Bruins, Trojans: Are They Dodgers And Angels All Over Again?
Football season is starting out the way baseball season is ending in the Greater Los Angeles area.
The Dodgers and Angels have both been huge disappointments, and after two weeks, USC and UCLA have looked like something less than their fans were expecting.
Sure, the Trojans are 2-0, but they have struggled visibly against Hawaii (49-36) and Virginia (17-14), neither of whom is to be mistaken for Oregon or Stanford. After talking all spring and summer about being more disciplined, Lane Kiffin’s team has come out of the chute the way Chevy Chase used to come on screen at the old Saturday Night Live. (For those of you not old enough to remember, Chase would enter slipping, sliding and stumbling, eventually falling on either his face or his wallet.)
It’s been Penalties-R-Us so far for Kiffin’s Kids, and that wouldn’t be so bad if there were a semblance of consistency on offense or defense. But so far that’s been missing, too, although defensively there was some definite improvement Saturday night at the Coliseum. Of course, just trotting out of the tunnel without missing a tackle would have been an improvement.
Offensively, the guys up front have to be more crisp and cohesive, or the running game will continue to sputter the way it did in that 17-14 escape against Virginia. Matt Barkley is off to a good start at quarterback, but even he could use some more accuracy on his throws.
The Trojans catch a break. The next two games are at Minnesota, a team that lost to South Dakota on Saturday, and at Washington State, where they continue to feature a scout team masquerading as the varsity.
UCLA isn’t as fortunate. Already down 0-2 and reeling, the Bruins now catch Houston and the Case Keenum Flying Circus, then travel to Austin to meet a friendly, little group known as the University of Texas.
Rick Neuheisel looks like he’s just devoured some bad Mexican food for a reason. After that 0-35 mess against Stanford, his players are staring 0-4 in the facemask, and it really doesn’t get a whole lot easier after that.
Give the Bruins this much: They’ve been hit hard by injuries in the offensive and defensive lines, and that makes it difficult to play solid football.
But that’s only part of the problem. The other is at quarterback. Kevin Prince is starting this year the way he did last year, which is to say he’s getting hurt every time you look up. Even when he’s healthy enough to play, he just doesn’t seem like the right kind of athlete to direct the new Pistol offense.
By the way, whose idea was the Pistol, anyway? You have to doubt it was Norm Chow’s. The respected offensive coordinator has had all his remarkable success running a straight, dropback, pro offense. He only churned out three Heisman Trophy winners and several NFL quarterbacks that way.
So along comes Neuheisel, who fancies himself something of an offensive guru himself. Since he’s the head coach, and Chow is his assistant, guess who wins the debate (assuming there was one)?
Exactly. So now you see the Bruins trying to run this offense with Prince, who really isn’t quick enough and certainly isn’t durable enough to endure the added hits you get on those quarterback keepers.
Richard Brehaut? He’s more of a dropback guy, too, although some think he’s slightly more athletic than Prince. Other than that, he’s not exactly lighting it up, either.
The quarterback who is ideally suited to run the offense is 6-4, 215 pound Brett Hundley. Unfortunately, he’s still in high school in Arizona, where he only recently gave his verbal commitment to UCLA.
If the Bruins do, indeed, open 0-4, maybe their best hope is to wait a year until Hundley arrives.
Assuming, of course, Neuheisel doesn’t let the Pistol shoot him in the foot before then.
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Some quick hits after a big football weekend:
Michigan sophomore quarterback Dennard Robinson just went from a nobody to a prime Heisman contender in one dazzling afternoon . . .
OK, OK, so the Colts’ run defense needs work. Lots of work . . .
USC freshman Dillon Baxter offered a few brief flashes of his ability against Virginia. Don’t worry, there’s more to come . . .
A lot of fantasy players were whispering the name Arian Foster before their drafts. Now you know why . . .
I hate to break this to UCLA. But Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck actually can play a lot better than that . . .
Wonder what those folks in the SEC think of Oregon and the Pac-10 now? . . .
Nice win for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on the road, but sorry, I wasn’t blown away . . .
Memo to the NFL intelligencia: It’s really hard to win when your quarterback is forced to throw 50 passes . . .
Mr. Brady, paging Mr. Brady: Oh yes, sir, your favorite table with the great view is still there waiting for you . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF