The "Eye Test": LA Nights Full of Bruin Highlights

Andrew Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

The weekly "eye test" - assessing the performance of UCLA football team considering factors such as level of execution, play calling, intensity and leadership on the field.

Bumped from the fan posts into the cover. Thanks again, IE Angel for all your hard work! - BN eds.

I didn't get that excited during the game on Saturday.

Honestly.

Was I aware that UCLA ran #22 Arizona out of the Rose Bowl just a week after the Wildcats torched Southern Cal and left Matt Barkley's business forever unfinished?

Yes.

Was I aware that winning against the Wildcats meant that UCLA 100% controls their own destiny this season, all the way to a potential Rose Bowl berth?

Yes.

Why wasn't I excited then?

Because I was in shock. Actually shook my head at the TV a few times to try and make it fix the score that I was seeing.

I went into Saturday against Arizona thinking that UCLA would win a close game. I did hint at my feeling of at least one defense showing up in this game earlier this week. I just didn't think it would or could end up being this type of a game.

66 points for the Bruins. 10 for Arizona. The largest margin of victory for UCLA since the season of Route 66 and the beatdown of Houston.

Brett Hundley is looking more like a right-handed Cade McNown every week. Johnathan Franklin might be the best running back UCLA has ever had (hesitantly type that; but numbers-wise it could end up being tough to argue).

Saturday was a crazy game. One that could set up the best UCLA season since 1998. It's tough to stay objective about that. But that's what the "Eye Test" is.

This was fun to write up. This is the most dominant UCLA game on both sides of the ball that I am able to remember.

I was 7 for most of the 1998 season, all I remember is my dad being happy on Saturdays and Sundays because of UCLA and the 49ers. My UCLA memories are the only flaw in my sports fan history. I have seen the Angels win a World Series, the Buccaneers win a Super Bowl, the Lakers win far more NBA Titles than any fan deserves growing up, even my high school won 3 CIF titles and went to 2 other championship games while I was waiting for my high school career to start.

My UCLA memories are 13-9, National Title and Final Four losses and a fluky 10-2 season in 2005. I want UCLA to be what they once were.

Here's to the hope that this is the start of the next great era of UCLA football.

Let's get started with the grades.

1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?

Holding the #4 offense in the country to 257 yards of total offense speaks for itself.

Arizona's first quarter netted 13 plays for 20 yards while UCLA took a 21-0 lead. Arizona's second quarter was basically a drive extended by two ticky-tack pass interference penalties that still ended up in only a FG and another three-and-out. It was an absolutely brilliant first half for the UCLA defense.

The second half was equally as impressive because there was every reason in the world to back off a tad on defense and let Arizona score a couple of cheap touchdowns with a 42-3 lead. But that didn't happen. It was a long night for the Wildcats, Matt Scott (who had no business playing after getting concussed last week, and was unsurprisingly concussed again this week) and Ka'Deem Carey.

The scheme that was put together this week was nearly flawless, the secondary completely shut-down two above-average receivers for Arizona in Austin Hill and Dan Buckner. The two combined for 8 catches and 79 yards a week after combining for 17 catches, 316 yards and 2 TDs. Had Matt Scott repeated his performance from last week against UCLA, he would have started popping up in Heisman talk, instead he ended up going 15-25 for 124 yards and rushing for 4 yards a week after putting up 469 yards of total offense with 4 TDs.

This is probably the ceiling for a defensive performance. It cannot get much better than eliminating a top 5 offense in every way a defense can in the biggest game of the season thus far. There is nothing for me to criticize on the defensive side of the ball. Appreciate that, doesn't happen often. A+ (4.0)

2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?

UCLA had 14 drives in this game. 9 ended in touchdowns, 1 ended with a FG, 1 ended on the 1 yard line with a walk-on RB, 1 started again after Arizona fumbled a punt, and two others ended with punts.

Needless to say, tough to lose a game where that happens.

While most people expected UCLA's offense to do well against Arizona's 110th ranked defense, I doubt many projected 66 points, 611 yards and still feeling like UCLA left a few points on the field.

As I said for the defense, it would have been easy for UCLA to take their foot off the pedal in the second half after being ahead 42-3 at the half. They didn't, Hundley and Franklin controlled the third quarter (and a little too much of the 4th) and UCLA won the second half 24-7. Arizona's defense was 110th coming into the game, they're now the 118th defense in the country.

Brett Hundley is well on is way to one of the most impressive seasons by a QB in UCLA history. Against the Wildcats, Hundley turned in another stunning performance going 23-28 for 288 yards and 3 TDs, adding another TD on the ground. The potential of Hundley is being realized every week. I openly admit that I was in favor of letting Richard Brehaut start at the beginning of this season before handing over the reins because I didn't think UCLA was good enough to suffer through the growing pains of a redshirt freshman QB. I did not expect Hundley to be this good, this soon. I was wrong and I am so glad that I was.

