Take a moment to think about where you were on October 24, 1998. Not an easy task.
Think how different things were 14 years ago. I-Phones didn't exist, no Twitter, no Google.
But UCLA was ranked #2 in the nation. I believe #1 in the first BCS poll ever. If not for Hurricane Andrew and Edgerrin James, UCLA probably would have won a national championship that season in football.
Better times for the Bruins. Jermaine Lewis, DeShaun Foster, Brendon Ayanbadejo Freddie Mitchell, Danny Farmer, Brian Poli-Dixon, Kenyon Coleman, Keith Brown, Drew Bennett, Kris Farris, Ryan Nece, Robert Thomas, Marques Anderson and Cade McNown.
That was the last group of UCLA players to beat the Cal Bears on the road.
Hell of a group of players that any NCAA school would be proud of.
Beating Cal on the road has not come easy for UCLA since then, nor has winning on the road in general. There is something to that symmetry. If UCLA had beaten Cal 28-16 like in 1998 and looked good doing it, I might have let my reservations about this season go into remission.
But UCLA didn't play like the 1998 team. They played like Dan Guerrero's football program.
UCLA didn't play like a team with National Championship aspirations. They played like a team proud to go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
UCLA embarrassed themselves in Berkeley yet again and fell out of the Top 25 for the second time in as many games being ranked.
End of the game: California 43 (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12), UCLA 17 (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12)
This is the Eye Test. It wasn't fun, it wasn't easy. It was necessary though, so let's get to it.
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
Prepared? Maybe, but it certainly didn't show up on the field.
481 yards of total offense for Cal. Allowed Zach Maynard to go 25-30 for 295 yards. I was impressed by Maynard's athleticism early on, he escaped from a lot of pressure throughout the game. At the end of the day, those pressure and hits on Maynard don't count if he isn't contained, brought down or rattled by them.
Any observant person who has watched UCLA football knows that Tevin McDonald struggles in man coverage. Not to speak ill of one of the most consistent and hardworking Bruins on the defensive side; but it is an obvious statement. He's an ideal single high safety because he is rangy and has exceptional ball skills. I said in the game thread that if Tevin was lined up in man coverage on any one of my three best receivers, I'd tell my QB to look there first read.
That being said, there is no excuse whatsoever for Tevin to be covering Keenan Allen at the goal line. I can guarantee that Cal ran plenty of pick routes on their film from this season. It is a basic offensive concept. Have the outside receiver run a slant, while the inside receiver runs an out. Not tough to defend or recognize. Both Hester and McDonald should have been prepared for that on film, neither looked it.
Nor was there any excuse for having Sheldon Price in press coverage (but for some reason turned facing the QB instead of standing face-to-face with Allen) with no safety help on the wide side of the field. Is it possible Andrew Abbott should have been over the top on that 34 yard TD to Allen? Yeah, but there were three wide (I think a TE and two WR) to the short side of the field and Tevin was playing man, so Abbott looked to be in a single safety look (which also makes no sense when he is our best man-to-man DB) and had to account for the bigger threat. Price gets burnt and never got his hands on Allen. Seen this story before. Far too many times.
All this site and the media talked about was Cal's WRs. The mismatches there were obvious. Everyone knew they were going to test Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester and any other DB lined up in man coverage. That is coaching, that is execution by the players, that is Cal doing what they should have done.
Run defense did a good job early in both halves. I'll get much more in detail about that later on in the Eye Test.
Not the best defensive effort of the year, by a long stretch. D- (0.7)
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
On the simplest level, no.
I'm going to harp on play-calling here, which I hate doing because so much that we don't know about goes into it. But I just do not understand how Johnathan Franklin ever gets less than 20 touches in a game.
I openly admit to being a traditionalist when it comes to football. I love the power, I love I-formation, two tight ends and a fullback smashmouth football. It's difficult for me to root for the spread as a fan.
I understand that the N-Zone offense prides itself on spreading the ball around. That is enjoyable because it allows an opportunity for so many players to shine. Like Jordan Payton, who is going to be so good. Like Jerry Rice Jr., who continued to be UCLA's best downfield blocker. Like Steven Manfro, who got schemed out of the offense this week. Like Ricky Marvray, who finally looked healthy for the first time in a year on Saturday.
I get that. I enjoy that.
But..the run game was working last night. For all the problems the O-line had picking up Cal's blitzes in the pass game, they controlled the line of scrimmage on run plays and there were holes every time Franklin or Thigpen took a hand-off (Thigpen only had one carry, which seemed odd with how ineffective Jordon James was on his touches). Despite this obvious hole in Cal's defense (worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 coming into the game), UCLA threw the ball over 50 times, counting sacks.Total offense was only 382 yards last night. The Pistol got 386 against a better Cal defense last season.
Also, the power play at the goal line needs to stop happening. Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh and Keenan Graham can score all the touchdowns in the world on play-action passes out of that formation; but they should not be blocking a power left for Franklin. Datone completely whiffed at TE and got Franklin hit three yards behind the line of scrimmage. UCLA has fullbacks, David Allen has done a fine job there. Joseph Fauria does an okay job blocking when he isn't in space on a cornerback or safety. I've liked what I've seen out of Jordan Barrett (transfer TE) and Ian Taubler. Let your TEs and offensive lineman run power. The big guy package is entertaining; but it's one dimensional and teams can defend a DE running an out route if they know it's coming.
