Chiccoa: Good Boys and Bad Boys

Football columnist Charles Chiccoa takes another swipe at the UCLA/USC game, the controversial ending, Pete Carroll, Rick Neuheisel, UCLA's offense, and Kevin Prince, and shares some song lyrics...

Sammy was a good boy,
He never left his (daddy's) side
He was an alcoholaphobic,
And every night inside he cried.
Danny was a bad boy,
He liked to kick and scream and shout,
And on a Saturday night,
He got that feeling all right,
He'd throw his weight about.

-- "The Enemy, UK"


Let's get the sucker pass out of the way. Of course, Pete Carroll should have run the ball, even after he saw Rick Neuheisel call the first of his three timeouts. (What? This Bruin offense was going to go the length of the field in 30-odd seconds. And then, and then…) Coaches do what Rick did all the time; rarely do we see them do what Pete did. Almost as bizarre as the ending to this game was Bill Plaschke's reaction Sunday morning: "Why would [Neuheisel] spit on Carroll's good will like that?" Seriously, can there be any doubt this guy has finally gone the Leonard Tose route?

The larger point is this: Even though the pass was an unnecessary, ill-judged middle-finger at the Bruins, it was, after all, perfectly Pete. When Offensive Coordinator, Jeremy Bates, suggested the play, Pete was apparently so tickled he couldn't resist. His howling, fist-pumping jig on the sideline said it all. Is he a hypocrite? Sure. But hypocrisy is the least of this guy's defects. I mean, you might as well be outraged over a lion taking down a wildebeest. Which is to say, it's in his nature, no doubt stamped in his DNA.

As we've noted before, Pete Carroll is UCLA's very own nightmare: Vlad the Impaler, Nosferatu, Dracula. Ever since getting this job, he's been on a mission to return Bruin football to the arid days of Billy Barnes, thereby skimming for himself all the biggest nuggets from the rich, SoCal recruiting grounds… plus working the rest of the nation, including available transfers.

The only way you deal with someone like Pete is a stake through the heart. For our purposes, that means beating his team on the field more than once a decade, preferably decisively and to a bloody pulp. He's a ruthless, single-minded narcissist working for an absolutely bottom-line institution. He's seduced most of the witless local media together with some ABC/ESPN celebrity hounds, all of whom are delighted to be on the bandwagon, in effect enabling Pete on his way to the Hall (Hell?) of Fame. And so he continues on his merry way. I mean, who else but Pete would've seen nothing wrong in inviting "The Juice" to that infamous Orange Bowl practice session, there to sign autographs and be casually photographed with Carson Palmer.

Until (or if) NCAA Enforcement finds the balls to, at the very least, temporarily hamstring Pete on the Reggie Bush crap (and God knows what else), the Bruins are going to have to do the job themselves. And it's no sure thing, based on his two seasons here, whether Rick Neuheisel's up for the job. Does he have more to offer than charm, rhetoric, recruiting skills and his famous relentless optimism? And does he possess the necessary righteous anger and steely will to deal with an opponent as implacable as Pete? When exactly will we begin seeing good football, football that's worth face value, that doesn't send half the crowd scurrying to their cars early in the fourth quarter?

Historically, and right up to this latest run of Trojan domination, UCLA has too often allowed themselves to be cast as the little gentleman, the good loser, the nice little kid who gets "pantsed" on the schoolyard and regularly jacked up for his lunch money.

*****

It seems like those plans for a "clean," conservative, field-position game with Chane Moline and Prince dominating things came to grief Saturday night. Between both Bruin quarterbacks and Moline, they collectively rushed for a meager 89 yards on 28 carries, which left all of 7 carries for anyone else. (And SC's defensive front isn't exactly the Seven Blocks of Granite.) The game, as they say, proved too big for Prince, and Moline, as we know, is not a tailback, let alone a "Wild Cheetah." Anticipating that the Bruins couldn't break anything long, SC concentrated on stuffing the run and playing the receivers tight. The offensive plan was just as uninspired as the previous week's vs. Arizona State: no sweat for the DC.

Other than a decent game by the Bruin defense, you can't find much comfort in the numbers. The game was effectively over once the Trojans drove the field in the fourth quarter with Allen Bradford going in, standing up, for 21-7. Was the defense worn down? I don't know. UCLA did hold a one-minute advantage in time of possession. Until that drive - the most important of the night - the defense had played well, contesting the line of scrimmage, containing the running game, holding the passing game in check. They forced eight Trojan punts. Less garbage time, they held SC under 300 yards, total offense. UCLA's total offense, less garbage time, was even more negligible, which was never going to get it done this night. As was the case most of the year, the Bruins couldn't drive the ball. They punted seven times, and that was in addition to their four turnovers. The fact Kai Forbath didn't even get a field goal attempt should tell you how bad it was.

The officiating, I suppose, could have been worse. Although penalized over a hundred yards, SC, as usual, did get the key call of the game on the mysterious phantom whistle. It looked like Pete may have successfully lobbied on the sidelines for that call ("Remember, always compete.")

*****

Is it perhaps a bit odd, and a little unfair, that whenever Bruin fans bring up the relative lack of talent in the program, they talk about any number of guys, yet seldom include Prince? Wasn't he also a modest three-star? Rivals.com had him as the #25 QB in the country; Scout.com rated him the #6 QB in the west. His passing numbers as a HS junior were ordinary, and, of course, he lost his senior year to injury. This season, his second in the program, was certainly undistinguished. Which leaves only Norm Chow's validation ("the It factor") as justification for believing he's our guy. Today, that doesn't seem like enough.

It's not a comfortable scenario, mulling over the quarterback situation going into spring practice. Since Prince is the only guy with significant experience, it would appear to be a fait accompli he'll start in September. Maybe if the Bruins snatch that last bowl invitation and, with Prince injured, Richard Brehaut could get another chance to start and this time show something. (Then again, who's to say Craft won't get the nod?) One hopes the job will truly be thrown open next year - and that includes even for incoming freshman Brett Nottingham if he comes in early. (Yeah, I know, true freshmen are seldom ready. Then again, it's not unprecedented, and the competition isn't all that formidable.) In any case, Prince needs to be pushed hard for the position.

I could go on about next year's (probable) Price-less defensive front, the curious status of Milton Knox and some other not very happy subjects, but there will be time enough for that down the road. This has been a rough week for everyone, so here's the best I can do in the way of a cookie… courtesy again of "The Enemy."

We'll live and die,
We'll live and die (with these teams)
Don't let it drag you down,
Don't let it drag you down now.

(It sounds better, even uplifting, when you're listening to the song.)

Bruin Report Online Top Stories