Switching gears, I could sing praises for Johnathan Franklin as a athlete, running back, leader, football player and human being for days, but I'll let his numbers speak for themselves. 24 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns along with another 28 yards receiving. I know I'm only supposed to focus on one game at a time; but breaking records is a special exception. Franklin has put up 3,873 yards as a Bruin with 28 TDs (would be much higher if not for a favorite of mine named Derrick Coleman). Since 2000, he's 3rd in the Pac-12 in career rushing yards and will be 2nd by the end of the year behind only LaMichael James. He deserves all the accolades he will receive and much more. It will be a pleasure rooting for him on Sundays in the future.

Again, there is not much room for criticism on the offensive side of the ball. UCLA controlled Arizona's defense the entire game. Even the second string offense moved the ball easily, with a special shout-out to Melvin Emesibe, Logan Sweet, Will Oliver, Kevin Prince, Steven Manfro, Richard Brehaut, Kody Innes, Kenneth Walker, Kevin McReynolds and all of the Bruins who drove UCLA down the field twice against most of Arizona's first-string defense.

Game was good. Grade is good. A (4.0).

3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?

Oh lord, were there penalties in this game. Way too many flags were thrown in this game on both teams. Some of the calls on Arizona bothered me more than the BS pass interference penalties.

The referees were probably just trying to keep a blowout from getting out of hand like what happened between these two teams last season. I get that. But this was far from a chippy game.

28 combined penalties for 258 yards. There were as many penalty yards as there were offensive yards by Arizona (257-258).

That is a bad job of maintaining the tempo of a game and a bad job by the officials. Seriously, calling a personal foul on Franklin for running on the field to celebrate with Emesibe on his first career TD? Ridiculous.

Still, UCLA is now 118th in the NCAA in penalties, passing Southern Cal in more than one way this week. Deserves at least a footnote in this near-perfect evening at the Rose Bowl.

Also, the two substitution penalties for having 12 men on the field are an issue going forward. One of which was a result of the goal-line set that brings in three defensive players onto offense instead of using fullbacks. That set also was responsible for a false start penalty because Cassius Marsh started running forward before the snap. You know who wouldn't have done that? A fullback or tight end who practices motioning before the snap every day.

On to several positive notes.

The punt return game might have solved itself. Randal Goforth, who had a solid game on defense as well, looked like a natural returning two punts for 48 yards. Smooth runner, shifty, solid burst once he caught the ball and he also caught the ball cleanly. Look forward to seeing more of that as the season continues.

Overall, the special teams looked light-years better than it has the last couple weeks.

This is far from a bad game in this category, probably the best one of the season in this category. But I can't let 130 yards of penalties go by completely unpunished, even if 40 of them were BS. Grade is still good; but not an A like everything else from Saturday. B (3.0)

4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?

At halftime, I was expecting this question to be a tale of two halves.

One of the toughest things to do in sports is stay at a similar intensity level when the game is decided early on. Happens in every sport. Baseball team scores 8 runs in the first inning, the game can end up looking a lot closer than it was by the 9th inning. Basketball team goes up by 30 points, other team goes on a big run to close out the game and make it 15 points.That didn't happen on Saturday night.

The dream first half was 42-3 and the second half was 24-7 and ended after the 2nd and 3rd string offense couldn't punch it in for a third time in the fourth quarter and the second and third string defense continued to shut down Arizona's offense.

For that, Bruins get rewarded with another stellar grade. A (4.0)

5) Do our players execute?

Yet another stellar effort here by the Bruins. Execution was phenomenal in all three aspects of the game. I'm going to use this as another platform to shout-out the great performances by Bruins on Saturday and analyze what went down.

First up, the special teams. It was great. Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked 10 times on Saturday and all 10 went through the uprights. A few PATs raised an eyebrow; but the points count the same. Freshman kicker tied a UCLA record with 9 PATs in a game. He's now 38 of 41 on the year and 11 of 16 on FG attempts. He has turned into one of the better kickers in the Pac-12.

Jeff Locke had another highlight performance for his NFL highlight tape. He's kicked off 62 times and has 52 touch-backs. He also pinned yet another punt inside of the 5 yard line. If anyone worries when Locke is on the field, they are a crazy person.

Punt team showed awareness on a muffed punt by Arizona and recovered a fumble. Big time play by David Allen.

Overall, UCLA won the turnover battle 3-0. Going to win most games where that happens. Not that the UCLA defense needed turnovers with how well they played.

The defensive front seven turned in their most impressive performance to date. Though the individual stat sheet is a little light, the team defense was rewarding to watch.

Seali' Epenesa, Donovan Carter, Cassius Marsh, Datone Jones, Owa Odighizuwa all played well on the defensive line.

Jordan Zumalt, Anthony Barr, Damien Holmes and Eric Kendricks played exceptional against the pass on Saturday and finished tackles all night long in the running game.

Dalton Hilliard and Stan McKay delivered yet another solid performance wherever they were on the field.

