- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Nothing like the opening weekend. Everyone still has hope. Almost everyone.
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To the notes!
Eric from Pullman writes: Talk me off the ledge, Ted. I have spent the last 4 years expecting WSU to get destroyed and then watching it painfully happen. This year is supposed to be different, we spent the last nine months excited about having Leach. Then last night happened. At what point will us Cougs finally get to stop looking for moral victories and get to expect real ones?
Ted Miller: Well, nice try, Washington State. Time to give up on Mike Leach. Who's next?
But, before you Cougs throw up your hands like gaggle of squawking surrender monkeys, let me tell you a little story about another football coach. He's a cuddly little Teddy bear, a little engine who could by the name of [finger quotes] Nick Saban.
His first year at LSU -- 2000 -- his team lost at home to UAB. That's University of Alabama-Birmingham for those who just went, "Who's You-Ab?"
In 2003, his team finished second to USC.
His first year at Alabama, the Crimson Tide lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe. Not Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe. Trivia question: Name Louisiana-Monroe's mascot.
Baaaaa... It's Warhawks! Great mascot.
Saban showed great perspective after the loss by saying this:
“Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event... It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event.”
Yes, as inarticulately as possible, he compared a loss to the Warhawks to acts of war on U.S. soil. It was as dumbfounding a remark as one could imagine, which gave it more than the typical 28-second shelf life for media outrage. Yet, today, not a single Crimson Tide fan remembers it, or at least cares. Two national titles and the reestablishment of a college football superpower tend to distract from the dirty bits and pieces that get tossed around along the way. Got to break some eggs to make an omelet. In fact, if remembered at all, it stands as an amusing bit of color for a guy whose single-minded obsession with winning is unmatched. And who is generally considered the best coach in college football.
My point: Even the great ones lay eggs and look hopelessly befuddled. So it's probably a wee bit early to panic about this season and, even more so, about the big picture with Mike Leach. Sure, just about everyone expected more than a horrid 30-6, touchdown-less defeat. Sure, everyone -- yes, me, too -- had repeatedly noted how the Cougs existing talent on offense seemed like a nice fit for Leach's pass-happy system.
Guess what? We might still end up being right. For one, it's possible BYU is pretty darn good. I guarantee you Utah fans felt their sphincters tighten watching the game.
And, of course, IT WAS ONE DARN GAME!
Eric, I'd sugest doing the Rico's-Coug double tonight. It will help you to rediscover your optimism.
Roland from Pasadena, Calif., writes: Please tell me you're not gonna let Sarkisian get away with his comments recently about Cal! I'm sure you've heard them by now... ridiculously low and should never come out of the mouth of a head football program, particularly in a public setting. I try not to get too involved in the sports talk world cause fans get a little crazy and lose perspective, but there is so much humor and ignorance in his comments. Please tell me you're not gonna let Sark get away with this! Someone needs to give him some perspective.
Ted Miller: My first take is if you are offended by Sarkisian's comments -- really offended as opposed to just "fan" offended -- then you probably get offended a lot.
My second is this... come closer: Waaaaaaaaaaa!
That Sark would inject humor into talking about a division rival, well, God forbid. We wonder why public figures are so heavily managed and canned and boring. It's folks who get offended by the utterly meaningless and demand their twiddling feelings be honored.
How will Berkeley survive? I mean, the school has no international reputation to fall back on or anything. And those sparkling new facilities surely are forever soiled by a couple of sarcastic tweaks.
Right out of college, I worked with juvenile delinquents. You talk about a crew that was easily offended. As a counselor, we tried to teach them about "controlling behavior." We'd often note that if another camper were trying to annoy them, their getting annoyed meant they were giving their aggravator exactly what he wanted. They were being controlled.
I suspect that this outrage from some Bears will make Sark grin like a Cheshire cat.
Now, of course, if he'd called Jeff Tedford a stinky poo poo pants, that would be different. That would mean war.
Rich from Minot, S.D., writes: Am I the only Duck fan out there a little worried about Arkansas State? This ASU team has twice as many 300lb guys Oregon has. I just hope the D can do some damage.
Ted Miller: Yes. Of all the Ducks fans in all the world -- the Duck Nation! -- you are the only one. Oh, and Edina Peaquot in Muskogee, Ill. But she's always whining about some evil certain to befall her darling, sensitive Chip Kelly.
While Arkansas State is no Northern Colorado, and I suspect there will be a handful of bothersome moments on both sides of the ball for Ducks fans, the Ducks are going to beat the Red Wolves.
Of course, the Red Wolves, featuring senior quarterback Ryan Aplin, are the defending Sun Belt champions and they did upset Texas A&M in the 2008 season opener.
So maybe some Ducks fans should join you and Edina on the worry tree.
John from El Dorado Hills, Calif., writes: I was not impressed with UCLA's performance vs bottom 20 Rice. Despite the lopsided final score and rushing stats, there are some very troubling details. UCLA was 2-11 on 3rd down conversions, missed three PAT's, couldn't score in the 3rd qtr, and gave up 358 yds to a TERRIBLE Rice team. Why do you continue to be so high on UCLA? Isn't it time to admit that after USC and Utah, there just isn't much separation in the Pac-12 South?
Ted Miller: No.. noooo. I will never admit that! You can't make me!
Hmm. Somebody in El Dorado is a little grumpy.
First off, UCLA was seventh in our initial power rankings.We wrote: "Dual-threat redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley should energize things, and there's enough talent on both sides of the ball for a bowl game. But the Bruins have been intriguing on paper before only to show the resiliency of that very sheet as the season wore on."
As for our thoughts on last night's game, we wrote:
A good debut for Jim Mora, though he probably wasn't happy with the first-half defense. [Redshirt freshman QB Brett] Hundley and [running back Johnathan] Franklin certainly feasted in Noel Mazzone's offense, which was far more run-based than it was last season at Arizona State. The Bruins rushed for 343 yards.
Up next: A Sept. 8 visit from Nebraska. That matchup feels more interesting now than it did before the Rice game.
What part of all this makes you erupt over our continuing to be so "high" on UCLA?
That said, I thought there was plenty of good things that came out of the Rice game. For one, I was curious about the mind-meld between Mora and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Mora likes to run the ball. Mazzone likes to fling it. My take-away is that Mazzone is perfectly comfortable calling a run-first game with lots of read option.
Second, the defense pitching a second-half shutout was impressive and showed that the coaches and players could adjust to what was being thrown at them. In the first half, I saw plenty of guys defeating blocks but not making plays. Things seemed sounder after the break.
Just as with Washington State, it's way too early to try to script the entire season. Heck, even if the Bruins upset Nebraska next weekend, it will be too early. We've seen that sort of thing before. What UCLA needs is to be consistent from bell-to-bell. That's what Mora needs to bring.
So, John, you and Eric aren't going to bring me down. Turn your frowns upside down and join me in the happy parade.
1hChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell