Not Fonda this not-so-Great Depression: The Bruins can’t GET A GRIP, on several catchable passes, or on the Kansas State Running Backs, whose dust they eat in a 31-22 Road loss
When usc gave up 588 yards on Thursday night, they had a good excuse for their bad tackling: Due to Sanctions and limited bodies, they weren’t ALLOWED to practice tackling during training camp. But what is UCLA’s excuse?
Kansas State ran all over the Bruins — with Daniel Thomas’s 234 yards and 2 TD’s leading the way — in the Wildcats’ 31-22 Home Opening victory over UCLA. The porous run defense was a group effort: The Defensive Line got moved aside, while the Linebackers and D-Backs consistently took the wrong routes to the ball. But the most glaring problem was that when a Bruin defender DID make contact with a Wildcat ballcarier, the ballcarrier usually kept going. Forward.
Akeem Ayers set himself apart from the rest of the Defense as the one guy who can really mix it up and make the opponent pay. He showed that he is the heart of the D, but NOT just because he recovered a fumble that led to the Bruins’ first score.
Ayers wasn’t alone in making some big stops: Tony Dye made some nice, big-play-saving tackles in the open field, and Rahim Moore also was successful more often than not with his tackle attempts. Aaron Hester also delivered a solid blow (right after making a mistake). But it seemed like about half of the Wildcat rush attempts involved at least one missed tackle.
Thomas is a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year, so it’s not like a “nobody” just shredded UCLA’s spent D. However, the 234 yards WAS his Career-High. The good news is that bad tackling can be FIXED. Good coaching should see the Bruins making marked improvements in their tackling, even by the next game. It’s not like an injury epidemic, which oftentimes cannot be fixed.
While Rushers kept slipping through the Defensive Bruins’ fingers, Kevin Prince’s passes were slipping through his Receiver’s fingers. Prince was defintiely rusty and out of sync with the Receiving corps, but there were about a half-dozen tosses that should have been caught, that were not. The Drops shocked Coach Rick Neuheisel, who said that catching passes was not one of their weaknesses. The Drops were pretty spread out, so it looks like the whole Receiving unit is going to be worked on this week.
Speaking of getting worked on, Matt Leinart got cut by the Arizona Cardinals yesterday. He’ll probably get picked up by a new team today or tomorrow, but if not, could you imagine if he tried Arena Football? Would he play in NFL-Europe? I rather see him follow Johnnie Morton’s example, and try Cagefighting. It’s just like Ballroom Dancing, with a slightly lower mortality rate.
Getting back to the Bruin game (Do I have to?): Despite all the missed tackles and dropped passes, the Bruins still had a golden opportunity to tie the game with 1:19 left (after a LONG, 2-completion TD drive), but a KSU player tipped away Prince’s 2-point conversion pass attempt. With the score 24-22 KSU, the Wildcats recovered the onside kick, and were able to hold on to the ball, until Thomas broke through a pulled up 3rd & 1 Defense to score 6 more points. The PAT made it a two-possession game, thus ending any Bruin hopes for the mild upset.
A lot of Bruin “fans” are probably singing the “Here we go again, it’s gonna be a long season Blues,” but there is ample reason to expect rapid improvement: Prince will get stronger (from his injury), he will develop better timing with his Receivers, and the young Defense will gain invaluable experience with each and every game.
The Bruins have some individuals with explosiveness who were just scratching the surface on Saturday: Josh Smith, Anthony Barr, and Ricky Marvray — who caught Prince’s only TD pass of the game — will be significant contributors if Saturday was any indication. And I’m really looking forward to Malcolm Jones getting more carries — It seems like he has a knack for finding the crease. And YES, the beleagured Bruin Offensive Line WAS creating some holes for the Runners. And the misdirection didn’t hurt either: The one Rushing TD belonged to Prince, after the whole KSU Defense went for the Running Back after a great fake hand-off, allowing Prince to stroll into the end zone untouched.
Kai Forbath overcame his groin injury to make three of three Field Goals, and Jeff Locke had another great coffin corner punt. Nice, but Field Goals and Punts weren’t supposed to be the highlights any more.
Well, maybe with more focus from the Receivers, and more tenacity and wrapping up from the tacklers, the Bruins can win some games without having to rely so heavily on their Kickers. Of course, just to “win some games” relying on ANYONE, would be nice. First they need to fix thier grip, or Saturday’s game was just a Grip-Tease, and the Grip of the Iceberg.