Weekly Musings – UCLA Edition

This was a tough week for the Trojan family. I suppose we all know that losing to UCLA will happen from time to time, and losing twice in fourteen years is hardly something to get broken up over, but it does solidify the end of the dreams many of us had for this season, and that is a tough pill to swallow. Especially knowing now that had we won that game, we would be getting the rematch against Stanford I have so desperately wanted, makes it even harder. But the reality for this team is that things just did not come together the way we wanted. The O-Line never recovered from the loss of Matt Kalil to the NFL draft. The defense, particularly in the secondary, seems to have regressed as the season has progressed. And Matt Barkley, whether there was a physical reason or a mental one, did not step up to the superstar occasion over this last month of the season. No one would deny that this 2012 season has been a major disappointment, particularly from where expectations were to begin with,

I am not thrilled with the coaching performance this season, and I do expect CLK will make some needed changes within his approach and his coaching staff for next year. But I take Pat Haden at his word that Lane will be back next year, and I think he has a chance to become a very good coach. I would not bet my children that CLK will be our coach forever, but as long as he is THIS TROJAN will support him and wish him a win each and every week. To do otherwise is to sell your soul to the devil, and I hope those who do will never tell anyone they used to be a Trojan. Wear blue in public. You bring shame to the spirit of Troy.

Does this mean people can not criticize the coach or his decisions? Of course not. This year, unlike the 2011 season, CLK has made play-calling decisions that were quite upsetting. I criticized the decision not to kick the field goal(s) in the Arizona game (though I think we saw Saturday the real issue, and that is Heidari should probably be in a wheelchair, not a football uniform right now). The weekly issues with the press, while absolutely being driven by a vindictive press corps who long ago put a bullseye on CLK’s back, have been an unwelcome distraction. Ultimately, the issues I can not stand in a football team – penalties, turnovers, and giving up 3rd down conversions – are issues that start with coaching. Lane knows this. He has to own it. But the football ignorance it takes to not realize what a coaching carousel does to your program is dumbfounding. So please just shut your mouth. I remember being 22 years old once too. Seeing the other team run off a big play and screaming, “God! I HATE Monte Kiffin”, is totally understandable emotionally, and totally retarded mentally. Monte may or may not be out of place as a DC at USC in this period of college football. That can be evaluated at the end of the season. But we find ourselves in the midst of totally unjustified sanctions, yet with a star recruiting class coming in, and to make a move right now would be, well, highly dangerous. Be upset if it makes you feel better, but the manner in which many are acting is not indicative of a love for Troy, it is indicative of some deep-seeded personal problems. CLK may go the way of McKay and he may go the way of Hackett. People wanted McKay’s head on a platter a couple times in his tenure at USC (can you imagine if there were idiot internet boards then?), and we know how foolish he made those people look. Lane’s team in 2011 was ten times better than anything Hackett ever remotely showed as a coach, with extraordinary road wins against Notre Dame and Oregon. This year, the penalties, turnovers, and 3rd down conversions given up as a defense have looked sort of 1998-2000 to me. So I don’t know if Lane can right this ship or not. BUT AS A TROJAN, I AM HOPING HE CAN. The rest of you can put on a powder blue shirt and go talk about your basketball team from the 1960’s.

If indeed Matt is done for the Notre Dame game and the bowl game, I can only say that Matt has been a phenomenal Trojan, and is an extremely special young man. We have been honored to have him as part of our family, and I wish him Godspeed in his recovery, his future, and his walk with the Lord. Matt is as unselfish as they come, and despite the disappointment in play this season, I know he bleeds cardinal and gold, and Trojan fans are eternally indebted to him for how he led us through what could have been our darkest days.

I should point out in this loss to UCLA in which we were down 24-0 that unlike a certain game I watched last year, the team who got down did not end up losing 50-0. We pulled within 3 points two times, and fought our tails off to compete. The comeback came up with short with a turnover and with a defense that just couldn’t make the stops it had to make. This one will hurt. UCLA has been one of the worst teams I have ever seen for so long, I forgot how badly they needed a quarterback. They have a decent one now, and that has made the difference. He’ll get his next year (and actually, next week). But in the meantime, congrats UCLA, and may USC fight with everything they have to beat the Irish.