If the adjustment to get Franklin more touches isn't made for the rest of the season, then Mazzone has failed in the second half of the year. This game suffers for taking the ball out of Franklin's hands when he was making plays every time the ball was in them. D (1.0).
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
12 penalties. 99 yards. Bumped UCLA up to 3rd in the NCAA in most yards penalized per game, curiously behind undefeated Oregon State and undefeated Louisiana Tech.
I want to go through each one in the play-by-play and break down what i remember.
1. Datone Jones offsides on a 2nd and 3 to give Cal a first down. Jumped the hard count. Maynard did a good job with that all game.
2. Aaron Hester personal foul to give Cal a first down after a 3 yard pass where he and Sheldon Price decided to throw Treggs on the ground four yards out of bounds. Led to a field goal after a big stop near the goal line.
3. False start by Jake Brendel. Most confusing penalty in football to me is a center false starting. They control when the play starts. Just makes no sense. This turned a 2nd and 3 into a 2nd and 8.
4. Personal foul on Shaq Evans after he decided to punch a Cal corner in the face-mask. This negated a 5 yard catch by Jerry Johnson on the opposite side of the field and turned another 2nd and 3 into a 2nd and 18. The third and fourth penalties happened on the same drive in the first quarter. Really promising drive turned into a punt.
5. Aaron Hester checks in again with a holding call on a punt that was fair caught by Damien Thigpen. Made a drive start at the Cal 15 instead of the 25.
6. Offsides by UCLA's defense on the 4 yard line of Cal. It was a linebacker jumping on the hard count by Maynard while trying to blitz up the middle. I think it was Eric Kendricks, someone in the game thread thought it was Ryan Hofmeister. I'm not sure. It wasn't that costly because it was a two yard penalty and Cal would have scored a TD regardless with the way UCLA's DBs covered in the redzone.
7. Substitution infraction by UCLA's offense. 12 men on the field. Penalty is completely on the coaches. Turned a 3rd and 7 into a 3rd and 12. This was followed by a botched deep ball to Devin Fuller (I'll get into his appearance later) instead of trying to pick up some yards underneath with something like a hand-off to Franklin and make the FG try within 40 yards for Fairbairn. instead our freshman kicker who is reliable within 40 yards, missed a 46 yard try by hooking it about 5 yards too soon. Penalty probably cost UCLA points at a point where points made a difference in the outcome.
8 (not penalized). Aaron Hester got called for another holding penalty on the punt return fumble by Steven Manfro. Naturally Cal turned this penalty down to keep the ball they were gift-wrapped inside of the UCLA 40.
9. UCLA started off the second half by getting called for a block in the back by Randal Goforth. This was an ill-advised kick return by Thigpen anyway because he was a few yards deep in the end-zone. But the block in the back caused UCLA to start their opening drive at the 8 yard line. Not setting up for success.
10. Cassius Marsh jumps offsides to give Cal a first down on a 3rd and 2. UCLA had just scored to cut the score to 23-14. UCLA was in position to get the ball back about halfway through the 3rd quarter. Maynard got another Bruin with a hard count.
11. Aaron Hester makes his fourth and final appearance in the penalty showcase. After missing two tackles in the open field on the drive, Hester manged to miss his third by grabbing C.J. Anderson's face-mask as he ran by and gave Cal a first down on a 2nd and 21 play, turning a potential 3rd and 13 into 1st and 10. Play after was the Keenan Allen TD on Sheldon Price.
12. The next penalty says it is a hold by Todd Golper, which is incorrect. It was Ben Wysocki, filling in for one of UCLA's freshman tackles, who both missed time due to either ineffectiveness or injury. Turned a 2nd and 6 into a 2nd and 16. Converted that on a big play to Shaq Evans; but the next play was intercepted and returned 57 yards.
13. Final penalty. A hold by Jeff Baca. Turned another 2nd and 6 into an 2nd and 16. Followed by a sack and another interception on a forced pass to Evans.
There's a lot of experience in those mistakes.These aren't aggressive penalties for the most part. I'd be fine with those.
The UCLA return teams, both kick and punt return, were atrocious. Really bad. Thigpen had a couple nice run-backs; but overall it was poor performance by those guys. Some changes should be coming there.
I don't need to go much deeper into these issues because they speak for themselves. UCLA played crappy, thus the grade is crappy. D (1.0)
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
Offensively, I can't say that the team didn't play hard. They played sloppy as hell. They turned the ball over 5 times (one additional TO on the punt return). They either ran incorrect routes or threw to incorrect routes. They missed blitz pickups and got steamrolled by a few D-lineman. But they played hard.
I honestly can't say that on the defense. Which worries me. Explanation to follow.
Overall, defense did solid against the run. To what degree that was impacted by Maynard completing passes at will is inconclusive; but the numbers tell the story below.
