Bumped. Great breakdown. - BN Eds.
Got the request from N to do the "Eye Test" this week and, aside from being excited to do so, I'm a little confused about how to approach this evaluation. To be honest, this is the most confusing period of my time as a UCLA fan, as many other posters can attest to along with me. I'm in the camp rooting for UCLA to win every game and rooting for the wholesale regime change along with those wins. Problem there is realizing that those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. That is tough enough to understand myself without explaining to my friends, family and peers. In spite of this, I feel like UCLA just went through the perfect game to get into a discussion regarding this.
On one hand, UCLA beat the hell out of a Division 1 college football program, 45-6 on Senior Day at the Rose Bowl. That accounts for the largest margin of victory ever for CRN and also is UCLA's largest margin of victory since 2009 at Wazzu (43-7). Shout out to Fox 71 for that piece of info. It is also a win that makes UCLA bowl-eligible for the first time since CRN's (to-date) signature win over Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl and a victory that keeps my fantastical self-deprecating scenario of UCLA losing bowl eligibility in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game alive.
On the pessimistic/logical side, UCLA beat the worst team on the schedule by a margin that is completely reasonable judging by the vast talent disparity between the two schools. Colorado came into this game with the 92nd ranked offense and 116th ranked defense in terms of yardage gained and allowed. They are worse than San Jose State, worse than Washington State in both of those statistics and by my own personal eye test from watching them. A team with UCLA's talent level should be able to beat teams like Colorado by 40 points.
Without further ado, here's the breakdown.
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
For the first time this season, I can answer this with a confident yes. I cannot go on without mentioning the quality of opponent, since the Buffs were the 92nd ranked offense coming into this game. But the numbers are impressive even with the understand of that context. The Bruins held CU to 229 yards of total offense. That would rank 2nd in opponents yards allowed if adjusted over the course of an entire season, as would holding a very competent rushing attack to 87 yards. Then there were the big plays that have to be made by a winning defense against lesser opponents:
-Holding CU to 3-13 on 3rd down conversion (Enough to get UCLA out of the bottom 10?)
-3 interceptions (2 by Andrew Abbot, including the one-handed pick that provided the final throat stomp in the 4th quarter).
-The most shocking stat to me is the 6 tackles for loss, including multiple sacks (somehow Graham wasn't credited for his 8 yard TFL of the QB on a passing play, but I'm counting it as a sack for the sake of logic)
This was the most pleased I've been with a UCLA defense in quite some time. As a player who always appreciated tough grading, it is tough for me to dish out this grade. But the effort deserves a A-. 3.7 GPA. My reasoning for keeping the grade away from an A is discussed later.
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
This is one of two questions in the evaluation where the level of play has little to do with the answer. Throughout this season and the entire decade, the one thing holding UCLA back from national relevance and from achieving a semblance of Coach's definition of success, is "playing not to lose instead of playing to win." For at least one November night, this changed. From the opening series, with the Prince to Shaq Evans deep ball, to the consistent involvement of Joe Fauria in the passing game, to the Derrick Coleman 38 yard run on a 2 RB split option look out of shotgun that has been missing all season, this offense was firing on all cylinders against a bad defense. Even in what appeared to be a tough second quarter (including 67 yards in penalties), UCLA still gained 130 yards. In terms of grade, I looked to Patroclus' Midseason Grade Comparison for reference. The best offensive effort this season was against Houston, which garnered a 3.3 GPA. Despite being against a weaker opponent in Colorado, this is at least equal to that performance, if only for sheer volume of yardage and points. A-. 3.7 GPA
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
9 penalties for 102 yards cancels out any possibility of a grade higher than a B for me. That lack of discipline is just unacceptable. Despite the abundance of positives to take away from this W, the consistent flaws in discipline, another fumble by Jonathan Franklin that distract from one of his best game as a Bruin and the traditional wasted timeout in the 3rd quarter followed by a penalty/ineffective play call (what good does a 9 yard pass do on 3rd and 15?). This was the downside of the game to me, and yet another illustration of what is wrong with this program. I'd give it a flat C, 2.0 GPA.
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
Yes, is the short answer to this. Instead of a ramble about the underlying issues and flaws in the regime of the UCLA football program, I'll point to a couple of specific examples. Kevin Prince got lit up a few times and was banged up throughout the 2nd half after pushing his luck on a scramble, but shrugged off the pain and led this team to 550 yards of offense. The defense came out in the 2nd half with a 15 point lead and played their best quarter in the 2nd half, coming up with a INT, getting a 3 and out, and giving up only 50 yards in the quarter. I have to give credit where credit is due here. With a special shout-out to guys like Nick Crissman, Malcolm Jones and Jerry Rice Jr. for coming in and finishing off a drive in mop-up time. Nothing says more about effort than finishing a game that is well in hand with a relentless, respectful and effective 4th quarter. This is a rock solid A. 4.0 GPA
5) Do our players execute?
On offense, I'd say yes. Again, 550 yards and 45 points speaks for itself. On defense, it's a bit more of a mixed bag. I kept a running tally of missed tackles throughout the game. At the end of the day, in the midst of a 45-6 win, UCLA defenders (excluding special teams) missed 18 tackles. That is ridiculously high. For a frame of reference, at my school, we had a missed tackle tally running throughout every game. If we missed more than 7 tackles, it was automatic extra conditioning with very unenjoyable additions for every tackle over that number. The most we ever missed was 15, and I don't know that I will ever look at stairs the same way again after that. I don't know if UCLA is held accountable for missing tackles on defense; but Monday or Tuesday should be an ass-whooping regardless of the final score. As a defensive minded guy, I am going to probably grade this too harshly. But, since this is my post and I am unsure of when my next one will be, I'm going with a C+, 2.3 GPA.
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
I have to preface this with my personal bias because it enhances my point. I'm one of the most pro-Richard Brehaut UCLA guys out there. I played Little League against the guy, I trained in the offseason at the same training facility (shout out to Athletic Republic/Frappier Acceleration), I played against him in summer passing league. I'll never rationally be able to debate the Prince/Brehaut QB battle and I don't look forward to the impending Brehaut/Hundley/Prince battle.
Looking away from that, Kevin Prince ran the Pistol better than anyone has run it at UCLA tonight. He was essentially flawless in the air and on the ground (excluding the Evans overthrow and the bad jump ball attempt to Embree). He was the leader tonight. And he deserves to finish this season as the starter regardless of RB's health...I never thought I would type those words. Moving on. I'd give credit on defense to Datone Jones, Andrew Abbott and the entire LB core from Sean Westgate to Eric Kendricks all the way down to Aramide Olaniyan on the last drive. That was the most cohesive I've seen the defense play this season. Honestly, fun to watch on defense...never thought I'd say that either. Joe Fauria would be another name to mention because he is so polarizing on the field. I really look forward to what the talent on this team can do with a regime change. I see big things from this offense next season. My GPA and grade given out here, an A. 4.0 GPA.
Based on the discussion here is how it shapes up:
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? [A-: 3.7]
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? [A-: 3.7]
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? [C: 2.0]
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? [A: 4.0]
5) Do our players execute? [C+: 2.3]
6) Do we have leaders on the field? [A: 4.0]
Colorado GPA: 3.3
The grade card for Utah was 0.67, Arizona State was 2.78, California was 3.22, Arizona was 0.13, Washington State was 1.95, grade card for Stanford was 1.97, grade card for Oregon State was 2.12, grade card for Texas was 0.22, the grade card for San Jose State was 0.67, and the grade card for Houston was 2.05.
I'm not one to overexert myself mathematically so I will leave the calculations to the admins here. I do have one comment though, the Cal GPA should be lower, as a C+ is entered as a 2.7 instead of a 2.3. Feel free to edit this bottom part as you see fit to include the overall GPA thus far.
[Update: Overall GPA figuring in corrected Cal GPA is now: 1.73. - BN Eds.]
Regardless of what happens next week against USC, this program is still in line for and in need of a wholesale regime change. The result of this game is more of a mark against CRN that in his favor. Pac-12 bottom feeders should be beaten like this by a team with UCLA's talent.