Going into the season I thought Saturday's game against Oregon State was the second most important game of the season. (If you don't know the most important game of every season, you are not a UCLA fan. ) You can say that Saturday's win was ugly at times, but I would rather have a "bad win" then a good loss, especially in conference play.
The team showed its talent on Saturday. It was heartening to see like only Coleman but guys like Malcolm Jones, Jordan James, and Anthony Barr step up and make plays on the ground game. But it was also great to see Smith go deep (when was the last time UCLA hit a bomb?) and Embree despite being well-covered out leaping two defenders and catching a perfect pass from Richard Brehaut.
I was also heartened a bit by the misses. Randall Caroll showed speed getting away from defenders but was underthrown in a play that will work in the future. UCLA even called a trick play or two.
Also the defense had 6 tackles for loss. That seems like more in one game then for the season. Couple the TFL with a couple of big fourth down stops; this team was inconsistent, but at times looked good.
The last good sign goes to Richard Brehaut. Although, he only threw 11 times, I thought Richard Brehaut called an impressive game. I was watching the OSU broadcast and they commented all 4 times he called an audible it worked for a good gain. Unlike most QBs, his audibles were all to running plays this week. As Jon Gold commented in a story Brehaut Makes the (Right) Call:
For a guy whose major knock has been his play-execution skills, on Saturday afternoon junior Richard Brehaut was a better game manager than a Nintendo executive.
. . . He shined especially during an early second-quarter touchdown drive, moving the ball 46 yards on seven plays following a Sean Westgate interception of a Sean Mannion pass. On 2nd-and-4 from the Oregon State 13-yard line, Brehaut saw the Beavers stacked right and checked down to an inside handoff in the left gap to Derrick Coleman, who picked up eight yards.
On the next play, Brehaut read the defensive end closing in and kept it himself, breaking through the interior for a five-yard touchdown run.
"I've always thought that the more experience I have, the better I have to get at managing the game and making smart decisions with the ball," Brehaut said. "We had a play call to the right, they overloaded that side, and I checked inside zone left and we were able to get the first to Derrick. Then it was a zone read on the next play, the end crashed down, I kept it and got in end zone."
Those were the issues that kept coming up for head coach Rick Neuheisel during Brehaut's preseason quarterback competition with Kevin Prince, which Prince ultimately won.
Datone Jones anyone? He was supposed to be dominating camp and an unstoppable force. Against OSU's weak OL he was nowhere to be seen, failing to even get a tackle.
On offense, it also seems to be a bad situation developing between RN and Joseph Fauria. Fauria and RN got in a screaming match on a crucial 3rd down play that resulted in a timeout. I am not sure what to make of the following:
Neuheisel said tight end Joseph Fauria was not at full speed against Oregon State after experiencing soreness from a hard hit against Texas last week. Fauria did not have a reception Saturday and has just three catches since tallying a career-high six in the season opener.
In DC, we call this spin, in the rest of the country call this BS. While I could be wrong, it seems likely Fauria is in RN's dog house. UCLA needs Fauria, a 6'8" freak of a TE who is a matchup nightmare. So Fauria shut up and listen to your coach. RN if he does, you need to get him the ball.
Did UCLA turn a corner on the ugliest road streak in its modern history or is Oregon State another team so bad that it says more about them that UCLA beat them? As of now UCLA, three road PAC 10/12 wins in RN's four years have come against teams who went 1-26 for those seasons.
UCLA is 1-0 in conference and has a winning conference record for the first time at any point of any season since Neuheisel took over as coach.
It is only the third conference road win in Neuheisel's tenure. The other two were against Washington in 2008 (the Huskies finished that season 0-12) and against Washington State in 2009 (the Cougars finished 1-11 that season).
Stanford will be a tough game but UCLA has the talent to compete. And say what you want, they did beat OSU on the road.