#118/120: UCLA's 3rd down Conversion "Issues" Against Washington State

Bumped. - BN Eds.

Second post of the week, been working on it after reading a comment from boelterbruin70 about what issues I see with the UCLA's defense on 3rd down.

Obviously, being 118 out 120 in anything is unacceptable. Being comparable to New Mexico in any way is not the best way to draw in top-flight recruits. I could go into a long spiel about the conservatism and the culture of mediocrity and all the other issues with the UCLA football program; but that talk gets over done without a look at results on a case-by-case basis. I previously linked this video:

I highly recommend it again. I've always felt that the best way to improve is to look at what you are doing wrong and correct it. Washington State went 11-20 on 3rd down against UCLA on Saturday, and also converted their only 4th down attempt. This falls right in line with the season 3rd down conversion line of 54.84% (51-93).

The video goes in chronological order from the 1st-4th quarter and I'm going to note the time the play takes place in the video, the down and distance (a tab unecessary due to this post focusing on 3rd downs), the field position, and the time in the game. Then, I'll give my breakdown for what went wrong on each play.

0:33 3rd and 3 at the WSU 41 with 13:39 left in the 1st.

WSU is in a 4 WR set with trips to the UCLA sideline. All 3 UCLA defenders up top take care of their coverage. Hester is up tight on the lone receiver to the WSU side. WSU runs a quick RB flare that catches UCLA off guard. Hester covers the slant maybe a step too far, but comes up and makes a sound open-field tackle at 4 yards. Just a good play call early in the game. No noticeable mistakes, but there is a roughing the passer call on the DT.1:25 3rd and 2 at the

1:25 3rd and 2 at the UCLA 23 with 10:59 left in the 1st

WSU has 2 WRs to each side and a RB next to Lobbestael (last time I'm typing that name) in the shotgun. The two CBs are up tight in coverage and do a good job. Tevin McDonald is lined up 5 yards off the ball and 7 yards off the slot receiver he's covering. WSU does the obvious thing and runs a quick slant to the slot. Tevin somehow takes one more step back at the snap and is beat before the play starts. WR catches at the 19 and gets dragged down at the 15 before Dietrich Riley comes in and gets UCLA's 2nd personal foul on the opening drive with a helmet to helmet hit. Not a good start.

4:25 3rd and 1 at the WSU 30 with 2:26 left in the 1st

I have no idea what to call the formation WSU is lined up in. It is almost set up like a pistol with a FB on both sides of the QB. Really bad snap by their C to start, but it ends up being a power run in between the left guard and tackle. Iuta Tepa is in at DE, Jordan Zumalt is the OLB to the play-side and Patrick Larimore is the Mike. Zumalt comes in to plug the first blocker through the hole and does a solid job. Larimore for some reason runs right into the back of Zumalt with no idea that the RB is running less than a yard to his left. Pat actually appears to be trying to gang-tackle the lead blocker Zumalt plugged. Tepa gets engaged with the tackle kicking him out and loses contain. The RB dives forward for a 4 yard gain once Hester gets to him on the edge.

4:57 3rd and 14 at the UCLA 30 with 17 seconds left in the 1st

WSU is lined up with 4 WR, trips to the UCLA sideline. Hester is covering the sole WR to WSU's sideline, but with an 8 yard cushion. UCLA rushes 4 including a awful stunt from McDonald from the trips side, gets zero pressure on the QB who lets go of the ball after 5 seconds. The solo WR had time to get through a decent re-route by Stan McKay, get to 15 yards and turn for the ball. I can't see what Hester was doing in coverage, but he is still 2 yards away when Wilson catches the ball and falls to the ground. Not a great way to end the 1st for a defense. Giving up 3rd and 14 deflates your confidence, no matter how much you emphasize moving on as a defense.

7:41 3rd and 4 at the UCLA 37 with 4:44 left in the 2nd

WSU has one WR to the UCLA sideline, trips to the wider side of the field. I believe Andrew Abbot is up tight on the widest WR. McDonald is 7 yards of the 2nd WR and Hilliard is 6 yards off of the 3rd WR. Again, McDonald back pedals about 4 yards at the snap. The 2nd WR runs a 7 yard out to the space cleared out by the 1st WR streaking up the sideline. When the ball is thrown, McDonald is literally not in the picture. He comes up to make the tackle with no YAC. But this is just too soft of a coverage on 3rd down. The WSU QB never looks anywhere else because of how far Tevin is off the WR.

8:55 3rd and 13 at the UCLA 44 with 11:32 left in the 3rd

This is actually a stop for the defense on 3rd down. But it was a missed tackle away from another 3rd and long conversion. WSU has 2 WR to each side. McDonald is over the 2nd WR to the UCLA sideline, but is responsible for the flats in the zone coverage. He re-routes his WR a little too long and is late getting to his zone. Again, not even in the picture when the ball is thrown to the 1st WR doing a 3 yard out. He misses the tackle and Abbott comes up to stop Wilson short of the 1st down

9:12 4th and 3 at the UCLA 34 with 10:50 left in the 3rd

Trips again to the WSU sideline. I believe Abbott is 7 yards off of the 1st WR, actually backpedaling further off at the snap. Defense actually rushes 5 on a delayed blitz by Westgate. But it is useless against a quick pass out of shotgun. Play is to the 2nd WR, McDonald is up tight in coverage; but doesn't get a good jam at the line of scrimmage. WR runs a 5 yard out and gets good separation on Tevin, ends up getting tackled at 7 yards. Just a freshman getting beat in 1-on-1 coverage. Happens to the best cover guys sometimes.

