Final Grades For Trojans, Bruins
The final game was indicative of the long, gloomy college football season in L.A.
The Trojans were bad, the Bruins were worse, and only Allen Bradford was able to save face in the depressing darkness of the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
But now that it’s over, it is time to give both teams their final grades for the year. So let’s get on with it.
USC — Even under diffiicult circumstances, the Trojans underachieved. You could understand the losses to Oregon and Stanford, both of whom are now operating at a whole other level. But to come up short against mediocre Washington, a sub-.500 Oregon State team and a Notre Dame team that lost to Tulsa and Navy was inexcusable.
In his first year on the job, Lane Kiffin looked like someone who was still learning, not exactly what you’d expect at USC. His offense seemed creative and explosive early, but then both he and his quarterback fell into mysterious slumps near the end. Whatever happened, both Kiffin and Matt Barkley seemed to lose confidence at the wrong time.
Kiffin’s dad, Monte, struggled early but his unit did show some semblance of improvement in the final weeks. Or maybe it was just a reflection of the weaker competition.
Either way, give the new head coach credit for one thing. His team played hard for most of the schedule and refused to quit when it had every opportunity to do so in the middle of the season.
Amazingly, if you take away the last minute against Stanford and Washington and one dropped pass in the final moments vs. Notre Dame, these guys would have finished 11-2. But you can’t really dwell on that. Championship teams overcome the what ifs, and when you step back and examine the general lack of consistency on both sides of the ball, 8-5 is about where the Trojans deserved to be.
FINAL GRADE: C-PLUS.
UCLA — Rick Neuheisel keeps preaching patience and progress, and the more his team fails to demonstrate the latter, the more Bruin fans are lacking the former.
The big experiment this season was switching to the pistol offense, and by the end of the year, it seemed clear Neuheisel had shot himself in the foot with it. His quarterbacks weren’t equipped to run it, the passing game that should have been better slowly evaporated and when his defense began to collapse, the writing was on the locker room wall.
The Bruins have too much history and too many resources to finish 4-8. Have you spent any time on that campus lately? If you can’t recruit there, you can’t recruit anywhere. Especially when you have a recruiting area as fertile as Southern California.
There is talk that some of the assistant coaches will take the fall for this, but it is difficult to see how Neuheisel can let that happen. You can’t hire Norm Chow and then switch to the Pistol. It’s like bringing in Bill Gates and asking him to teach basic math.
UCLA is regressing, not progressing, and one more year of this and the only one who should be out of work is the head coach.
FINAL GRADE: D.
Some quick hits after another lively sports weekend:
What happened to the Chargers on Sunday is what sometimes happens to a primarily finesse team. It can get beat by a less talented but more physical bunch . . .
Check with Charger historians. It occurred in some crucial games to the best finesse team in the history of the franchise. Ask Dan Fouts. He remembers . . .
It wasn’t good news for the Angels when Jayson Werth signed that eye-popping seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals. It means a) Carl Crawford’s asking price will go through the roof, and b) The Red Sox will now be more intense on signing Crawford without Werth as a possible fallback guy . . .
So Derek Jeter and the Yankees made nice and agreed on a fat, new contract. You can’t say we didn’t tell you that weeks ago . . .
Whatever happened off the field, you have to say this about Auburn’s Cam Newton: The kid is one hellacious football player . . .
What’s the over-and-under on Auburn-Oregon, 125 points? . . .
The old Tiger Woods never would have blown a final day lead like that, would he? . . .
Turns out USC did win a really big game this weekend — in basketball. Beating ranked Texas was impressive . . .
Is anyone else noticing the monster numbers former Bruin Kevin Love has been consistently putting up for the Timberwolves? . . .
Allow me to be the first to predict it: American League MVP in 2011 will be Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF