I am a UCLA fan, and I was at the game on Saturday. First I want to say that my experience with the Texas fans was overwhelmingly positive. I checked out the tailgating, and I was invited to join in and treated with exceptional hospitality. Texas fans are great! And what an impressive stadium you have! And of course all the tradition of Texas football including your great marching band. That's also the coolest stadium scoreboard I've ever seen. The one in the Rose Bowl is pedestrian by comparison. I wish we were in the same league so that I could come to Austin every two years.
Now there are a couple of points I wanted to make about the game. Of course it's true that Texas made a lot of very costly unforced errors. Fielding that punt on the 4 yard line was a disastrous blunder giving UCLA almost a free touchdown. That was a decisive moment in the game. Also the 12 men on the field penalty giving UCLA a free first down leading to running another 6 minutes off the clock as well as the receiver running a 3 yd. pattern on fourth and 4 were costly mental errors. Then there was the meaningless but still egregious fumbling of the last kick off with around a minute to play. None of these mistakes were caused by UCLA. However there is a natural tendency in sports to attribute your own team's play solely to them without seeing the other team as a contributing factor.
In my opinion UCLA was a factor in Texas's play in two important ways 1. Ucla is a very good defensive football team: I was at the Houston game and against one of the best offensive teams in college football the UCLA defense was absolutely lights out showing both great speed and athleticism and absolutely dominating the game. An offense that regularly scores over 50 pts a game had 3 pt. at the beginning of the fourth quarter. And it wasn't because their Heisman candidate quarterback was knocked out. He went out late in the second quarter with the score 21-3. UCLA's defense really reached its potential starting with the Houston game. I thought UCLA's defense would compete favorably with Texas (although I doubted that the UCLA offense would). Akeem Ayers will be a first team All-American, Rahim Moore who led the nation in interceptions last year is an All American. Patrick Larimore was chosen as the national defensive player of the week after the Houston game, and Sean Westgate who made 11 tackles on Saturday and forced the fumble on the punt was picked as the Pac 10 defensive player for this week. The secondary is outstanding and is comparable to that of Texas. I can't even remembering seeing any missed tackles by UCLA in the game on Saturday. It wasn't just Texas's offense but UCLA's defense that was a big factor in this game just like it was against a very good Houston offense. (The only caveat I might add is that historically Texas's offenses should be able to move effectively on any defense in the country. But you don't have a Major Applewhite, Vince Young, or Colt McCoy at quarterback this year).
2. The Pistol Offense: I don't agree with the notion that Texas's defense just got worn down by being on the field too long. The key series was UCLA's first series in the second half when Texas's defense had just rested for the whole half time. My guess is that Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel made some important halftime adjustments to the offense. UCLA on offense didn't even look like the same team in the second half. Or maybe they had planned in advance to do some different things in the second half. Remember Norm Chow is the greatest offensive coordinator in the history of college football.
My guess is that Texas ultimately had trouble defending the Pistol offense which they were not familiar with. What really reinforces that assumption to me is what happened to Cal. A Cal team with a defense leading the nation in scoring defense after two games and which last Saturday on the road limited an explosive Arizona offense to only 3 pt with one minute left in the game was absolutely overrun by Nevada's pistol offense which put up 52 pt. on them. I watched some of that game and Cal just had no answer to the pistol. There's a lot of deception in that offense and different blocking schemes and if you haven't played much against it I think even a really good defense can get overrun. Also UCLA's offensive line played an outstanding game as did our running backs. The good news in this for Texas is that you still have an outstanding defense which will assert itself against all the more traditional offenses of your future opponents this year.
Anyway I wish you luck in your future games this season and look forward to a great match up next year in the Rose Bowl!
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