August 13, 2006

We're almost there. Can you feel it?

Fall training camp is underway. The 2006 football season is just around the corner. We've survived the heat, floods, soccer, the Tour de Pharmacie, and non-stop stories about a three-legged horse.

But it wasn't easy. Sometimes you have to get creative to make it through the summer. Another time-wasting suggestion is looking back at the highlights of the previous season. The good news this year was I didn't have to expend a lot of energy deciding which game to watch.


When I get stuck in the past, I do it in style. I got my season-ticket buddies together and we had a full-fledged tailgate. Brats, burgers, chips, and even Mountain Dew Code Red, the Official Beverage of the Circle K Red Zone‚„š. Then we popped in the tape and flashed back to November 5, 2005.

It's easy to forget, but UCLA actually started the game well. The Bruins took the opening kickoff and marched into our territory without much resistance. But the drive stalled and UCLA had to punt from the Arizona 40-yard-line.

I still can't get over the Cats' first play from scrimmage that night. Fake run to the right, roll to the left, then throw back to the back on the right. Fifty-one yards of beauty. But we still had to shake our heads as we watched Mike Bell tackling himself.

The opening drive ended with Tuitama acting like he was running the option to the left, then pitching back to Mike Thomas on the end-around for a 17-yard score. How did UCLA fall for that when we hadn't run the option once all season?

On our second possession there was a phantom facemask call against UCLA that set the tone for absolutely everything going our way. The very next snap was the huge play-action fake that baffled even the cameraman before Willie threw to Brad Wood for 7 yards and the score. Our misdirection stuff was incredible all night.

UCLA's all-star tight end Marcedes Lewis was contained until garbage time. I wonder if his decision to wear a dark visor for a twilight/night game had anything to do with that.

On Arizona's third possession, Tuitama started to audible at the line. Hundreds of Wildcat fans groaned and started heading for bathroom, anticipating the inevitable timeout. But no, Willie got the snap off, and threw a strike to Mike Thomas who ran the quick post for a 48-yard play. Touchdown, Arizona! Is that what audibles are supposed to look like?

The first quarter was simply perfection. Willie was 7-for-7 and we led 21-0. We gotta do that again some time.

Another thing we have to repeat in the near future is the sea of white towels in the student section. Even the promotional staff was on fire that night.

Our offensive line earned superlatives too. It was just monster running lane after monster running lane, like the one Gilbert Harris waltzed through untouched for an 18-yard score. The holes in the Bruin defense were big enough for the entire cast of Cars to fit through.

Mike Canales' bag of tricks was deep for this game. We had the play where Willie walked away from the line like he was going to call timeout, followed by a direct snap to the running back, which lead to a reverse.

The UA didn't have to punt until 4:26 left in the second quarter! And it's a good thing too since Nick Folk was probably tired after all those extra points.

It sure is easier watching a game when you already know your team wins big. At the time I remember how anxious I was after UCLA finally put a drive together and scored to cut it to 28-7. We knew UCLA had been coming back from big deficits all year. We also knew our team had been coming back from leads for half a decade.

But not this time. We even had big plays when we tried to run out the clock. Mike Bell broke another long run right before halftime, but again he fell over untouched. Bell may have been UCLA's leading tackler that night. And this week he's starting for the Denver Broncos. Amazing.

(I like these summer tailgates. You can relieve yourself after too much Code Red and actually flush the toilet.)

On our first snap of the third quarter there was another huge hole for a nice gain. Nice halftime adjustments by the Bruins.

This game was a good reminder of what a sure tackler Michael Johnson is. He's not going to blast you back five yards, but he's deceptively strong and if he gets his arms on you, you're not going anywhere. It's as if the white sleeves on his undershirt are made of titanium.

The second half was just a blur of we-can-do-no-wrong highlights. Tuitama was hit as he threw resulting in a wounded duck down the left sideline, but it landed in Thomas' arms for yet another completion.

Mike Bell stayed on his feet long enough to complete a somersault TD run.

Steptoe almost got killed, made a quick sidestep, ran into his own guy, then broke it 63 yards for our first punt return TD in ages.

Marcus Hollingsworth deflected a pass to the running back, which was actually a lateral. He still had time to do a full fist pump before jumping on the ball in the end zone for the score. How efficient of Marcus to celebrate before the touchdown.

Sophomore defensive end Jason Parker took advantage of the extra snaps and had a very nice sack and forced-fumble.

In the fourth quarter UCLA finally scored a second touchdown only to have instant replay overturn it. Not tonight, Bruin fans.

The most amazing sight of the night was the entire student section standing behind the players without a single person stepping onto the field before the game ended. The tranquility of the mob was even more impressive on TV. Way to party with class, Zona Zoo.

The reminiscing tailgate was certainly lacking in the post-game celebration. Walking around the living room picking up cups just wasn't as cool as wading through the crowd on the field and high-fiving Kirk Walters.

But we accomplished our mission. We crossed another weekend off the calendar, we had a good time with friends, and we watched Wildcat Football.

Hopefully this year we'll have a lot more games like this so I have a harder time deciding which game to watch at next summer's tailgate.

Or, better yet, maybe we'll just have more tailgates.

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