A few weeks ago I sat in the UCLA locker room and looked around for signs of life after the Bruins were absolutely demolished 35-0 by what now looks like a really good Stanford team.
Redshirt sophomore running back Johnathan Franklin was smiling. And nothing about it seemed forced.
A few minutes earlier his coach Rick Neuheisel had called the Bruins performance on that night "and offensive disaster" and his offensive coordinator Norm Chow admitted that the game was "embarrassing."
"John," I said. "Why are you smiling right now."
Franklin looked at all the reporters gathered around him and said, "There's a lot of good players in this room."
There's is always a tendency to overreact to a bad loss and a big win. In reality, a team is rarely as bad as it seems after a bad loss, or as good as it seems after a good win.
Looking back on that sad, Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, it's pretty amazing that the same team just demolished Texas on the road today.
As it turns out, Franklin was right. There are a lot of good football players in UCLA's locker room. What everyone needs to understand is that most of those really good players are still very young.
So one week UCLA is going to look as bad at it did against Stanford, and two weeks later they can look as good as they did against Texas today.
After the loss to Stanford, I wrote that the Bruins needed to let those talented young players play and see what happens. The time for conservative, 16-10 wins is over. For UCLA to be the team Neuheisel and Chow want it to be, the Bruins need to let their talent develop and the only way that happens is on the field, and building off games like today.
That's a scary thing for a coach to do coming off a terrible loss at home and staring at the prospect of an 0-4 start with consecutive games against ranked opponents coming up. But that's exactly what Neuheisel and Chow did, playing true freshmen like Anthony Barr, Malcolm Jones, Dietrich Riley and Cassius Marsh extensively over the next two games.
The decision to put talent on the field --despite its youth -- has paid dividends already. It should pay off even more going forward.