Until 8 minutes left in the 4th, the defense had held Cal to 74 yards on 33 carries. Just over 2 yards per carry is impressive at any level.
But giving up 112 yards on 9 carries at the end of a game is embarrassing effort to end a game. Especially when topped off by a run of 68 yards on Cal's final offensive play. That is quitting at the end of a game. That worries me because of last season.
Grade suffers the worst that it has all season here because I am genuinely concerned about how the defense finished the game. D+ (1.3). I don't believe it has been below a B in any game this season before Saturday night.
5) Do our players execute?
This somehow will probably end up being the highest grade of any on the game. It won't be good by any stretch; but let's get into it.
Three of the interceptions by Hundley were targeting Shaq Evans. I believe the other was tipped at the line of scrimmage; but I am not 100% on that.
One was a miscommunication between the two that got picked off in the end-zone on a great interception by a Cal defender. Evans looked like he stopped at the first down marker expecting a hitch. Hundley threw to the front pylon expecting Evans to run a shallow fade route. Not sure which was at fault, probably both of them.
The second and third were both Hundley forcing the ball while two (or three) Cal defenders were in position to make a play on the ball.
The turnover that bothered me most was the swing pass to Devin Fuller. I made it clear in the first half game thread that I was not a big fan of the decision to have Fuller learning WR and playing it this week. There is not a need at WR. If 11 guys are catching the ball every week, adding an athletic quarterback to the rotation at WR doesn't improve the offense. I don't like burning QBs redshirts for absolutely no reason (Richard Brehaut versus San Diego State). It's bad long term, and it is unnecessary in the short term.
The turnover was just a lack of chemistry on a swing pass from Hundley to Fuller. I fully expected that play to be the first defensive TD against UCLA when I saw it on the ground. Luckily Cal fell on it for some reason, instead of scooping it up with nothing but grass in front of them.
The fumble on the punt return was fluky. Not putting a ton of stock into that. Just a worst case scenario. Freshman blocking his butt off happened to run into Manfro while he was camped underneath the ball. Killed momentum; but it was fluky. Can't blame that on execution.
The penalties and poor coverage decisions aren't execution failures by the defense.
Those mistakes are much more in line with Questions 1 and 3 and 4. There weren't a ton of missed tackles, excluding Hester on the edge. It wasn't a good game by any stretch of the imagination; but this aspect was at least slightly better than blowouts from years past.
Make no mistakes, the blowout still happened. It was still hideous and still embarrassing to watch and think about. The grade is just a little bit better than the rest of the group. C- (1.7)
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
I'm going to go off-script a little with this question and talk about accountability. That is the responsibility of a leader. To hold your teammates accountable and make them better.
The offense played poorly overall. This question has been Brett Hundley's playground this season; but throwing 4 interceptions and fumbling aren't what pops into my head when leadership is thought of.
Where is the leadership on the defensive side of the ball?
Cassius Marsh played one of his best games as a Bruin. I'll shout him out; but a good game doesn't mean the player was a leader. I personally feel like the defensive line played an above average game, so this isn't an indictment of them by any means. It's just frustrating to see no one step up on the defense and hold Price or Hester accountable.
I tread carefully with this because I have to explain what I'm going to say. But youth is a factor in this respect.
The players that end up leading this team are too young to do so. I've touched on this before, mostly last season. Why would Randal Goforth or Marcus Rios listen to Hester or Price's leadership? Are Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien and the other young WR supposed to respect Shaq Evans after he punches another player in the face (and was suspended last season for doing so as well in the Arizona debacle).
If those who are supposed to lead cannot do so, how can the future leaders be expected to do better?
This grade is a D (1.0), solely because of my respect for Johnathan Franklin not going insane and for Xavier Su'a Filo stepping up and playing the best LT any UCLA tackle has played since he left for his mission.
Cheesy as this may sound, I'm going to end this with a quote from Remember the Titans.
"Attitude reflects leadership, Captain."
Put up or shut up, seniors.
Final Grade Card for Cal Bears
Based on the discussion here is how it shapes up:
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? [D-: 0.7]
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? [D: 1.0]
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? [D+: 1.3]
5) Do our players execute? [C-: 1.7]
6) Do we have leaders on the field? [D: 1.0]
Cal GPA: 1.1
For perspective, the overall GPA at the end of the regular season was 1.61 last year. Not even comparable to the Rice game (3.27) or the Nebraska game (3.48) or the Colorado game (3.33), and a huge step down from what was previously an ugly loss to Oregon State (1.62).
Through the first six games, UCLA ended up 4-2. Is that what people expected? Close to it. After the first 3 games, 6-0 or 5-1 looked realistic and that is what the record should be.
The way UCLA has looked for quarter-long or 5-10 minutes stretches of games this season showed up for 4 quarters in Berkeley. It was ugly the whole way through. This grade would not have been much higher if UCLA had pulled out a sneaky win.
Next week UCLA gets Utah at the Rose Bowl. It'll be interesting to see how UCLA's interior OL handles the best defensive player in the Pac-12 and one of the best players in the country.