I’m not going to sugarcoat this; it is a reality and it must be faced:
UCLA Football is not well.
As a program, the Bruins are not exactly dying – yet – but they certainly are sick.
A record of four victories and eight defeats for 2010, which includes a 2-7 mark in the Pacific-10 Conference, good (or bad) for ninth place, and most importantly losing six of their last seven games, is enough evidence of this misery.
The only true highlight this season was their 34-12 win over Texas in Austin, but being that the Longhorns finished 5-7 this year, that triumph seems hollow now.
As for the low points, there were almost too many to count:
* Being outscored 70-7 by the Bay Area Schools, Stanford and California
* Getting blasted 60-13 by the Oregon Ducks in Eugene; yes they are 12-0, ranked second, and will play in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn in Glendale, AZ on January 10, but that’s beside the point.
* Having Arizona State score 55 points on them after building a 17-0 lead.
* Committing too many costly mistakes in losing 28-14 to USC, which showed that the talent level of the two schools are still fairly far apart, and…
* With few exceptions, being plagued by fundamental mistakes and a lack of execution the entire year.
After a season like this, many Bruin fans are going to be calling for Rick Neuheisel’s dismissal.
I, however, am not one of them, at least at the present time.
The reason? Although the Bruin coach has not shown that he can win in the Pac-10 (soon to be the Pac-12 with the addition of Colorado and Utah), posting an 8-19 conference record in his three seasons at the helm, he has put together three straight top-15 recruiting classes, and his enthusiasm for the job and for UCLA is boundless.
I know a lot of people may not like it, but the reality is that Neuheisel will be back in 2011.
His defensive coordinator, Chuck Bullough, is another story; after giving up all those points and yards, it’s clear that Bullough should go.
His unit allowing eight running backs to go for 100 yards has much to do with that.
If I were him, I would do the honorable thing and tender my resignation.
The run-oriented “pistol” offense, which the Bruins used this season, should be tweaked if not changed to more of a pro-set, which would fit Richard Brehaut better.
With his ability to throw the ball down field, Brehaut proved to be a better weapon than Kevin Prince, the previous starter who went down with a knee injury in mid-season.
If it were up to me, he would be the starter in 2011.
Johnathan Franklin, with his 1,127 yards at running back, was another bright spot. He became the first Bruin to rush for 1,000 yards since Chris Markey in 2006, and is undoubtedly the team’s MVP.
But the fact remains – the potential and individual talent is there, but it takes much more than that to be a good team.
Simply put, the Bruins are not a good team – far from it.
Will things get better next season?
Though there will be many injured players who will return, notably center Kai Maiava and defensive lineman Datone Jones, as well as a core group of guys on both sides of the ball, I honestly can’t say for sure if UCLA will turn things around quickly, the way things are now.
It’s painfully clear that something needs to change in Westwood.
It’s also painfully clear that if 2011 is anything like 2010, Neuheisel will officially be on the hot seat, if not actually fired.
People will point to the many injuries that knocked out so many Bruins, but you know what? Good teams find a way to overcome that.
And I feel that the “we had injuries” excuse is just that – an excuse.
Ditto with the “we are young and inexperienced” mindset that some fans seem to have.
The bottom line is, UCLA backslid in football in 2010, and backslid greatly.
Whether or not they can reverse their misfortunes in 2011 is anybody’s guess.