A counterpoint concerning UCLA's offensive identity

Hi tasser et al, hope you've been well. Warning - this is fairly long. Sorry.

This is a post in response to Tasser10's analysis regarding UCLA's predisposition to the run.

I disagree with the belief that Neuheisel's run game is because he believes the defense is good. I think it's because he sees the defense is bad. A passing offense is high-variance relative to a running offense. Even a weak passing game, when examining yards-per-attempt, tends to be more effective than a strong running game in a vacuum. UCLA's awful, AWFUL passing game last year still averaged 5.3 yards per attempt (one of the worst in the country). But that would be considered an excellent yards-per-carry rushing game. This year, the 2nd-worst YPA nationally is 4.8 - that would be equivalent to a top-40 rushing attack (Texas is 37th at 4.82 YPC, for reference). The variance introduced by failed passes, though, is overly damaging given the nature of football's offense (3 tries to gain 10 yards, or failure).

That variance is, I think, a greater issue for this UCLA team because of how bad the defense is. With a good defense, a failed offensive possession has a certain relatively low expected value for the other team, because a score is still unlikely. With a bad defense, that same failed possession has a fairly high expected value for the other team, for the opposite reason. By focusing on a strong running attack, Neuheisel is lowering the chance of failed possessions early in a drive. You force the opposing offense to be more likely to have to put together a drive (where even good offenses can misfire).

Even the best passing offense can stall over the course of one game because of variance. Remember UCLA/Stanford last year? Andrew Luck was 11/24 for 151 yards against the not-so-vaunted Bruins D. And they didn't go into a shell because they were way ahead - the score was 13-0 at the half, and Stanford didn't score again until less than a minute remained in the 3rd quarter. They played at least 3 quarters with a less-than 2 TD lead, so they weren't just scrapping the passing O entirely. The Cardinal just didn't have a particularly good game, even with the best passing QB in the country.

To otherwise illustrate this fact, allow me a thought exercise: what is the most common suggestion when facing a good opposing offense, and giving up points is considered somewhat of an accepted premise? To 'run the ball, play field-position, and keep it out of their hands as much as possible,' is it not? Well, when your defense isn't very good, every opposing offense must be treated as if it is a good offense, because that's how they will perform against you. Unless your own offense is itself very good and can win shootouts, you're unlikely to match them score-for-score in an offensive game. Your best hope is to shorten the quarters, keep the opposition out of rhythm, and try to wear down the opposing defense.

The struggles against Texas fall mostly on Rick's decision to play Kevin Prince, in my opinion. The team moved the ball against the Longhorns. They gained 215 yards in 2 quarters of work (the 2nd and 3rd, before the game was totally out of reach). Their struggles in the 4th quarter (35 yards on 3 possessions) weren't due to running the ball. This is UCLA's plays from that quarter:

3rd and 8 at UCLA 49    Richard Brehaut pass incomplete.

1st and 10 at TEX 29    Richard Brehaut sacked by Emmanuel Acho for a loss of 2 yards to the Texas 31.
2nd and 12 at TEX 31    Jordon James rush for 3 yards to the Texas 28.          
3rd and 9 at TEX 28    Richard Brehaut pass incomplete.          
4th and 9 at TEX 28    Richard Brehaut pass complete to Joseph Fauria for 25 yards, fumbled, recovered by Texas at the Texas 3.          

1st and 10 at UCLA 41    Johnathan Franklin rush for no gain to the UCLA 41.
2nd and 10 at UCLA 41    Richard Brehaut pass complete to Nelson Rosario for 5 yards to the UCLA 46.          
3rd and 5 at UCLA 46    Richard Brehaut pass complete to Ricky Marvray for 4 yards to the 50 yard line.          
4th and 1 at UCLA 50 Johnathan Franklin rush for no gain to the 50 yard line.   

1st and 10 at UCLA 26    Richard Brehaut pass incomplete to Joseph Fauria.
2nd and 10 at UCLA 26    Richard Brehaut pass incomplete.          
3rd and 10 at UCLA 26    Richard Brehaut pass incomplete.

That's 12 offensive plays. 3 runs. 9 passes. And basically all of their offense in the quarter came on a play when they lost the ball (Fauria's fumble after a 25-yd completion).

UCLA's offense wasn't *great* against Texas by any means, but during Brehaut's meaningful game time they played basically dead-even (giving up 21 points, scoring 20) despite being down three touchdowns. During that time UCLA ran the ball 23 times, and threw the ball 10 times. In the 1st and 4th quarter they ran 11 times and threw 16. If we're looking at just the 1st quarter, it was a 7 pass / 9 run split - still relatively pass-heavy compared to the 2nd/3rd quarters. That's obviously not the entire picture (it's a 4-quarter game last I checked), but it's still instructive, I think.

UCLA's offense really isn't the problem this season, at least to date (future gains not guaranteed, ask your advisor for a prospectus, yadda yadda yadda). They rank 27th in rush yards per attempt (28th in total rush yards per game), and are a mediocre-but-acceptable 55th in passer rating (that number jumps to 40th if we remove Prince from the equation). They rank 24th in the country in yards-per-play.

Running the ball more tends to lessen the defense's importance, not increase it. Which, this season, is a very, very necessary thing.

<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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