Sunday, September 27, 2009

Upside Down

The PAC-10 is all backwards this year. A glimpse at the conference standings might make you do a double take. Stanford's at the top, Cal is down near the bottom, and SC is wandering around the middle.

For the first time in years, the PAC-10 is wide open.

Cal got whooped by a Ducks team that looked dead in the water just a few weeks ago. USC is 1-1 in conference play with a loss and an ugly win over the two cellar dwellers from last season. Cal hosts USC next week in a game that looked much more interesting 2 weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Stanford beat up the Huskies, who were still hung over from their win against the Trojans. Jim Harbaugh has the opportunity to take his team to a 4-1 (3-0) record for the first time in who knows how long.

Even Arizona is up at the top with their win over Oregon State last night.

This is one of those seasons where almost anyone could win the conference. I'm sure SC is still the odds on favorite, but it wouldn't surprise me to see multiple teams share the conference crown this year.

Oh, did I mention that UCLA is the only remaining undefeated team in the conference?

Ah yeah.

Next week should shake things up even more, with the Bruins and Sun Devils opening up conference play against Stanford and Oregon State.

Odd Bears are all Quacked Up

It must be an odd numbered year. Why? Because a top-10 ranked Cal team just embarrassed itself by losing to an inferior opponent... again. Here is their illustrious history over the last few odd-numbered seasons...


Start the preseason ranked #12. Go 3-0. In week-4, #6 Cal travels to unranked Oregon. A colossal loss of 42-3 plays out on national TV. The Bears fall to #24 in the AP poll immediately after the game.


Started preseason ranked #12. Went 5-0. In week 6, #2 Cal hosted Oregon St. Just before kickoff top ranked LSU lost, all but guaranteeing Berkley the #1 slot if they can beat the Beavers at home. Inspired, they take the field and lose 31- 28. The Bears go on an epic slide, losing to UCLA the following week, and finishing the season 6-6 and unranked.


Another preason ranking, this time #19. Another good start... going 5-0 and climbing to #10 in the polls. The Bears head south and get beat by #20 UCLA 47-40 on the amazing special teams work of Maurice Drew. Cal finishes the season 8-4 and manages to squeak back into the rankings at #25.

Sometimes history is just destined to repeat itself.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

YouTubing the SC Defeat @ Seattle

I love watching the game from the fan's perspective:

The winning field goal:

Rushing the field:

Celebrating on the field:

Taking it all in:

Play Within Yourself

There is an expression that you need to "play within yourself". I used to think that was just mindless coach speak. But when it comes to Kevin Craft, it's 100% appropriate.

Craft can't make long passes. He doesn't have the arm strength. But on short to medium routes, he's pretty good.

Craft can't carry the team to victory. He's a game manager. He gets into trouble when he tries to make something out of nothing. He forces passes into coverage, or just flat out makes throws he shouldn't.

When Kevin relaxes and plays calm, he's actually pretty good. He just gets worked up at times and starts making bone-headed mistakes.

This is why Prince is our future. His total numbers aren't much better than Craft, but he has the arm to throw the long ball and he doesn't try and force passes into bad situations.

I thought Craft did OK last night. I want Prince back ASAP, but Craft played decent. He was about 50-50. Half the game was good, the other half wasn't. That was better than mos of the games from last year.

Winning Ugly

It wasn't pretty but the Bruins walked out of the Rose Bowl on Saturday with a win. It wasn't anything to write home about, but UCLA is off to it's first 3-0 start since the 2005 season.

So, Kevin Craft played the entire game. With a better supporting cast around him this season, Craft rarely had to go running for his life like he did on almost every snap last year.

In the first quarter, Kevin looked down right composed. He stood tall in the pocket, connecting on the vast majority of his passes, and he had plenty of time to find the open receiver. Franklin and the running game also took pressure of the senior signal caller, as they ran through massive holes in the line.

However, Craft also slipped into the inconsistent, poor decision making play that plagued him last season. The offense as a whole struggled through most of the 2nd and 3rd quarter. Settling for field goals and 3-and-outs. A big 51-yard TD pass to Austin, on broken coverage, ended the drought and put the game into the win column.

The defense also had up-and-down moments.

They were aggressive and attacked the ball most of the night. ATV came up with two interceptions and the Bruins forced a number of fumbles, though they didn't recover any of them.