Now, musings from the game …

– The start to the game was just despicable. A brutal pick and an easy TD for UCLA. After enough talk about not turning the ball over to flood the earth, Barkley threw a pick exactly five seconds into the game. I still don’t know what to say as to whose fault it was. I assume Matt just threw a lousy ball but I suppose Lee could have run the wrong route.

– UCLA’s second drive featured a conversion on a 3rd and 9 and a 4th and 14. Absolutely inexplicable. Sickening.

– I hate to pick on any particular players, especially with things as down as they are, but the play of Jawanza Starling this year at Safety is the greatest example I can cite as to how the scholarship limits have hurt us. There is NO WAY that guy would keep his starting spot if we had the depth to properly play at that position. No way.

– The 3rd and 13 where Franklin got six extra yards for the 1st down says it all. Four missed tackles. Effortless. Disgusting.

– I believe our first drive of the game where we actually got a second first down came with six minutes left in the second quarter (which also resulted in our first points of the game).

– After our touchdown we again have UCLA on a long 3rd down, and they convert on 3rd and 10 with a receiver open to the point that he could not believe how much time and space he had.

– All of the Trojans who gave up when we went down 24-0 can be excused, I guess (this is, after all, a very, very soft generation we live in). But no, they can not be excused for their vitriol and venom in the middle of a game aimed at our own players and coaches. Save it for later.

– The 14-0 run to end the second quarter featured a crisp Matt Barkley and a confident Trojan team. To start the second half with that fumble recovery for a touchdown was the best feeling I have had about a comeback since Anthony Davis ran a kickoff back when I was six months old.

– Solid defense on the second UCLA drive of the first half too. Different team. Different feel.

– The personal foul call when we knocked the ball down early in the second half as their Tight End went for a catch was the WORST call against us of the season, and indicative of what the Trojans are always up against the absurd refereeing of this conference

– Matt just tries too hard to squeeze balls in sometimes in gaps that BARELY exist.

– The offensive PI call on Telfer with 3 minutes left in the third ought to tell you all you need to know. Just an absolutely immoral call.

– The team could not get it done today because they got themselves in too deep a hole, and they did what we all said they could not do and still win the game: They turned the ball over too much.

******** Around the country thoughts and sentiments *********

– What can you say about Stanford? What an incredible defensive performance. The idea that a physical running game and a tough defense is not the way to win college football games has again been thwarted. And once again Nike’s little gang-bangers have gone down to defeat. Man do I wish I could be with the douchebags that sat near me at the Oregon game right now.

– Kansas State looked to me like a fifth place Pac-12 team on Saturday night

– I would like to congratulate Alabama on their bounce-back after the loss to Texas A&M with the resounding win against, ummm, Western Carolina. Nothing gets you back on a championship mission after losing to Texas A&M and almost losing to LSU like a win over a team that no one in the country knew existed.

– The SEC must have been drooling on themselves Saturday night at the prospect of Alabama or Georgia getting back into this thing, but what I find hilarious is that they were never out of it. People who talk in October or early November about what to do with three or four undefeated teams should forfeit the right to talk about football forever. We do not have controversies like that in college football – we have one-loss team controversies, and the stupid dopes who run this sport were going to be a four-loss LSU team in if they could. They still probably would. I suspect the two best teams in this country are Oregon and Alabama, but only a playoff could or should ever determine who plays for a title. This backwards system is not validated by things like Saturday night. Should the Trojans with a backup QB pull off a miracle win against the Irish, you just wait and see how badly the NCAA trips over itself to put two SEC teams in the fake national title game. This is a conference where over half of the teams have a losing record. I do not know how it will shake out, and I frankly don’t care. But the system is flawed, and I would love to see more chaos, more disarray, and more injustice, because the only thing that seems to wake some people up is when THEIR team gets screwed.

– Congrats to Florida for their win over Jacksonville State.

Fight on USC. Fight with everything you have to beat the Irish. And Happy Thanksgiving to all. I am, always and forever, thankful to be a Trojan.