The secondary was impressive. If only for one night, both Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price could have fooled me into thinking they were NFL prospects. Breaking up 3 passes and doing well in the running game as well. Tevin McDonald played perhaps his best game of the season, breaking up 2 passes and affecting quite a few more, including a great pass breakup that was given a personal foul despite Tevin attempting to catch the ball and not hit the wideout.

The defense tackled well, played zone well, played man well, finished the game with intensity from the backups (Brandon Willis with a near scoop-and-score on a fumble recovery and Ryan Hofmeister looking good at LB).

Made it easy for our offense to perform well because there was no pressure from Arizona or rest for Arizona's defense.

Obviously Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin played great. And the offensive line dominated the pass rush and run defense of the Wildcats.

The receivers and running backs all deserve some love for their performance. The worst play of the game was a drop by Franklin (with one guy to beat for a big gain in the air) that was negated by a hold.

Jordan Payton is developing into a bigger threat every week. Caught his first touchdown pass against Arizona. I've been pimping him since I watched him during fall camp and he could really become a special player. Has every tool that a receiver could ask for. Speed, size, strength, hands, smarts, blocking ability. He is someone to keep an eye on this season and in the future.

Shaq Evans and Joseph Fauria both had good games, with Fauria catching his 7th and 8th TDs of the season. Looks more like an NFL TE every week. Jerry Johnson was about a half of a football away from getting a 47 yard TD pass that ended up a 46 yard pass. Nice to see him look healthy for the stretch run of the season. Devin Fuller caught two more passes, including a successful version of the play that was a fumble against Cal. He continues to improve. Ian Taubler was on the field quite a bit a TE in the running game. Nice to see Fauria's replacement getting more playing time as the season goes on.

This was an extremely well executed game in every way.

Outside of the defense, this is the most impressive section of the Eye Test. Grade reflects this. A+ (4.0)

6) Do we have leaders on the field?

You can call him JetSki, The Mayor, #23, Franklin, whatever. He is the leader of the offense and a pleasure to watch as a fan. Set the tone early on by gashing Arizona on the opening drive, culminating in his record-breaking 37 yard TD run.

The offensive line, despite playing a small-ish Arizona front-seven, dominated the line of scrimmage. Brett Hundley was only pressured a handful of times and anytime an offense rushes for 300+ yards, the OL gets credit. Alberto Cid, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jeff Baca, Simon Goines, Torian White and Jake Brendel, along with blocking from the WRs and TEs (Ian Taubler was on the field quite a bit throughout the game) were all outstanding.

Defensively, my question of leadership is looking more like it might be answered. Eric Kendricks has been all over the field the last four games or so. He turned in another 11 tackles, 2 sacks and forced a fumble. That is leading by example.

I'll also throw a shout-out to David Allen on special teams and at fullback. The more I watch #41 on the field in any situation, the more I understand why he is a team captain. Recovered the muffed punt, placing the nail over the coffin until the offense hammered it in later that drive.

Leadership was apparent both on and off the field against Arizona, grade reflects that. A (4.0)

Final Grade Card for Arizona Wildcats

Based on the discussion here is how it shapes up:

1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? [A+: 4.0]
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? [A: 4.0]
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? [B: 3.0]
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? [A: 4.0]
5) Do our players execute? [A+: 4.0]
6) Do we have leaders on the field? [A+: 4.0]

Arizona GPA: 3.8

For perspective, the overall GPA at the end of the regular season was 1.61 last year.

This was far and away the most complete game and most dominant game that I have can remember UCLA playing in my time following the Bruins. As far as this year goes, it is not even comparable to the highs: Rice (3.27), Nebraska (3.48), Colorado (3.33), Arizona State (2.7) and Utah (2.72) or the lows: Cal (1.1) and Oregon State (1.62).

The takeaway from this effort is follow through by the Bruins. After the big last-second win against Arizona State, a let-down game would have been easy to see coming. Not many expected an even bigger win against a better Arizona team that had just beaten Southern Cal pretty easily.

Next week, the Bruins head to Pullman, Washington to take on Mike Leach in the middle of nowhere. Washington State got handled by Utah 49-6. Washington State still has Marquess Wilson, who torched UCLA's secondary in a UCLA win last season for 10 catches and 88 yards and for 118 yards in 2010. While Washington State enters the game with an unimpressive 2-7 (0-6) record, UCLA has no reason to sleep on them after the debacle against Cal in Berkeley earlier this year. But if UCLA plays 70% as well as they did against Arizona, then the game against WSU will be over by halftime.

7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12 is a great first nine games of the year. I would be lying if I said I expected to be alone atop the Pac-12 South at the start of November. The Bruins need to finish this season strong. Fizzling out in the last 3 games of the regular season and ending up 8-4 won't satisfy me, nor should it satisfy any Bruin who has been through the last decade plus of UCLA football. I see big things for this team in the upcoming month.

Until next week, Go Bruins!

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