Ooof. Writing this is going to be as fun as a root canal. I imagine eyebrows are going up by seeing the "huge win" in the title of this post. That didn't come from me. That was how Richard Brehaut and other Bruin players described the 27-17 victory against San Jose State. You can watch Rick Neuheisel's post-game presser, in which he reflected, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
I wish I didn't care but I think going through this as exercise - as painful as it is for now - will really give us some modicum of clarity based on numbers when we have to discuss big picture storylines of our program.
One of the reason I was actually looking forward to this exercise heading into Saturday night's game, was to see how our defense would respond after the shellacking it took in Houston. I thought our coaches and our players would come out with a sense of purpose and destroy the Spartans. As I mentioned in the second half thread, to make matters even more favorable, the Spartans were starting the backup quarterback (!) after their starter experienced a concussion against the Trees.
So what did we get at the Rose Bowl? Let's get to our "eye test" grade analysis after the jump.
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
We saw a defense that once again looked slow out of the gate and frankly lethargic most of the game. We saw our DB's giving cushion to San Jose State receivers. There wasn't much containment on the sides and there were just horrid play from our linebackers including Sean Westgate, who looked out of place.
It was San Jose State that manhandled our DL in a 16 PLAY, 88 yard drive, tying up the game with a rushing TD. They embarrassed and humiliated our defense, piling up 202 rushing yards in 29 carries, averaging 7.0 yards per rushing attempt. What is so mind boggling about these numbers is that the Spartans actually run their own version of a "pistol" based offense. So it wasn't like our defenders were seeing something totally new. The Spartans finished the game almost even in TOP category and deep into Q3, IIRC they were leading in that department.
Yes, the defense got some "timely" TOs in the second half to save the Bruins from a basketball equivalent of "CSUN" or "Montana" moments, but they do not make up for the atrocious performance at the Rose Bowl. From Peter Yoon at ESPNLA (emphasis added):
UCLA will, of course, take the victory and be happy with it. UCLA fans--most of whom appear to want to stay as far away as possible from this team--won't be so happy.
And can you blame them? San Jose State, which ranked 119th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing last season, racked up 202 yards on the ground against UCLA. The last time San Jose State had 200 yards rushing came in 2009 against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo--a Football Championship Subdivision team.
The UCLA defense again struggled in key situations, allowing the Spartans to convert a third and 10, a third and seven and fourth and three and another third and seven during a scoring drive that tied the game at 7-7. The Bruins gave up a 65-yard touchdown run on a third and one that tied the score at 17-17 late in the third quarter.
Last week, I gave the Bruins a "D" in this category. I wish I could give an "F-" this week, but Mrs. N tells me that would be hyperbolic. :-) [yes, I am smiling as I type this]. So, I will go with a plain F:0.0.
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
The answer here is a NO for last night. Oh, I get that the offense "woke up" a little in the second half, when the coaches realized (like Karl Dorrell did with Manny White out in Boulder years ago) that "oh I don't know, they could overwhelm the Spartans with a little power running game." So they finally were able to churn out yardage thanks to Derrick Coleman. But to my eyes it didn't matter all that much.
What I saw was that a San Jose State defense and a coaching staff that was more than well prepared for the Bruin offense. If not for a homerific PI call in what was clearly an uncatchable ball and a dumb roughing the passer in first half, the Bruin offense was bottled up pretty good.
You know who else thought the offense was ineffective in the first half? That would be our head coach Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel had 0 confidence in our offense (and also 0 confidence in our defense to stop the Spartans apparently). That's why he decided to punt the ball on the Spartans' 39 yard line with a 4th and 2 in the Q1.
The F-back position was essentially non-existent. One of the times UCLA deployed Jordan James at that spot, the Spartans stayed within their assignments (may be UCLA LBs (cough*Zumwalt*cough) can watch the tape) and stuffed it.
It was clear that the Spartans were stacking the box most of the time. You'd think we'd look for big TEs in the middle early, but we find our stud TE, who had a breakout game in the first weekend till late in Q2. Of course, Randall Carroll once again (not so shockingly) was nowhere to be found in this offense. I think Brehaut may have thrown to Josh Smith once. Yeah, why bother having "speed" in this offense. Right?
The offense looked just like the one we saw last year: vanilla, boring and listless. I am going to be very generous here based on the yardage churned out by Derrick Coleman in the second half and the willingness of to go deep few times. So I will give this unit a C-:1.7. Hey, I am mellowing out here. I'd go lower. I am being nice. Really.
