Rick Neuheisel's favoritism of seniors/experience over trusting and developing young talent is costing UCLA. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Hmm. Not sure how long I am going to keep doing this if we continue to see the kind of performance we have been subjected to for three straight Saturdays. When we devised this "eye test" during off-season we thought it would be a decent standard by which we could judge with our eyes what we are witnessing on the field. I had no idea the numbers were going to be so obvious in the wrong direction after the first quarter of 2011 season.
I don't have much to add except to agree with every points raised in gbruin and freesia's post game reflections. However, for the sake of due diligence I will try to go through this "eye test" analysis for the Longhorns game so that we have at least a reference point - number wise - to discuss the first quarter of 2011 UCLA football season. Let's get to them after the jump.
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
There is really not a lot of analysis needed to answer this question. Our defense came out and stopped the Longhorns in their first possession. Honestly though if Coach Mack Brown had decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from Texas's own 27 yard line, I doubt our defense would have stopped them.
The whole game was essentially watching that clown riding a vespa through a carwash. The defense looked slow and lethargic all game. Collectively it played without any life or any sense of purpose. There were couple of moments that generated some semblance of hope. After the Bruins scored a touchdown to bring the score to 7-21, Joe Tresey finally woke up at the Rose Bowl and decided to bring some heat on 3rd and 7 via Jordan Zumwalt. Guess what? Chase McCoy's pass was rushed and incomplete. Then, Dietrich Riley dished out a huge hit in the second half causing a fumble. Other than that the defense was another joke.
In fact it looked like the guys had essentially given up. At one point Texas had converted 9 of their 11 3rd down conversions [9 for 15 overall]. Texas with a brand new QB platoon featuring a freaking freshman, put together a perfect passing performance, as the tandem complete 16 of 20 passing attempts for 204 total yards and 3 TDs. It was humiliating.
Our starting LB unit continues to look like a joke. We appreciate the effort from Sean Westgate but he does not look a LB, who should be playing in a BCS conference. Justin Edison, Damien Holmes and Nate Chandler continued to get abused in the trenches. Datone Jones looks slow, making all the reporters hyping him during the pre-season practices look downright silly. Cassius Marsh and Luta Tepa have shown some signs of life but not all that much.
I will get to our secondary in other sections of this eye-test. Overall this unit looks as poorly coached a unit I have ever seen at UCLA. They are soft. They cannot tackle and worse at times they look like they don't really want to tackle.
I should also mention a note about scheming. I think it was pretty revealing watching the Texas defense. Manny Diaz dialed up the pressure almost every time the Bruins were in 2nd and long or 3rd and long situations. He brought in his LBers. He brought in his DBs (IIRC). The Longhorn D befuddled our QBs by bringing heat, while our DC was dropping back our DBs, without making much of an effort to rattle the young QBs from Texas.
The grade for this category for this game is an F:0.0. In case you were wondering, the grade for last week was an F in this category as well.
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
This is another easy question to answer. I think the first series gave us a good clue when on second and short, when the entire playbook (whatever that is) was available, the UCLA coaches called for a short out pass resulting in a pick. Since then the Bruins kept making Manny Diaz's day pretty easy by calling staying true to Terry Donahue school of run, run, pass nonsense. We saw that approach right after Jackson Shipley gifted us with a fumble on punt return. Instead of going for the throat, the UCLA played for FG position by ramming the running backs up the middle on first and second down, before Prince decided to complete his pass to a Longhorn on third.
There is no imagination in this pistol based offense. The plays are so slow developing that anyone can figure out what is coming. It was absurd to watch the coaching staff dialing up what looked to be an obvious option to Anthony Barr to end Q3 when we were down by 2 scores. It was surreal to hear Bob Davies discussing during broadcast about how the Bruins needed to add some "speed" at wide receivers, when any well informed Bruin fan knew who Neuheisel and his staff were wasting away at the sidelines.
Richard Brehaut threw a nice wheel route to Jordon James resulting in a 40 yard completion. James was never to be heard from again. It is becoming obvious that Derrick Coleman should be the go to guy around the red zone, yet coaches kept slamming Johnathan Franklin up the middle.
When the Bruins were down by more than 2 scores in late in Q3, there was zero sense of urgency in the offense which was still operating with a run-oriented zone-read template. What is amusing is somehow the coaches do not trust Richard Brehaut to air it out, even though he has been more efficient (relatively speaking) than Kevin Prince this season.
Speaking of coaches, players don't seem to have a clue (from what we see with our own eyes) on who is calling the play. We heard Mike Johnson talk about the "turbo" package during the pre-season practices and yet we have to see UCLA offense calling TOs in obvious no-huddle situation to figure out WTF it is doing. The grade for this category is another F:00, lower than C- from last week.
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
Answering this question is not very difficult either. The answer is a resounding "NO." gbruin already zeroed in on the clownery that we had to witness with a 3rd and short with 8 and half minutes to go in Q1. That sequence capsuled Rick Neuheisel's on field performance as the head coach of the UCLA football program. I guess it just amusing at this point to see Prince looking completely confused and looking for play-call from the sideline, while looking to run a "turbo" package on 3rd and short. I say amusing because I am past the point of being upset.
