Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Notre Dame Debacle Explained

Well, UCLA did it found a way to do the unthinkable and lose to the lowliest of opponents, the 0-5 Fighting Irish. However, it came down to piss-poor coaching decisions, not a lack of focus or intensity as had been the case in some of the previous "trap" games.

Sure, Ben Olson going down didn't help. But, with UCLA's defense essentially stifling the ND offense all game, all UCLA had to do was play ball control and not give the game away. Conventional wisdom would tell you that with a walk-on 3rd-string QB, who hasn't previously thrown a pass in a game, it's probably not a good idea to throw the ball all over the field. And, after the 2nd or 3rd interception, you might want to consider focusing on the running game or maybe take out your rattled, inexperienced 3rd stringer an put in someone else. However, conventional wisdom is not a trait that Karl Dorrell seems to possess.

There were a few decisions and plays that proved to be fatal against the Irish:
First, the fact that UCLA was playing a walk-on QB made absolutely no sense, considering it had two scholarship QBs on the roster; Osaar Rashan (a mobile, gifted athlete with over two years experience in the system) and Chris Forcier (a highly-touted freshman with excellent athleticism and mobility as well). Knowing that Olson and Cowan were both injured or coming off recent injuries, KD should have had the other two QBs ready to go on a moment's notice. Instead though, Karl said he didn't "anticipate" losing Olson and thought Bethel-Thompson was capable of getting the job done. But, what about Plan B, in the event that MBT plays poorly or is injured too? Karl went without a Plan B and hung his freshman quarterback out to dry. Again, conventional wisdom wasn't part of the game plan.

Second, on two potentially game-changing 4th and 1 situations, UCLA inexplicably calls pass plays instead of pounding the ball with Chane Moline, the bruising back who has done nothing but excel in such situations. Conventional wisdom would tell you that the chances of converting on a pass play with an inexperienced and shaken QB are not very high, but Karl Dorrell chose to go against the odds and failed both times. Inexplicable, but not unexpected. In fact Karl "forgetting about Chane Moline" is eerily reminiscent of the legendary "I forgot about Manny White" fiasco against Colorado a few years ago.

Well, it's just another year and another embarrassing loss in the Karl Dorrell era. However, this one was particularly painful considering the Bruins had 20 returning starters and were playing at home against one of the worst teams in college football. Conventional wisdom would tell you that after five years, the Karl Dorrell experiment isn't working and it's time for a change. Here's to hoping that Dan Guerrero has the wisdom and the will to do the right thing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is Notre Dame a trap game?

All the talk in the media and among UCLA fans is that the Bruins will smoke Notre Dame, and handily, no ifs ands or buts about it. Vegas is on board too, spotting the Bruins 20+ points. And, from the interviews I've seen with the players, it looks like they are pretty "confident" that they'll beat ND.

Confidence is great, but with such "easy" games in the Dorrell era, we've seen more often than not that UCLA finds a way to lose them. It's usually because they underestimate a team or don't "get up" for the game. We've seen it with Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Fresno State and Florida State in recent years. How many excuses have we heard from the players after such games that they just weren't "prepared" or didn't play up to their potential?

While I agree with the majority and can't imagine UCLA losing this game, I still wouldn't put it past them to drop the ball on this one. After what I experienced at the Utah game, I don't think I'll ever chalk up any game as a guaranteed UCLA win before it actually happens, unless they schedule a high school team.