Well that's what Noel Mazzone apparently told Peter Yoon (ESPN LA) today:
Going into last week's 21-14 victory over Utah, the Bruins had been averaging 82.6 plays per game, or one every 22.64 seconds. Injuries required the Bruins to start seven freshmen on offense against the Utes so Mazzone figured he'd be better off slowing down the pace.
UCLA ran a season-low 68 plays, averaging one every 27.7 seconds.
"We kind of slowed it down on purpose last week because we had so many new guys in there," Mazzone said. "I don't using freshmen, but when you have seven of them running around out there at the same time it worries me." [...]
"I actually called three runs in a row down in the red zone inside the five which is like a first for me, ever," Mazzone said. "Lightning didn't strike me or anything." [...]
"By nature I'm not a conservative guy," he said. "But you're going to have games like that during the course of a season. Everybody does. We just kind of played a little closer to the vest than I usually like to but it's always about the end result anyway. We didn't score as many points or have as many yards but we won."
Hmm. I am not sure I buy those lines of reasoning from Mazzone. Utah was not the first time UCLA's offense bogged down this season. Let's look at the number of plays and aggregate yard output through first seven games.
While UCLA may have only run 68 plays against Utah, that's not dramatically different than the number of plays Bruins ran against Rice (69) or Oregon State (70).
The issue here is really offensive output. And as you can see the Bruins' production have gone down every game since Nebraska except for a blip against Colorado which has been giving up 494 yards per game (so UCLA's offensive output against them was nothing extra ordinary).
The injury excuse also doesn't fly. Bruins have enough talent in their receiving corps with Jordan Payton, Kenny Walker (who has been getting game action since the first week against Rice), Ricky Marvray (who has been around a while), Jerry Rice (pretty dependable receiver), and guys like Jordon James and Damien Thigpen, who can be used in slot receivers.
Moreover, looking around the country coaches find a way to use their freshman receivers. Somehow talented freshman receivers don't seem to have the problem to break in even in programs like Colorado (where Paul Richardson had a huge season last year).
What really seems to be the issue here is that opposing DCs are having success against Mazzone now that they have game tape from first three games. They are better prepared schematically to take on the Bruin offense. Mazzone has to figure out a way to throw in wrinkles in his offensive game plan and also work with rest of the staff to coach up our young talent. If needed they should think about shortening the receiving rotation to develop better chemistry with Brett Hundley, instead of feeling the pressure to get everyone in the mix.
The talent and personnel is there. The opportunity is certainly there for Mazzone and rest of the offensive staff to get our program come out, better prepared and put together a more polished and less predictable performance during the second half of the season. We will see whether they get it done or whether we are subjected to same old coach speak excuses we have heard for last several years.