Posted on: December 2, 2010 10:30 am
Edited on: December 2, 2010 10:31 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
There is plenty of reason for concern in Westwood over the UCLA football program. Since hiring head coach Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins have gone 15-21, they have zero offensive identity, and despite the coaching of the legendary coordinator Norm Chow - the Bruins have no certainty at the quarterback position. Neuheisel has already addressed the evaluation process for all the assistant coaches, but what about the evaluation of the head coach?
Even with the downfalls, UCLA still has Neuheisel's back for now. Athletic director Dan Guerrero stood firmly behind his head coach when questioned about Neuheisel's status with the Bruins for 2011.
“Of course there’s never been any question of that,” Guerrero said outside the Bruin locker-room following UCLA's 55-24 loss at Arizona State on Friday. “There’s no doubt. Why would you ask that question?”
There are many reasons why both fans and critics would question Guerrero's confidence in Neuheisel. The former Washington head coach was brought in with the promise to "end the football monopoly in Los Angeles," but even with a win over the Trojans on Saturday the Bruins will have failed to pick up more than three conference victories in the brief Neuheisel era. Scott Reid, of the Orange Country Register, seems to suggest that Neuheisel's critics may also be Guerrero's critics. If so, and the losing continues, there could be major changes on the way at UCLA.
Posted on: November 28, 2010 1:57 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. The Ducks are who we thought they were. It's just not accurate to say we learned anything new about Oregon in their 48-29 Friday night win over Arizona . We knew already they were as dominant a second-half team as any in the country (save maybe their likely BCS title game foils at Auburn ), and that's how they played. We knew already with weapons like LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and even the ever-more-terrifying Josh Huff , the Ducks could put up nearly 50 points without even being particularly sharp in the first half, and that's what they did. We knew that playing in the comfort zone of Autzen Stadium, they were going to win and win comfortably when all was said and done, and in the end the Wildcats feel by nearly three touchdowns. (We also knew their defense could have the occasional
In short, we knew that Oregon was the 2010 Pac-10 champion and almost certainly on their way to the BCS championship game, and that's what we still know. If there was anything surprising about their dismantling of the Wildcats, it was the realization that by this point of the season, Oregon's championship-caliber excellence isn't even surprising any more.
2. And yeah, you can forget about them choking away that title berth in the Civil War. Mike Riley will almost certainly have his Oregon State team ready to play a competitive game against their archrivals at home in Corvallis, but it's hard to imagine that he has the horses to actually finish off the hypothetical shocker of the season, not when two of the Beavers' previous three results are a home loss to Washington State and today's hideous 38-0 whitewashing at the hands of Stanford . The Cardinal are legitimately playing as well as any team in the country right now, but still; fewer than 300 total yards an zero points doesn't exactly portend the kind of offensive explosion that will be necessary to stay with the Ducks.
3. USC is ready for its season to be over. The Oregon State result sandwiched between the aforementioned losses to Wazzu and Stanford? An inexplicable-looking 36-7 demolition of the Trojans that this space immediately chalked up to USC's longtime tendency to break into football hives upon crossing the Oregon border. But after watching USC's listless, often yawn-inducing performance in a 20-16 loss to a Notre Dame team that at times seemed determined to give the game away -- Irish quarterback Tommy Rees threw three interceptions, more than one of the highly charitable variety -- it may be time to wonder if Lane Kiffin is still able to get through to a team with nothing to play for other than pride.
Now, true, the Trojans still would have pulled out the victory if Ronald Johnson hadn't dropped a certain game-winning reception late, and the absence of Matt Barkley (coupled with a shaky-looking first start from Mitch Mustain , who averaged less than 5 yards an attempt and failed to throw a touchdown pass) no doubt didn't help USC's cause in the least, either. But for a team playing its oldest and arguably biggest rival, the spark needed to really get the Trojan blood pumping (and the crowd involved) seemed curiously absent. Maybe it was the rain. But maybe it's just Week 12 of a season whose self-described bowl game took place a month ago.
