For the UCLA Bruins, it's looking like 2008 all over again.
For the third time in four games, the offense failed to produce points or sustain long drives, getting only ten first downs and an anemic 65 rushing yards, as the defense generated the Bruins' only touchdown in a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, their fourth in a row after a 3-0 start.
Shades of last season.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince hit a new low, as he went 7 for 15 for a mere 60 yards before being pulled for Kevin Craft in the third quarter.
Craft did worse than Prince behind center, as he misfired on many of his throws, including a key 4th down pass to Johnathan Franklin that would have gained big yardage and perhaps a score.
Not that it was entirely the fault of the Bruin quarterbacks; the entire offense was to blame for this debacle. Mistakes abounded, ranging from dropped passes by the receivers to the offensive line giving up four sacks.
Perhaps coach Rick Neuheisel put it best when he said after the game, "We are not throwing and catching the ball well enough to compete in the Pac-10."
You think? 15 for 35 passing spells that out rather neatly.
On the other side, Arizona's Nick Foles gave a clinic, completing 22 of 34 throws for 247 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41 yard score to Juron Criner in the first quarter.
On the bright side for the Bruins, Foles was also intercepted three times, as Rahim Moore had two picks to increase his NCAA-leading interception total to seven.
UCLA's defense showed much improvement from the previous week, as they forced five Wildcat turnovers in all and gave the Bruins multiple opportunities to produce points.
The problem was, UCLA didn't capitalize on them.
Which was the problem all of last year.
Thanks to these sub-par performances, the Bruins are now one of only two Pac-10 teams without a victory in the conference, Washington State being the other.
I don't think UCLA is nearly as bad as their record indicates, but it's time to tell it like it is...
The Bruins still lack the personnel at certain positions to be a consistent team at this point.
They do have good talent at different spots, namely on defense and among the skill positions, but their talent is mediocre at other spots, particularly on the offensive line, which has gotten better but is still not where they need to be at this time.
In contrast, USC (and schools like Florida and Texas) has good talent everywhere, on both sides of the ball; that's the significant difference between UCLA and the top teams right now.
What the Bruins need to do to rectify that is what they have already started to do,recruit and sign four and five-star high school players. Signing talent like Morrell Presley, Randall Carroll and Stan Hasiak was a good start, but UCLA needs to continue to get talent of that caliber.
Recruiting classes in the top ten, if not the top five, needs to be the goal for the Bruins every year.
And among the players already in uniform, Fox Sports analyst James Washington put it brilliantly when he stated, "They have to learn how to win".
I have previously said that UCLA would be contenders for the Rose Bowl, if not the BCS, in 2010.
I now feel that the Bruins are two years away from being a factor in the Pac-10, from being in the position to really challenge USC for conference supremacy and glory; 2011 should be the year that the young talent in Westwood matures and makes some real noise.
Having said that, three out of the remaining five games are still winnable for the Bruins..
Washington State, who is once again struggling with little talent, is still pretty much a gimme, and their two remaining home games versus Washington and Arizona State are also contests that the Bruins can win, though the Huskies, with quarterback Jake Locker, will be tough.
However, if the offense's performance does not improve, it will be difficult for UCLA to win any of the remaining games.
Can the quarterbacks and offensive line execute better and produce points?
That's a question that will be answered in the coming weeks.
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