The third quarter, however, saw the defense struggle to contain the Wildcat's read option running attack. K-State put together a massive, 14 play, 8 minute drive that resulted in a touchdown.

Eventually, the Bruin defense found it's grove again in the 4th quarter as the Wild Cats were forced to pass the ball to catch up.

The real story of the night, however, was penalties.

There were mind numbing amounts of penalties last night. UCLA was fortunate to be playing an inferior opponent, because those penalties would have easily cost the game against an Oregon, Cal, or USC.

For the third consecutive week, the defense kept crucial drives alive by committing untimely penalties.

Unfortunately, the offense joined the party as well. They replaced big gains and a touchdown pass with little yellow flags. It got so bad at one point, that it seemed like every other play ended with flags being thrown.

The team ended the game with 8 penalties for 80 yards. Which brings the total this season to 22 penalties for a whopping 208 yards. Compare that to 12 penalties and 99 yards for our opponents.

Coach Neuheisel and his staff will have to work on that during the bye week.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dawg'n it

Not a huge surprise that SC lost to the Huskies. Sark's got that program headed 180 degrees from where they were last year. Locker is also an amazing talent.

What was a surprise was that Aaron Corp and the SC passing game was bad. Down right atrocious. I think Carroll is going to have a rough season with his two inexperienced quarterbacks.

The moment that changed the outcome of that game is pictured here...

Thank you Mark Sanchez. The Trojan loss up in Seattle is dedicated to you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Hand Tied Behind Our Back

Just in case you thought the K-State game was going to be a walk in the park. Think again.

Prince is out and it looks like Brehaut is the starter. I like Richard and thought he looked good in the spring and fall.

Unlike many, I'm not that worried if Craft gets in there. Kevin is a warrior who will benefit from a much improved line and running game. He still makes bad decisions, but he's also another year wiser and more experienced in the offense; I think he could surprise us.

In addition to our continued bad luck with injuries to quarterback, we have four players suspended for the game on Saturday.

The biggest loss is Courtney Viney. The red-shirt sophomore did a good job filling in for Aaron Hester against Tennessee last Saturday. It looks like Sheldon Price is in the running for the starting spot. We'll see how much the Wildcats throw against him.

The other 3 players were backups on offense. Knox, Presley, and Carroll. All are talented but we have other guys that an take their reps without a problem. Maybe Thigpen will get in there and wow us with some big moves.

All of these players being unavailable might actually have some postive effect on the team. Now we have to play with more urgency and focus. With Prince in there, the team may have coasted a bit after the big win in Knoxville.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Universe Hates Us

Just when it looked like UCLA had a competent quarterback under center, the football gods decided to spit on us again. Kevin Prince has a fractured jaw and will miss 3-4 weeks.

I suppose if you're going to fracture a bone during the season, your jaw isn't the worst choice. With some healing, and a protective face mask, Prince can play with the injury. It's got to hurt like a mo fo, but it's better than a knee or an ankle.

Injuring it on the last offensive drive against Tennessee isn't the worst timing. Prince should only miss 2 games, with K-State and Stanford sandwiching the bye week. Hopefully the Bruin's offense, which struggled for most of the game against the Volunteers, can overcome this adversity and still play well in two very winnable games.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Orange Slices

What a big win for coach Neuheisel and the Bruins today.

The defense was outstanding in that 4th quarter. Just absolutely outstanding. They didn't get a break but for some 3-and-outs and still managed to come up with that huge goal line stand on 4th down.

I'm sure, when this season is all said and done, we'll look back at another sub-par season from the Vols and chalk this game up as a "should have won". But, looking at it now, it's a mighty impressive win.

I'll have more thoughts tomorrow. Need to go back and re-watch the game. Which will be very fun indeed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Special Team

For some strange reason, special teams numbers don't show up in the final box score. Return yards are rarely there, much less how far you punted, kicked-off, or how many kicks you blocked.

Yet those plays can make all the difference in a game.

Take Saturday's game against SDSU as case in point. UCLA dominated the special teams game, in every phase, and those plays boosted the Bruins to a rather comfortable victory.

Kai Forbath was money again. Do you realize how amazing it is to have a kicker who has never missed an attempt from beyond 50 yards?

While most fans hold their breath when their team's field goal unit takes the field... our fans head for the cooler. Oh, a 51 yard attempt from the left hash mark? That's a lock, I'm going to get another beer, you want one?

