Brown induced flashbacks of Edgerrrin James and Ron Dayne. Once again the box was stacked, the quarterback was taking a licking and the Bruins looked predictable and vanilla.

Today, most of us are cranks. The message boards, along with Bruin fans in general, are either on fire or they've surrendered. My friend, cynical Dan, believes John Sciarra Jr. will start the Stanford game and the Bruins will finish 4-8. He's not the only crank who believes this. We're all familiar with "Bruin Despair Syndrome," the idea that it's better to lose, and bring on change, than have the players "bail out" a struggling program. I've gone this route myself in basketball and it didn't work for me. I'd start watching the game, believing I wanted (and taking for granted) a Bruin loss, but when it got down to crunchtime, I couldn't go with reason over my heart, and was delighted with the wins over Stanford and Cincinnati. I know and respect one of our most valuable posters, "BaBa," but I've never been fly fishing, I'm not a big drinker, and I find laughter a little too hollow.

Here's my Bruin survival guide for the rest of the season:

I believe Matt Moore will start the Stanford game. I cannot believe, after all that's happened, that the most talented available player won't start at quarterback vs. Stanford. And even if he doesn't, I can't believe he won't make an early entrance. Moore will have had a full week to prepare and I can't wait to see how he does. I mean, he hasn't just been playing ping-pong and video games the past two months. He's been sharpening his skills on the scout team, and his skills, to my eyes (and a great many others) look to be formidable. Of course he'll go in with a limited playbook and he may not be able to handle that twelve-man front, but then again... maybe he'll be okay. Drew Olson was beginning to look comfortable, and he hasn't had a lot more experience than Moore. Moore has a strong arm, good accuracy downfield, and he should be able to move around in the pocket. He may not have as quick a release as Olson. He'll of course have lots of help from his skill position teammates. I also don't buy into the conventional wisdom that the offensive line isn't giving enough blood to the program, or is too big (everybody's O lines, today, are filled with 300 pounders who can be out-quicked by smaller, faster defensive linemen). Maybe some of these offensive linemen haven't lived up to their recruiting hype, but they've often been outnumbered and outschemed (and not only this year), and that isn't their fault (it's also easier to point the finger at a five-man unit than at an individual). And of course Stanford isn't the 1927 Yankees, and Moore will be playing before a very supportive home crowd. If the Bruins have anywhere near a normal male reaction to what went down in Berkeley last Saturday, not to mention what's gone down the last few years, they should be wildly ready for Stanford. And don't forget that the defense is coming off probably its best game since the days of Rocky Long. If the Bruins can pass this test, there may just be light outside the bunker. And if they don't, there's always that other kind of light...

UCLA football will either prosper or change. It can't go on like this. No administration wants to deal with endless conflagration every week. The next seven weeks should tell the tale. Either the Bruins finish with a rush behind a promising pair of freshmen quarterbacks, and the coaching staff survives, or my friend, cynical Dan, is right and we see a new regime. What constitutes a rush? A win over Stanford, a respectable showing in Seattle, a win at Arizona, and home wins in the last two (an SC win coupled with a Cougar loss, for many fans at this point, won't get it done). This is, of course, a best-case scenario, and cynical Dan laughed and called me a "Blue" when I tried it out on him. If change is in the wind after December 7th, the pressure shifts from Bob Toledo to Dan Guerrero. I don't know if the last five games are drama enough for you, but it certainly is for me. I can't wait for Saturday.

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