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
Hmm. Let's see here. We had to take TO and two and half freaking minutes into the game because there was a screw up in the special teams. Our "sure handed" punt returner Taylor Embree started counting and from what I saw in TV, it looked like he realized we might not have had have either right amount of players or combination in the special teams.
freesia39 noted how we started the game with an "illegal motion." [Full disclosure - I missed the first few plays of the second half because I was more interested in watching the Michigan game at that point. I needed to do it keep myself awake because the pathetic showing at the Rose Bowl was putting me to sleep]. Then there was the Zumwalt special. An ugly personal foul which Bruin legend J.J. Stokes essentially called out as dumb and classless late in Q4 on a 4th and long, giving the Spartans unnecessary new life. Overall, the Bruins were penalized 6 times for 54 yards.
Our bigger and stronger OL looked out of sync. They were getting manhandled early by the smaller and less athletic San Jose State DL. It also looked like Brehaut was making the wrong reads.
On defense the LBers were simply atrocious. I think I have mentioned this before. Zumwalt and Westgate kept finding themselves out of position in play after play. Last week, I gave out a C- in this category, this week I will go with a D:1.0.
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
The answer to this question is fairly obvious based on the responses to first three questions. This is another category the team gets an F:0.0.
5) Do our players execute?
I described above how so many times our players looked like they had no freaking idea what they were doing (in all facets of the team). Let's throw in few more data points here. I saw Brehaut (more on him later in this post) throwing behind the receivers. I saw our "sure handed" receiver Embree fumbling away the ball in what appeared to be an clear example of lack of focus.
There is one good thing I will add. I know shocking. I have a positive point! Our WRs are actually doing a better job of blocking down field. There were number of long runs during which the WRs were not only blocking the whole way down, they were doing it till the whistle. This is somewhat of an improvement from last season. I am guessing offensive coordinator, Mike Johnson, who works with the receivers, should get the some credit for this.
As Telemachus notes the performance of Kip Smith was "perfect." So we had that going for us.
I'd give the team a D- in this category. But the play of our WRs last night and performance of our FG kicker, bring up the category to a D+:1.3. Woot! Yay, for relentless optimism.
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
To me the answer is unclear here. Derrick Coleman, thankfully provided us with a much needed jolt in the second half, racking up 135 yards in 14 carries. The Jet Ski showed some signs of life in second half rushing for 81 yards in 16 carries.
We had the defensive TOs which Sean Westgate and Sheldon Prince hyped as big deals after the game. But honestly, I didn't see any leadership this team at any level. I saw a team sleepwalking like bunch of zombies. Perhaps we can't blame our players on the field too much, when their general essentially raised the white flag early in the game despite having a physically superior team, by punting the ball on the opponent's 39 yard line with just 2 yards to go.
Perhaps the most disappointing player to me in this game was Richard Brehaut. Statwise Brehaut's game was not awful. But I guess I was expecting much more. I thought this would be the game in which Brehaut would take complete control of this team and close out the case for starting QB. Instead Brehaut's mediocre performance (at best) created more ambiguity around the QB situation and vaulted an injury prone Kevin Prince right back into the starting mix for Stanford.
Oh, plus I need to mention. gbruin alluded to this in his brilliant post-game thoughts but it's worth repeating again. I don't really appreciate how our team prances around after TOs against inferior opponents, acting like they have just won a BCS game. It's incredibly classless, tacky and it reeks of a smalltime mindset of an irrelevant football program. It also shows a lack of leadership at all facets of the team. The grade for this category for this week is an F:0.0.
Final Grade Card for San Jose State Spartans
Based on the discussion here is how it shapes up:
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? [F: 0.0]
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? [C-: 1.7]
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? [D: 1.0]
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? [F: 0.0]
5) Do our players execute? [D+: 1.3]
6) Do we have leaders on the field? [F: 0.0]
San Jose State GPA: 0.67
The grade card for Houston was 2.05. So the cumulative GPA after 2 games according to our "Eye Test" is now at 1.36.
I will not offer any more commentary at this point. As I mentioned after the Houston game, I am going to wait to see how the numbers look in next few games, game by game. I don't have any hopes for Stanford game. But I am specially going to be interested in how these numbers look after the first 3 games in the Pac-12, 2 of which are now must win games for Rick Neuheisel (v. Oregon State and Washington State). At that point I think for better or rose the numbers will speak for themselves.