An Open Letter to Rick Neuheisel: Grow a Pair

Jacob NitzbergAnalyst IDecember 8, 2008

There is a tradition at USC football games when the Trojans go for it on fourth down. The students rise and chant, "Big Balls Pete, Big Balls Pete," which in a way signifies Carroll having the guts to go for it when other coaches might punt.

As I sat in the stands of the Rose Bowl on Saturday, the chant resounded once or twice in the lackluster game, but all I kept wanting to chant was, "No Balls Rick, No Balls Rick."

UCLA, trailing 28-7 in the second half, three times had situations of fourth and less than three yards, and each time opted to punt.

I realize that both times UCLA was in their own territory, and USC has an outstanding defense. But what does a now 4-8 UCLA team trailing by three scores to their biggest rival have to lose by going for it?

Either Neuheisel had no confidence in his team's ability to gain one yard on its home field, or he wanted to keep the score close rather than try to win the game. From where I was sitting, going for it and losing 42-7 isn't much worse than punting and losing 28-7 (unless someone had money on UCLA to cover the 32 point spread). 

What should really concern UCLA fans is how this will carry over to next year. What will the incoming recruits think when their coach punts on "4th-and-1" down by 21 points?  How can the current players feel about their coach's confidence in them? 

I truly believe that the ramifications of being stopped on "4th-and-1" are far less than those incurred by punting the football. To borrow a line from TMQ's Gregg Easterbrook, when UCLA punted with 14:00 left, I wrote "Game Over" in my notebook.