4. The end to one team's bowl streak is just the start of someone else's. Or so it would appear after Washington edged Cal 16-13 to pull within a game of bowl eligibility at 5-6, with only the feeble specter of Washington State (surely not due for two major upsets this season) standing in the way of the Huskies' first postseason appearance since 2002. Steve Sarkisian 's second season in charge hasn't always lived up to the outsized expectations of the preseason, but at least he can point towards some concrete progress.
Unfortunately for Jeff Tedford , unless you count the upcoming long-since-overdue renovations to the Bears' Memorial Stadium, "concrete progress" seems further away than ever. Kevin Riley 's career-ending injury a few weeks back appears to have been a fatal dagger for Cal's bowl hopes, which finally dissolved in the loss and resulting final record of 5-7. The record is the worst of Tedford's nine-year Cal tenure, with the Bears missing the postseason for the first time since -- whaddya know -- 2002. Tedford's not in any kind of trouble just yet (don't forget that Cal was hands-down the worst program in the Pac-10 when he took over), but the heady mid-aughts days when the Bears were serious Rose Bowl and BCS contenders have never seemed further away than they did on Saturday.
5. Rick Neuheisel had better have something more up his sleeve this offseason than just canning Norm Chow. Because when you give up 55 points to Arizona State 's backup quarterback , your offensive coordinator is pretty obviously not the only thing wrong with your football team.
Posted on: November 25, 2010 5:52 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2010 5:56 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
UCLA Rick Neuheisel would not make any guarantees for any of his staff, and many believed that legendary offensive coordinator Norm Chow was in jeopardy of being replaced. Then, it was announced on Wednesday that that UCLA had approved a two-year extension for Chow. The announcement was likely a result of the hot-seat rumors, with the extension being agreed on in July and approved late last week. UCLA firmed their commitment with Chow after USC head coach Lane Kiffin made a play to get Chow out of Westwood.
But the Bruins offense has been far from impressive so far in 2010, ranking 111th nationally in total offense and 117th in passing offense. Not what you would expect from a coach who has helped with two national championships and coached two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. Contrary to what the extension may imply, the status on Chow's job has not changed. The deal was made before this dismal season, and Neuheisel reiterated Wednesday that each member of the staff would be evaluated at season's end. Just because the deal has been approved does not guarantee Chow will be the offensive coordinator in 2011.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 10:07 am
Edited on: November 23, 2010 10:08 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
UCLA was able to find some hope near the beginning of the 2010 season with upset wins against Houston and at Texas, but the Pac-10 schedule has not been particularly friendly to the Bruins. When UCLA kicked off conference competition, their opponents were well prepared for the Pistol offensive attack that carved up the Longhorns for 260+ yards rushing in Austin. The Bruins offense has struggled to score in the second half of the season, never scoring more than 21 points since October 2. There are many things to blame for the Bruins failures, but the one name that continues to come up is offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
"I don't want to talk about who will be or who won't be on the staff next year," head coach Rick Neuheisel said when asked about Chow's status with the Bruins for 2011. "Our staff is intact and we're ready to go. I honestly haven't even start to think about that road."
Neuheisel did go on to say that Chow, along with the rest of the staff, would be evaluated at season's end. Chow is one of the great offensive minds in college football across the last 30 years, and his legacy was cemented with two national championships and two Heisman winning quarterbacks at USC. But something at UCLA is clearly not working. The offense has looked less like a Pistol for most of 2010, and more like, well, this.
Posted on: October 31, 2010 2:28 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. Oregon is much more likely to make it to Glendale than not. The Ducks aren't home free just yet; that season-ending trip to Corvallis to face Mike Riley 's Oregon State team won't be easy, and God only knows what kind of Cal squad Oregon will face when they travel to Berkeley Nov. 13. But after the Ducks dismantled USC 53-32 in Los Angeles Saturday night, neither of those hypothetical stumbling blocks (to say nothing of, say, Arizona 's chances to win at Autzen Stadium) look nearly imposing enough to expect Oregon's season to end anywhere but the BCS national championship game.
