Monday, September 1, 2008

UCLA Football Triumphant! (Nadal Too, But Barely)

Wow! Wow! Wow! What a victory for the UCLA Bruins tonight! Honestly, I'm just reeling at the size of this last-second, come from behind overtime 27-24 win over 18th ranked Tennessee. I mean, we were supposed to be terrible; no quarterback, no O-line, an overhauled coaching staff. This wasn't supposed to be close!
In true gutty Bruin spirit, this team came together under new coach Rick Neuheisel and put together an effort for the ages. How many teams could lose three starters in the first quarter and still win? How many quarterbacks could throw 4 interceptions in one half in their first start and come back with a Montana-esque second half? How many defenses could keep their much maligned offense in the game for so long without a drop in morale or confidence.
One. Your 2008 UCLA Bruins football team.
I wish I was still writing for the Daily Bruin after a game like this one, the storylines just overflow the keyboard: Neuheisel's homecoming, Kevin Craft's unbelievable second half performance, the touchdown drive followed by Tennessee's field goal at the final gun to tie, the game-winning field goal, the genius of coordinators DeWayne Walker and Norm Chow, that unreal defense!
What a boost to the team's confidence, what a shot in the arm for recruiting, what a way to start the year! Think the team doesn't feel it? Check out Coach Neuheisel celebrating with the fans after the game.
OK, I've caught my breath, so on to today's US Open action, and we'll start with the women. My pick to win, Dinara Safina, stormed into the quarters in two easy sets, as did the Williams sisters. Older sister Venus gave a serious beating to Agnieszka Radwanska and will face her sister in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
On the men's side, I caught the last set of Mardy Fish's easy win over Gael Monfils, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Not that Fish didn't deserve to win, but Monfils had clearly thrown in the towel and was pretty much goofing off in the third set. I wish players wouldn't do that, just have the integrity to play hard regardless or get off the court.
Monfils could take a lesson from top-seeded Rafa Nadal in the effort category, and Nadal needed every ounce he could muster in a brutal 6-2, 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 win over Sam Querrey. This one I watched from beginning to end, and Querrey gave the number one player in the world all he could handle. There was a stretch from late in the second set to just before the 3rd set tiebreak where Querrey had Nadal pretty well befuddled, and his forehand was just tremendous; it's effort like today's that will push Querrey into the top 20 if he keeps it up.
Just as he can build on the positive, he needs to see where the next step in his game is, and we go back to the central dogma of tournament tennis: big players play big on big points. Querrey basically got out of Nadal's way in the 3rd set tiebreaker after brawling his way into it, and after going down a break at 4-2 in the fourth set, he had a total of seven break point chances on Nadal's serve, but couldn't convert. Still, a fantastic effort.
Tomorrow we'll see the rest of the quarterfinal brackets filled out, but in the meantime, click here for all the UCLA football coverage you need while you listen to the mighty Bruins roar!

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