With Terrance Austin fielding kicks and punts, every play has the potential to be a big one. His 64 yard return after the 2nd SDSU touchdown was the boost in confidence our team needed. Now if he can just take one all the way back to the house, we'd be in business.

Just like last season, we had another blocked kick for a touchdown in the season opener. This time it was Jerzy Siewierski bum rushing his way though the line and getting a big paw up on a field goal attempt. Alteraun Verner, who has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, picked up the fumble and cruised into the end zone.

Those plays either directly or indirectly lead to 20 of the Bruin's 33 points. That, not so coincidentally, was basically the margin of victory.

Very special indeed.

(Photo Credit OC Register)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Glimpses of the Future

There were flashes of brilliance mixed in with freshman mistakes last night. The Bruins beat-up an over-matched Aztec squad but looked far from perfect in doing so.

It was a gorgeous day at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. That late summer sun was beaming down onto the greatest tailgating spots in the country. We had the grill going, the beer was flowing, and everyone was pumped to get the 2009 season started.

To my surprise, the air was crystal clear. You wouldn't have known that a fire ragged around the Arroyo Seco earlier in the week if it wasn't for the massive plum of smoke off in the distance.

The success of the first few SDSU drives weren't entirely surprising, in that UCLA had no idea what to expect from this team. It was well documented that the Aztecs had closed practices and Neuheisel and his staff didn't have any film on them.

The Bruin defense really shot themselves in the foot early. Two penalties on 3rd down, including a pass interference penalty in the end zone that gave Lindley and the Aztec a fresh set of downs, kept that first drive alive. Andrew Abbott got burned deep in nickle coverage and that lead to the 2nd touchdown.

Besides those two mistakes, the defense was stout.

There were bone crushing hits by Carter and Bosworth. Yet another ATV touchdown on a blocked field goal. The record tying three picks by Rahim Moore. All of that put the exclamation point on a dominating final 3 quarters of football.

The big news of the night, however, was the offense.

Kevin Prince looked immensely poised in that first half. I was very impressed. He connected 6 of 7 times on that first drive, including a nice shuffle pass that was negated by a holding penalty. His arm strength and accuracy are huge assets for this team and something that we haven't seen in a very long time.

In the second half, Prince reminded us that he is still a red-shirt freshman.

The two interceptions were head scratches; he threw them almost directly to the defender. The confusion could be attributed to the unconventional 3-3-5 Aztec defense. A more likely answer is that he made usual freshman-in-his-first game mistakes.

The running game looked very good. Their were some great runs by Coleman, Franklin, and Knox. The 3 youngsters were explosive.

In particular, Coleman is just a beast out there. He looks like a tank rolling down the field. The last two years he hasn't had much hype compared to the other tail backs. But every Saturday, he just comes out and gains yards for this team.

The offensive line was much, much improved. There were some nice holes for the backs and Prince actually had time to go through his progression. Of course, some of that success has to be taken with a grain of salt when you consider the level of the competition.

They did look good though. Not bad considering that 3 of those guys were making their first start in the blue and gold. It's a young line with 3 sophomores, a junior, and a true freshman making up the starting unit.

In fact, it was youth all around last night. There were tons of true and redshirt freshman on the field, especially on offense. Prince, Preselly, Breuhaut, Thigpen, Carroll, Knox, Franklin, and Su'a-Filo all saw action last night.

These guys are going to be clicking as a unit in a few years.

Definitely some great moments last night. Some glimpses of the future and the possibilities it holds.

(photo credit: ESPN)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What Day Is This?


It feels like an eternity since we last hit the gridiron; especially with no bowl game last year. I'm packin' up the BBQ, gathering up the peeps, and heading up to Pasadena in just a few hours.

It's going to be hot, it's going to be ashy, and I'm sure the air quality is going to be crap.

But man... I can't wait. =)

It feels like Christmas morning. It's finally here! It's GAME DAY!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bount Force Trauma

So I was watching a football game and a boxing match broke out. Wow, I've never seen something like what happened last night during the Oregon and Boise State game:

The Ducks got whooped last night. It was embarrassing for a team that was ranked in the top-25 coming into the season. No first downs in the first half. A baffling run call back on their own 2-yard line lead to a safety. Bad coaching, ill prepared, and no heart. I'm excited to play these guys!

Not to mention the post game activities.

I'm guessing Blount gets a 3-game suspension. *

* Editor's Note: Looks like Blount got a year-long suspension. Good for Kelly. Send a message.