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Dorrell bashing forces him to play some defense

YOU FOLKS really need to get a grip.

I understand why the Notre Dame yahoos are rankled, upset that their heroes have been called BCS championship impostors -- the truth sending them over the edge and back to the Leprechaun for moral support.

But UCLA fans have just plain lost it, everyone now a second-guessing fool demanding the immediate dismissal of the football coach, saying so much crazy stuff I found myself Sunday defending Karl Dullard.

Sorry, Dorrell.

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The A-B-C lines were forming at the Southwest gate at Midway Airport for the return trip to L.A., and the UCLA fans stood disgusted and united in misery, agreeing on one thing: Dorrell must be fired.

Now, I’ve been criticizing the guy for four years, and I’d like to thank him for personally making sure I never run out of material, but despite every effort to find something wrong with his performance at Notre Dame, I could not.

I have never subscribed to the popular pastime that has frustrated fans calling for a coach’s dismissal because they cannot handle the disappointing results of a game. But I guess I’m alone, because the e-mail began arriving while I was still standing under the goalpost Saturday, just beyond the tunnel that Rudy made famous.

John Roach: “I’m sick of Dullard and his ‘deer in the headlights’ look. He must go. Help us.”

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Richard Turner: “Karl Dorrell must go, and the sooner the better.”

Josh T: “Dorrell lost this game, not the players.”

Max: “You are my least favorite sportswriter ever, but I was hoping you could write a column about how UCLA should fire Karl D. and start all over. He is the worst coach ever.”

Maybe it’s the “worst ever” kinship that I now feel with Dorrell, but I wonder how many UCLA fans went to Notre Dame thinking the Bruins had any chance to win?

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How much chance did they give the Bruins, with a backup quarterback making his second start and struggling to find his voice?

How many fans would’ve jumped at the offer, though, getting a four-point lead with 1:02 remaining, 80 yards to go, no timeouts and Notre Dame matched against a defense that had stuffed it all day?

Pick apart everything Dorrell did all game long, and he still put Notre Dame in that position with 1:02 to play -- losing only because of one missed tackle.

The common contention, on the plane and at the gate, was Dorrell should never have been hired in the first place. Time to get over it, which makes you late to the party after last season’s 10-2 finish.

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It can still be good sport to criticize him every week when his team disappoints, losing to Washington, for example, after setting the goal of winning the Pac-10 title and then losing the first Pac-10 game.

His Monday news conferences might have more life to them if he continues to punt/surrender at the end of the game, as he did against Oregon, opening himself to contentious questions.

UCLA play-calling will also give everyone something to grouse about, and what’s a sports fan if not given the chance to complain? You’ve got USC fans grousing across town because their heroes aren’t winning by more.

Let’s say the second-guessing fools had gotten their way and Dorrell had UCLA throwing the ball to win, rather than trying not to lose. That’s what Charlie Weis would’ve done, someone e-mailed to say, as if anyone would want Dorrell to start calling plays like that guy, who spent most of Saturday overmatched.

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Why not run the ball to the outside, others suggested. How about a quarterback bootleg?

Had Dorrell had his team throwing the ball, or making his offensive attack vulnerable to the turnover in any way, can you imagine the outcry for his job if something had gone wrong? Why, you would have been saying, “All they had to do was run time off the clock and turn the game over to the defense.”

Dorrell put the ball in the hands of the player he trusted the most not to lose it, and if Chris Markey breaks one, the game is over. Worst-case scenario: Notre Dame has to go the length of the field against the UCLA defense.

There were 12, or maybe 14, seconds on the 25-second clock when the kid punted, and how come he punted into the end zone?

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“That’s coaching,” someone said.

There were players running all over the place on offense, in and out, someone said, and, “That’s coaching.” Yet with 1:02 remaining, no timeouts, and 80 yards to go against UCLA’s stifling defense, Notre Dame was in trouble.

But then the Bruins went to that prevent defense, e-mail after e-mail suggested, and while not entirely accurate, just imagine the uproar if UCLA had blitzed, and the Irish had beaten the blitz to win.

You can’t have it both ways. Dorrell played it by the book, just what you’d expect from a coach at a big-time school, and lost on a fluke play.

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As I stood there beneath the goalpost, I watched the Bruins leave the field -- curious to see how they’d react to such a devastating defeat.

Would someone throw a helmet? Would someone shove aside the trombone player as the Notre Dame band blocked their exit? Would someone curse out the cheering fans framing the tunnel?

But the Bruins were spent, the very embodiment of the adage, “All that matters is that you go out there and give everything you’ve got.”

And that’s coaching.

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Dorrell deserves credit for getting that out of his players, and of all Saturdays, this was one when he deserved a pass when it came to any kind of talk about losing his job.

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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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