9:38 3rd and 4 at the WSU 8 with 8:52 left in the 3rd

This is the play I pretty extensively broke down in my first post about Sean Westgate, which somehow got 11 recs. Appreciate that and don't see how I can top that. The basics of the play are that WSU runs two crosses over the middle of the field. Westgate covers and then indicates a switch, Larimore doesn't notice and widens out. The crossing WR that Larimore was responsible for settles in an opening. WSU TD.

10:35 3rd and 4 at the UCLA 24 with 4:43 left in the 3rd

WSU has 4 WR, two to each side. Hester is covering the 1st receiver to the WSU sideline, not on the screen and I assume he is 8 yards or so off. Kendricks is the OLB over the top of the 2nd WR, about 5 yards off the LOS. Both receivers head straight up the field. 84 on WSU catches the pass at about the 29 with Hester looking like he got beat on a route, which is odd because 84 ran the route directly to the spot where Hester was at the snap. Kendricks looks like he is chasing after Wilson for WSU, so I assume it is man coverage. 84 drags 3 UCLA defenders up to the 35 after the catch. The camera angle doesn't show what happened off screen, so I can only assume I saw it correctly.

11:20 3rd and 4 at the UCLA 34 with 0:19 left in the 3rd

WSU has trips to their own sideline again. All the UCLA defenders are giving at least 4 yards of cushion. Play is to Wilson by himself to the UCLA sideline. Hester is off of him, Kendricks is the LB to that side. Wilson runs about a 5 yard slant and the RB also releases out to that side. Every defender is watching the QB, so it's safe assume this is zone coverage underneath. It appears to be a miscommunication between Hester and Kendricks. Hester probably comes off of the WSU WR too early to take care of the RB. And Kendricks is too late reacting a widening out to the only threat to his zone. Ends up being a 8 or 9 yard gain. Miscommunication.

11:53 3rd and 1 at the WSU 32 with 13:39 left in the 4th

WSU is lined up in the same crazy formation they converted on at 4:25. Announcer calls it an inverted wishbone, which works from a descriptive standpoint. What it amounts to is the pistol formation with a FB on both sides of the QB with 2 receivers out wide. UCLA has 8 in the box. Hilliard is the up at almost an OLB spot on the bottom of the screen, Kendricks is the Mike at the bottom, Tepa is the DE to that side. Off the bat, the run is a designed belly (which is a run that the RB takes the handoff and is supposed to cut back to the opposite side). Kendricks plugs to the wrong side, Hilliard is too slow to react. Tepa makes a great play to stop a huge run. RB gets to about the 27 yard line.

12:04 3rd and 3 at the WSU 20 with 12:34 left in the 4th

WSU has 4 WR, with trips to the WSU sideline, all of the UCLA DBs at least 4 yards off. They also have 1 WR up at the top with Hester in press coverage. Kendricks is the LB to the top of the screen and is responsible for the RB out of the backfield. UCLA actually gets a little pressure with 4 rushing, Marsh gets a hand on the QB's jersey, making him step up in the pocket. The RB had flared out at the snap, with Kendricks mirroring him. When the QB stepped up, Kendricks stopped his feet and reacted like he was going to pursue the QB. Covering the QB is Larimore's responsibility on the play because the RB didn't release to his side. WSU's QB finds the uncovered RB down the sideline and he runs it in for a 20 yard TD to put WSU on top 22-14

12:39 3rd and 7 at the UCLA 30 with 8:51 left in the 4th

WSU is in the most common formation on 3rd down in this game, 4 WR, trips to the right. UCLA is in their most common coverage, at least 5 yards of cushion across the board while bringing an easy to pick-up blitz. The 1st WR up top runs a streak, with the 2nd WR running a wheel route underneath it up the sideline. This play is all on Tevin McDonald. I don't know what he was looking at, what routes he saw, what coverage he thought was being played. But whatever it is, it was wrong. QB hits the 2nd WR for a 19 yard gain on 3rd and long.

Common themes:


  1. Pass plays. Pretty self-explanatory, if you continually give a D1 QB a 6 yard cushion, he'll complete the majority of the throws underneath.
  2. Picking on the young guys. 5 completions on Tevin McDonald. That's a tough night. He made the tackles though. That is a positive. And he will certainly get better from this.
  3. LBs plugging the wrong gap. Only 2 running plays out of 13 plays listed. But both are successful for WSU because of gap assignment mistakes. Corrects itself with chemistry. I personally attribute this to the lack of a 100% live team-run scenario in practice.
  4. No pass rush. An issue throughout the season, but the WSU QB never had a threat on these plays. I understand the "play it safe" attitude of the defensive scheme, but it is an issue.


Sorry for this being so long. I figured that since this is a bye week, might as well spend a lot of time discussing the WSU game. Hope you guys enjoy this, worked hard on it.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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