UCLA played San Diego State in American football on Saturday, and I managed to watch the entire game without picking up a magazine. This represents progress. In recent seasons, as the program has slowly decrepitated, I’d usually been able to endure only a quarter or two of “action” before one too many underthrown passes or missed blocking assignments had me glancing sidelong at the accumulated reading material on my coffee table. On weekends, The Economist usually sits atop the pile because it arrives on Fridays; accordingly, I’m often catching up on European parliamentary elections at the same time as I’m watching a Bruin running back trip over the feet of his own linemen.
(As you can tell, my weekends are glamorous and exhilarating! Leave your phone numbers in the comments, ladies.)
Yesterday, however, was different. Our new quarterback, Kevin Prince, seemed weirdly capable of throwing a spiral
far downfield. After taking handoffs, our running backs weren’t instantly submerged under opposing defenders. Our receivers were – what’s that word again? – “o-pen.” Am I spelling that right?
Yes, the Bruins went about the art and science of football yesterday with verve, if not overwhelming skill. No UCLA fan can deny that there’s been improvement, certainly not any who suffered through the 4-8 excrescence of last year. Still, the opponent was SDSU, a cheap forgery of a program that exists to provide other Mountain West teams with a fun road trip and an assured victory. I’m not planning my holidays around the Poinsettia Bowl just yet.
Because I don’t want to lie when I tell prospective employers that I’m “detail oriented,” let’s review the most salient lessons of Saturday’s game. (*rolls up shirt sleeves, turns off lights, grabs pointing stick, turns on old-timey overhead projector*)
1. Kevin Craft will never again be the starting quarterback at UCLA. The young Mr. Craft is probably a great kid, and last year he was the object of about 400 bonecrunching sacks any one of which would have killed me very VERY dead, but he’s not a Division I-A quarterback. The first pass thrown by Kevin Prince yesterday, a 21-yard out to Terrence Austin, was better than anything Craft tossed up last year. For that matter, so was the first pass by true freshman reserve Richard Brehaut, a picturesque 30-yard fade to Nelson Rosario. That UCLA now has two QBs capable of throwing like grown-ups means Craft’s future lies in holding for extra points.
2. UCLA’s best player is its placekicker. This has been true for about 30% of my life as a Bruin fan. Maybe because Southern California is overpopulated and allows kids to play soccer year-round, UCLA always seems to have a decent kicker even when it doesn’t have a decent anything else. The current edition is named Kai Forbath, and you’ll be drafting him in your NFL fantasy league two years from now. He blasted 49- and 50-yard field goals on Saturday and looked bored doing it.
3. UCLA cheerleaders are still attractive. Just in case someone needs confirmation.
4. James Washington will waterboard your ears. Mr. Washington, for those lucky enough to be unaware, is a Fox Sports announcer who’s usually relegated to the weekend’s fourth- or fifth-most compelling Pac-10 game. He played safety for UCLA when the Soviet Union was still around. You know how, when people want to insult someone’s looks, they say “he has a face for radio”? Well, Washington has a voice for oil painting. He’s like a phlegmier Avery Johnson.