Saturday, September 27, 2008

Slowly But Surely

You know, I walked away from that game today feeling better about this team. Today was progress. Not in all areas... *cough* defense *cough*... but the offense looked markedly improved. Special teams was feast (Terrance Austin setting a school record on kick off returns) or famine (Punt returned for a touchdown). All in all, it was a step in the right direction.

Let's start with the good news. Welcome back Kalil Bell! The combination of Coleman and Bell seems to be working for UCLA. The duo racked up 159 yards on the ground. As a team, the Bruins rushed for 234 yards. That's more than the first three game combined! In fact, the run game has steadily improved each week since BYU, where UCLA managed a pathetic 9 total yards on the ground. Now, to put that in some perspective, Fresno State has one of the worst run defenses in the country. They ranked 95th coming into this weekend. Arizona wasn't a bunch of world beaters either with the 49th ranked run defense, but UCLA did manage 115 yards against them as well. Let's hope this trend continues.

It seems like the offense line is really starting to gel. They might not be able to take on some of the better teams in the conference, but they seem to be finding some consistency. I really liked the combination out there today. Dean, Savage, Baca, Ekbatani, and Reed. It looks like Micah Reed might miss some more time after hurting his other knee today. That's a bummer but they did OK in his absence. They even gave Craft some more time to throw. A good effort.

The bad news was the defense. You have to give credit to Fresno State. They have a very prolific offense and a very, very efficent quarterback in Bradstater. He is accurate and cool in the pocket. You expect that from a seasoned senior. But our secondary is not very good. Norris and Viney were particularly poor in coverage today. It doesn't help that we get very little pass rush. We have to get some pressure from the linebackers and defensive ends because we're getting picked apart in the passing game. Brian Price was the lone bright spot. I almost had a heart attack when he went down with an injury. Glad to see he was OK and came back for a huge game.

On the coaching decisions... I thought they were fine. Some will hang Neuhiesel for accepting the holding penalty deep in UCLA terrirorty, but I don't. When I watched it live, my first thought was to decline; but I see why he choose to accept it. It did put Fresno State in a longer field goal position. They're kicker was not very good and Rick was gambling that his defense would come up with a big stop. Likewise, on the 4th down when we had the ball... he took a chance on our offense.

Both were gutsy moves. Both showed confidence in his players. Both failed. People will bitch about the decision but what they're really complaining about is the outcome. Everyone hated it when Dorrell played it safe. Now people are complaining that Neuheisel is taking too many risks. Shit. We need to role the dice with this team, because we don't have the consistent play makers to win these types of games every week. You have to take the risk to get the reward. It just didn't work out in our favor this week.

Anyways, I look forward to the game against Washing State. Hopefully the progress continues and we get a tick in the win column. That sure would feel good... for both the players and the fans.

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