December 2, 2007

Not with a bang, but with a whimper

Well, that was... Uninspiring.

And so, what will likely be the last game of the Karl Dorrell era (barring possibly letting Karl stay on for the bowl game - not too probable considering the lost recruiting time for a new coach) ends with a 24-7 USC victory over UCLA. The Bruin defense played a solid game, coming up with two big turnovers deep in their own territory. However, the offense, with Pat Cowan under center for the majority of the day, simply couldn't put points on the board.

The game was "in doubt" - in the sense that it was conceivable UCLA could pull the upset with a bit of luck - until a Fred Davis touchdown reception with 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter effectively put the game out of reach. The Trojans simply dominated the ball, holding it for nearly 38 minutes in the game, not far from LSU's NCAA record of 39:16. The Bruin defense just wore down as the game went on. In the first quarter, USC averaged around 3.4 yards per carry (11 carries, 37 yds). For the rest of the game, the offense could not consistently generate drives to keep the D on the sidelines. As such, from the second quarter on, the Bruins gave up 5.1 yards per carry (38 carries, 194 yds). Yeesh.

And those rush numbers are the key ones, give that the run game was the difference in this contest. Both teams averaged 5.4 yards per pass, a pretty dismal number. Neither Booty nor Cowan was particularly good all game, and incredibly enough Pat actually finished with a higher passer rating (114 to 110). However, the Trojans averaged nearly 5 yard per rush for the game, while UCLA averaged 0.5. And yes, that decimal place is correct. Le sigh.

So instead of a huge blowout of the Bruins, or a potential job-saving upset of the Trojans, what we get is a meh game featuring lots of running calls, poor offensive play on both sides of the ball, and a rather unsatisfying finish. Fitting for the Dorrell era, one might think (hey, at least the Bruins covered the spread!).

So, now that the celebrations can begin, where do we go from here?

Let's start with the big boys at the L.A. Times. Bill Plaschke writes about the lack of progress within the program under Dorrell. Not a whole lot of help there, Bill - this article should have been written after the Utah game. Or several other incidences, really, but Utah applies for this season at least.

T.J. Simers, by comparison, is shockingly positive with regards to Dorrell's tenure. More interestingly, he notes an insider who claims "[Boise State head coach Chris] Petersen will be the Bruins' new coach and DeWayne Walker willremain [sic] on staff as defensive coordinator." He also suggests to his readers to "[c]heck out a website called [ed - Link not sic]" as an example of what is wrong with college football fandom. Heaven help TJ if he ever gets a hold of Nestor's work - his head might explode. The mention of Peterson as HC with Walker is a very interesting one, though, and we'll have to wait and see if more comes of it.

More informative than either of the above is Brian Dohn, over at the Daily News. His piece reports several particulars with regards to the future of UCLA football. For one, it looks like the Bruins are headed to the Las Vegas Bowl (again - see 2002/2004) to meet up with the BYU Cougars (again - see Sept 8). But the real money quote can be found a little further in:

The intermediaries [between UCLA and several coaching candidates], both boosters and former players, contacted former San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, former UCLA quarterback and current Baltimore Ravens assistant Rick Neuheisel and the representatives of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and Boise State coach Chris Peterson, according to sources.
That's quite a list. Neuheisel, Leach, and Peterson were names I've heard bandied about quite a bit - and obviously Peterson jumps to the fore if Simers is right. Mariucci I've heard, but never really seriously considered. Then again, the 'intermediaries' listed are a) not members of the UCLA administration, and b) are reaching out to other coaches, with no indicators of return interest as far as those on the outside might know. So the eventual hire certainly could come from outside that list - however, this gives a jumping-off point from which the search can be evaluated.

I wish the outgoing seniors all the best in the upcoming bowl game, be it in Vegas or wherever, and I wish them the best in the future beyond. This season will quite possibly go down in UCLA lore as the season that could have been - could have saved Karl's job, could have taken the Bruins to new heights, could have knocked a sometimes-vulnerable USC off their pedestal... Couldas, Wouldas, and Shouldas about. And at the end of the day, it traces back to one man, and that is head coach Karl Dorrell.

Happy trails, Karl. You're a good man, and a good Bruin. It's just a shame you're not a good coach.

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