The Trojans had a ton of factors working in their favor: a bye week to prepare, a red-hot quarterback, an unusually-lively Coliseum, and most of all the desperation that comes with knowing that this was their best shot at being a team that mattered this season. They called it their bowl game for a reason. And it was enough to propel them to a 32-29 lead after two shirt-field touchdowns early in the third quarter, just as Stanford had used an early burst to lead in Autzen. But just as Ducks had done against the Cardinal, the array of weapons at Chip Kelly 's disposal -- LaMichael James in the running game, Jeff Maehl and Lavasier Tuinei in the passing game, Darron Thomas in both -- simply overwhelmed their ever-weakening opposition as the second half progressed. Oregon scored the final 24 points of the game and finished with 597 total yards.
They are relentless, they are operating on all their proverbial cylinders, and even their allegedly soft defense -- always worse for the statistical wear thanks to the offense's hyperdrive tempo -- held the previously scorching Matt Barkley to a mediocre 5 yards per pass attempt and USC under 400 total yards for the game. Unless they badly underperform the same night the Golden Bears or Beavers stupendously overperform, they will become the first Pac-10 team other than their Saturday victims to play for a crystal football.
2. USC isn't going to be anything more than a middle-of-the-pack Pac-10 team until they learn how to stop the run. The charge frequently leveled at Monte Kiffin as his defenses first at Tennessee and now Southern Cal have struggled is that the 70-year-old defensive coordinator isn't sharp enough any more to adjust to the modern spread offense.
There might be something to that, given the 588 yards given up to Hawaii in USC's season opener and the 597 yielded to the Ducks. But the Trojans' biggest problem is a lot simpler: they're getting crushed up front. LaMichael James went for 239 rushing yards and the Ducks for 311 as a team. Stanford ? 193 yards, 5.4 a carry. Washington ? 225 yards, 6.6 a carry. That's not a matter of Kiffin's schemes or a misunderstanding of the spread; that's a matter of the Trojan defensive front just getting shoved around. Until they mature and start clogging up lanes in the middle of the field, USC's defense is going to continue to flail no matter what Kiffin does.
3. Cal isn't the only Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit in this conference. Speaking of Washington, the last time we saw them at home they were edging a good Oregon State team in overtime. While not many people were expecting them to upset Stanford, to get throttled 41-0 in Husky Stadium is an embarrassment ... and baffling considering how well they played just two weeks ago. With road trips to Oregon and Cal still to come and the Huskies wallowing at 3-5 overall, it doesn't look like this is the year just yet for Steve Sarkisian to break his team's eight-year bowl drought.
Arizona State , meanwhile, rebounded from losing to 33 points at Cal to shut out previously-improving Washington State 42-0 .
4. But Cal is still the original and most committed Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit. The Golden Bears trailed by 28 at halftime and lost 35-7 at Oregon State, as Kevin Riley had to be helped off the field in the first quarter. One of Cal's eight games have been decided by fewer than 21 points.
5. UCLA is as much a mess as ever. The Bruins looked to have their ship righted when they went on the road to upset Texas , but it turns out going on the road to upset Texas isn't that big a deal. And in the meantime, they've been humilated by Cal and Oregon and could have been by Matt Scott (319 yards, 71 rushing) and Arizona. A series of Wildcat failures in the red zone kept UCLA close, but getting outgained by 284 total yards and rushing for just 2.5 yards a carry at home is a sign that goes well beyond worrying. Another home loss this coming weekend, to Oregon State, and Rick Neuheisel will be staring a four- or even three-win season in the face.
Posted on: October 26, 2010 9:04 am
Edited on: October 26, 2010 9:09 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
When news originally broke of UCLA's potential suspensions for the Oregon game, sources were reporting that as many as six starters would be absent on the field due to failed team-issued random drug tests. When the school announced team suspensions: only two players, wide receiver Josh Smith and F-back Morrell Presley, were suspended for the primetime showdown with the Ducks.
But UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel is not done handing down the punishments in Westwood. Wide receiver Rick Marvray and offensive tackle Sean Sheller have been issued one game suspensions for violating team rules and will not play against Arizona. Similar to the suspensions of Smith and Presley, the Los Angeles Times is citing multiple sources in the program who have said all four suspensions are tied to positive tests in a recent drug screening. According to the Times, UCLA's drug policy calls for a one-game suspension upon a third positive test. The first positive test results in the team doctor being told, mandatory counseling and future testing. The second failed test results in the coach and associate athletic director being notified, with more counseling and tests.
The suspensions cannot be blamed for UCLA's ineffective offense against the Ducks last Thursday, but it certainly did not help. It is one of many issues on that side of the ball, along with consistency, efficiency, effectiveness, and not throwing the proverbial offensive fecal matter all over the field.
(Artwork courtesy of Tom Fornelli, Esq.)
Posted on: October 22, 2010 5:51 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the 1995 title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that South Carolina would fail to score a point in the second half against Kentucky a week after knocking off the Tide? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week. Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.
Washington State, a team that's deceptively frisky even at 1-6, picks off an unsuspecting Stanford team after Andrew Luck blows his knee out in the first half. Despondent at the loss of the game and their quarterback, Stanford drops its last five games and stays home for bowl season. Wazzu, on the other hand, uh ... OK, the Cougars lose the rest of their games too. They're still not very good. After the Cardinal finishes off its six-game losing streak with a loss to Oregon State, head coach Jim Harbaugh tells reporters, "Eh. No big deal. It's just, we win or we lose, whatever. Winning is pretty overrated."
Iowa State blows the doors off the Texas Longhorns in the first half, racing out to a 28-0 lead before hanging on for a 28-27 victory in Austin. In the ISU locker room, head coach Paul Rhoads tells his charges, "I AM SO PROUD TO BE YOUR FOOTBALL COACH," before quarterback Austen Arnaud reminds Rhoads, "Yes, we know. You told us that last year." Which Rhoads did, in fact, after the Cyclones' 9-7 win at Nebraska. Rhoads attempts the save with a "I'm still proud to be your coach," but even he knows the moment's pretty much over. The rest of the day is a pretty subdued affair for the Cyclones. Also, DKR is burned to the ground by rioting Texas fans.
Oregon loses its game against UCLA. By forfeit. Yes, that would be confusing, since the two teams already played on Thursday and Oregon dropped 60 on the poor Bruins' defense. However, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly commits the fatal error of "filling out his scorecard incorrectly" after Rick Neuheisel claims the zero in 60 looks like another six. With Phil Mickelson acting as guest commissioner of the Pac-10 , Oregon has no choice but to forfeit the entire game. Really, the main point here is that golf is stupid. Never watch golf. The end.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 10:32 am
Edited on: October 13, 2010 10:34 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
So far, the only result from yesterday's buzz about punishments at UCLA has been the suspension of wide receiver Josh Smith and F-back Morrell Presley for the Oregon game on October 21. Certainly not the rumored three to six players, but losing two starters will still put a dent in the Bruins offense. The official reason for the suspension was a vague "violation of team rules," but reports out of Los Angeles have offered suggestions as to the specific violation.
The Los Angeles Times has cited two sources from within the UCLA program that have tied the suspensions to a team-issued random drug test. According to the report, UCLA's drug policy calls for a one-game suspension upon a third positive test. The first positive test results in the team doctor being told, mandatory counseling and future testing. The second failed test results in the coach and associate athletic director being notified, with more counseling and tests.
This is falling right on the heels of two Washington State players being arrested with 38 marijuana plants in their residence. Would anyone suggest that perhaps the Bruins is in cahoots with their Pac-10 green-loving brethren. I certainly would not suggest it, but the ferret might.
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