Meanwhile, let's talk about defense. So the players had some kind of "players only" meeting last week. Not sure what exactly they discussed because the result was worse. Sheldon Prince, one of the biggest talker in this team (who was talking about creating a "Price Island" after finally getting a pick against freaking San Jose State) cost the team with idiotic personal foul call in the second half. It was not just him, the defense kept costing us off-side penalties all game.
I should also the note about Sheldon's botched attempt at a pick in second half which turned into a huge completion. A well coached defensive back would have attempted to bat that pick down. Yet Price showed zero situational awareness, something shared by this entire freaking team.
The secondary looked dazed and confused. Sometimes they just look to be free lancing. Aaron Hester was exposed in the second series, when he left his zone and jumped up, leaving Texas receiver wide open in the back field. The grade for this section is also another F:00. This is a regression from last week's D rating.
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
Another obvious answer. NO. This team essentially gave up in second half. Players seem to have given up on the coaching regime. Even ABC's sideline reporter Samantha Steele commented that players were despondent after Rick Neuheisel's time out huddle in the second half to rally the team. There is also this nugget from Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLA:
Three Bruins had a shot at McCoy, none of them brought him down. Three more Bruins had a chance to get in Davis' way before McCoy found him for a 25-yard game on a third-and-18 play. None of them even bothered. Texas scored on the next play to go up 28-7.
Why did they all miss? That's the question Neuheisel and everyone who cares about UCLA must answer as soon as possible.
Time is running out to answer this question, if it hasn't already. Anyway, the grade for this category is also an F:00.
5) Do our players execute?
Well, I mentioned above about Hester looking completely confused on 3rd and long in second series. The play call was fine and we got McCoy out of the pocket. They were fucked if Hester didn't ignore his responsibility and jump up, doing whatever the hell he wanted. I mentioned about Price's pathetic attempt to intercept the ball when he should have batted it down. I mentioned about all the drive killing or drive sustaining penalties. I guess I haven't mentioned the penalty that nullified Josh Smith's huge kick-off return. So there is that.
There is couple of positive points here though. I did appreciate how Derrick Coleman keeps his motor running when he gets near the end zone. I appreciated the performance of Jeff Locke who knocked in two long FGs, doing double duty at the Rose Bowl. Although, that leads to the side question of why Neuheisel didn't have Lock kicking against the Cougars in the first game (could have resulted in a tie game at the end of regulation).
I suppose I should specifically mention Kevin Prince's three interceptions in this category. It gives me the opportunity to amplify the questions about Neuheisel's brain cramp of putting Prince back in even after he had thrown 2 picks. I mean I didn't really care much for starting Brehaut after his performance against San Jose State but at the same time it was pretty clear after Prince's first throw that his shoulder wasn't the same. So that leads the question what the heck were Neuheisel and his staff doing all week when they were evaluating Prince during practice?
Anyway, except for those two smattering positive data points, there isn't anything else of note in this category. The players failed to execute on the field but the responsibility right now is on Rick and his coaching staff since it has become a pattern for three straight weeks. I'd give an F:00 for this section but because of Coleman and Locke, I will give this category a D+:1.3.
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
I will start with some note notes on Kevin Price. I appreciate the fact that this kid has shown courage over his career at UCLA. He has sacrificed his body in effort to win games. However, Prince's starting career should be done at UCLA. At this point he shouldn't be more than a backup. What I didn't appreciate yesterday though was Prince's body language. He sulked in the sidelines after being benched. It reminded me of Ben Olson's body language when Patrick Cowan used to QB the team. Hugely disappointing in terms of leadership and it is telling as he has been given so many opportunities by UCLA coaches in last three years.
Perhaps there is no leadership in this team because the coaches have failed to insert and develop talent and put them in position to succeed. Once again it was revealing to see Texas dazzle at the Rose Bowl with its freshman and sophomores, while UCLA skill players stuck behind the likes of Nelson Rosario were nowhere to be found. It is hard for players to develop leadership skills when everyone know that more talented players haven't gotten their shots for whatever reasons based on performance at practice. If practice results mattered, we'd seen guys like Devin Lucien get a shot. Lucien by all accounts blew up during pre-season practices and yet we haven't seen him at all in our first three games.
There is no leadership from the coaching staff. Tresey is a massive fail. Confusion is paramount on the offensive side as it is unclear who is primarily in charge of playcalling. The category for this section is an F:0.0.
Final Grade Card for Texas Longhorns
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? [F: 0.0]
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? [F: 0.0]
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]
Texas GPA: 0.22
Bruins are heading the opposite direction and going down the toilet FAST with one quarter into the 2011 football season. Not sure how I can keep myself subjecting to this nonsense if we see same garbage again next Saturday against Oregon State.
Last week, I wrote that I was especially 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 Neuheisel (v. Oregon State and Washington State). Not sure if there will be anything to left to find out if we see another putrid performance against Oregon State.
I don't have much "passion" left to analyze what is going on the field. My bucket at this point is mostly filled with puke.