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In defense of the target in blue

November 06, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

KARL DORRELL is a goner, or so most everyone thinks.

UCLA didn't get it right when they hired him, which wasn't his fault. Now they'll probably goof again and fire him for things again out of his control.

He goes into Saturday's game against the ninth-ranked team in the nation with his fourth-string quarterback, a week after playing a walk-on at running back and a scrambling quarterback with a tender hamstring.

Name a coach who looks like he knows what he's doing when armed with so little.

USC's John David Booty broke a finger against Stanford, Pete Carroll showed a reluctance to put his second-string quarterback in the game, and the Trojans lost.

Carroll went to his second-string quarterback against Oregon and the BCS season was over for the Trojans -- Carroll going back to his No. 1 guy as soon as he could.

In his seven years at USC, Carroll has had to go to his second-string quarterback to start a game because of injury only once, and that was this season. No question it's contributed significantly to USC's consistent play year in and year out.

Carroll gets a break losing to Stanford and Oregon, of course, and rightfully so because of his track record at USC.

Dorrell gets no breaks, predictions from the very start of doom -- and his own gloom not helping -- carrying more weight than any sign of progress.

How many years is it now that his job has been in jeopardy -- everyone eventually getting it right? And yet in this age of college football parity, Dorrell's team went 10-2 two years ago.

Last season the Bruins kept a motivated USC from playing for the national title, and in front of the UCLA faithful, the Bruins are 15-2 the last three years in the Rose Bowl.

Next year's recruiting class is ranked third in the nation by those who follow such things, and hired to clean up a program hurt by off-the-field problems, he's done just that.

Yet he remains a marked man, a mediocre 24-23 -- when putting aside that 10-2 season, and consistent only in being inconsistent at times. Now he's firmly in the sights of those who blog, or fill the message boards with their bombastic opinions of how the job might be done better.

Throw in the media, who can't write his name without adding a comma and a suggestion the end is near, and together the media and the Internet sense a kill -- making every loss or misstep read like an atrocity against mankind.

The Bruins will be underdogs in their final three games against teams with a combined record of 23-4. And three more losses will keep them out of a bowl game.

Pressure will mount on Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, who already is having difficulty handling it, throwing meat to the media with the suggestion the next few weeks will determine Dorrell's future. So much for getting the boss' support.

Guerrero considered Dorrell good enough to extend his contract in February through 2011, and now nine weeks into unlucky circumstances, he's under the gun? Maybe Dorrell ought to just surrender.

"I'm not quitting," Dorrell says. "I'm a fighter, and I'm not about to hide behind any excuses, injuries or anything like that. I come from a military family, and I was taught to take what you've got and make the best of it.

"I know what's going on out there, and I feel we need to win. But I also feel we have the players here to win, and we're really close to having a great program here. This is important to me, and I want to be here."

He should get the chance to finish what others started -- when they put him in this position of learning on the job -- and return next season. Let's see what he does when given a fair and healthy chance to succeed. Or fail.

What is this rush to fire folks in sports? Let's just hope it never creeps into the newspaper game because I really like Dwyre.

NOW AS for Joe Torre, he told everyone at Monday's coronation, "I didn't sleep all night."

Would you -- if you had to manage these guys?

The Parking Lot Attendant began with a statement that translators are still trying to figure out just what the heck he was talking about.

"Parents are craving that baseball continue to teach the lessons of life that they so very much want their children to learn," Frank McCourt said, I guess, like the value of using steroids and making millions then as a home-run hitter.

"We want to win; make no mistake about that," McCourt continued, and don't you wonder what was going through Torre's head as he sat there listening to McCourt prattle on?

"But we want to win the right way," McCourt said, "with humility, with pride and with sportsmanship."

How about just winning a playoff series, stealing one if necessary, maybe investing in some spy cameras or corked bats?

THE SAME line came up repeatedly in interviews with McCourt, Frank's Old Lady and Tom Lasorda, suggesting they all got the same memo, urging them to say: "The fans of L.A. deserve this."

The rest of that memo, of course, read: "because they're not getting A-Rod."

Instead of spending $350 million on A-Rod, the Dodgers got a bargain in the $13 million worth of excitement they get with Torre, who probably is also the best third baseman on the team's roster.

BY THE way, Frank's Old Lady said, "I think we're going to win the World Series now," and she is the highest ranking female in Major League Baseball, which makes her an expert in picking husbands.

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Victor Vazquez:

"I am an SC grad and I have chosen to live in my birthplace, El Paso. I read your diatribe about the Trojans and the Sun Bowl and I'm only sorry my 11-year-old son had to be looking over my shoulder reading your insults at the same time. . . . We look forward to reading your obituary."

What else is there to do in El Paso?--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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