The Bruins are now 2-0 in PAC-12 play and 5-0 overall headed into the next two road games vs. Stanford and Oregon.
1. Initial impressions?
bruinclassof10: A sloppy W but a W nonetheless. I hope we weren't, but it looked like the squad was looking past UC Berkeley and more concerned about next weekend's matchup against the Trees. This just didn't feel as good of a W as the other weeks. UC Berkeley's football team is not in a good place right now.
Bellerophon: While I was impressed with last week's win, I was thoroughly disappointed in this week's win. The mental mistakes, the poor execution on offense, the lack of any killer instinct by the coaching staff was just pitiful. Berkeley's Bears are bad, even by their own rather low standards. Anything less than a 40+ point blow-out of these guys at the Rose Bowl would be coming up short, and boy, did the Bruins come up short. If Hundley is thinking of jumping to the NFL, he better learn real fast to start hitting those open receivers on the deep ball: the kid is simply not ready yet folks.
Achilles: It's actually tough to write these when you've only seen the game from the cheap seats. No replays and, I dunno, just hard to recall specific plays. My initial impression was that we did enough to win fairly convincingly but will have to play better the next two weeks.
AHMB: It seems like a repetitive theme, but we again managed to win the boxscore convincingly but leave more to be desired on film. A 37-10 final score is a good win, even against the lowly Berkeley squad, but we had a chance to put them away very early and instead let them hang around for far too long.
UCLAluv: For once we couldn't get into the endzone when we were in reach. It seemed strange to me because it hasn't been a problem this year. People next to me were saying at least Ka'imi got to get some practice. We need to figure out what to do when they stack the box like that, which I guess we did. But I missed the kicking game.
Ajax: That was the ugliest, least convincing blowout (from the winner's perspective) I think I've ever seen.
IE Angel: Defense good. Offense disappointing. A third straight average performance after two great ones to start the year. Can't complain too much about 5-0, but the level of play hasn't quite been up to the expectations that a team this talented should have.
2. Are you happy with UCLA's offensive performance so far this year?
bruinclassof10: Overall, yes. On an off day, Hundley threw for 410 yards and 3 TD's. We have playmakers all over the field. I do have some concerns though, with the o-line personnel moving around, and sometimes the offense seems "too simple" with 3 straight screen passes.
Bellerophon: Overall, for the year, yes. For this game? No. However, if the Bruins want to show they are a legitimate top-10 team, there's still a lot of room to grow: the vertical passing game needs to tighten up, the running game between the tackles needs work, and the unforced stupid mental mistakes have to disappear. If we give up that many yards on penalties against Oregon or Stanford, we'll get smoked.
Achilles: I'm happy. I think we're flawed in terms of talent on offense. Excellent quarterback and some good but not great receivers. Good runners but we definitely miss Jetski and we missed Jordan James against Cal. We started two true freshmen on the line -- I'm positive that impacted the play calling.
AHMB: Yes. We have the #5 offense in the country with 547 ypg, showing balance with over 200 rushing and 300 passing yards per game, and we're scoring 45 ppg. It hasn't been perfect by any means, but football is a tough game and we're not going to score a touchdown on every drive. This offense can make things look easy at times, which makes it hard to understand when the team struggles, but I think the production speaks for itself.
UCLAluv: Usually yes. But I think Saturday was a real downer for the offense (relatively speaking). I think our young line will improve, but we need to get a balanced approach back. But overall, I'm really pleased with the offense. As others say, the stats say a lot. I love our receiving corps and most of the time Brett is getting time to set up. I do hope Brett can get a little more accurate (okay my expectations have gone way up from previous years), but there were so many times I was ready to go crazy and the ball was just off.
Ajax: After all those years of Dorrellheisal trainwreck offenses, any clear thinking UCLA football fan would be crazy not to be happy with the Bruins' performance on offense so far. That said, the team is clearly not playing up to its potential, which is scary if you think about it.
IE Angel: One of the top offenses in the country by almost every measure. But they have left far too many points on the field. So, am I happy? Yes. But there is so much room for improvement.
3. What are your thoughts on UCLA's offensive playcalling?
bruinclassof10: I was an undergrad from fall 2006 - fall 2010 so I think Mazzone is head and shoulders above any of the other "offensive" coordinators that we had before. I have my concerns about scoring when in the red zone though, especially after the UC Berkeley game. Where's Malcolm Jones?
Bellerophon: As for the playcalling, I'm pleased. We get the ball in space to guys who can make plays (Fuller, Thigpen, Manfro) and the medium-distance passing game has looked good (Payton, Bell, Duarte, Evans), but the deep passing has got to improve and we need to take a shot downfield a bit more often (but I can see why Mazzone is reluctant to do so, given Hundley's lack of accuracy on the deep ball). I'd like to see a better running attack that didn't rely completely on the zone read, but I'm not sure what the solution in the backfield is. I'm not enamoured with Malcolm Jones like many of my colleagues, mostly because when he touched the ball against Berkeley, he looked ineffective and slow hitting the gaps. For a big, bruising back, he should have had no problem punishing the Bears, but with more touches due to James' injury, he didn't do much.
Achilles: I'm not expert enough to really know. I've never really loved Mazzone's swing pass offense from an aesthetic point of view -- I never dug watching ASU the past few seasons, but that's just me. It's effective. I think our roster is lacking more than the playcalling.
AHMB: Yes and no. An offense doesn't put up that many points with poor play calling, so for the most part I've been pleased. I like the way Mazzone uses the inside zone and swing pass to set up the passing game, I like how many players get involved in the running and passing game, and I like the way our offense builds momentum at times where it seems like Mazzone is almost toying with the defense. On the other hand, Utah and Cal both slowed our offense down by loading the box, and it looks to me like our offense needs to be more aggressive in the vertical passing game, and I think the team be more aggressive on 4th downs and not settle for field goals. To channel my inner Spurrier, " Seven points is better than two field goals, did y'all know that?"
UCLAluv: Mostly yes, although I'm not sure why we kept trying to run it up the middle when the box was packed. It seemed that was Berkeley's plan, stop the run. I disagree with Bellerophon on Malcolm. No one hit the gaps this game because there were none. In other games, when he's gotten the ball, he has IMHO gotten through the gap quickly and pulled bodies with him. I do wish we'd gone for it on 4th and short against this team. But the speedy guys are getting out in space and are making the most of it. It is exciting and fun to watch.
Ajax: For the most part I'm happy with the play calling. Coach Mazzone's system does a good job of getting playmakers in space. However, it seems that Coach Mazzone goes overly conservative at times. Overall though, how can you argue with the results?
IE Angel: On a scale of 1-10, I'd be around a 7.5. The playcalling has been outstanding most of the time, but with real head-scratchers along the way. The insistence on the running game against Berkeley made no sense. And I would love to see more routes using the deep middle of the field. That is where Hundley is strongest, in my opinion. He excels on his placement on the intermediate routes 10-15 yards down the field.
4. Which unit has been the biggest surprise to date?
bruinclassof10: The running backs. Although anemic against UC Berkeley, the running back by committee approach has seemed to work so far, with Jordon James being the clear cut top back. Perkins has shown moments of brilliance, as have Manfro and Jones. I like the inside receivers too; Darius Bell was absolutely destroying Bears with his blocks and opening up huge lanes for receivers to run through, true freshman Thomas Duarte had a breakout game with a nice TD and Devin Fuller has been giving defenses fits with his versatility and speed.
Bellerophon: The defensive secondary. UCLA returned only one guy with any real experience (Randall Goforth) and had to replace dismissed potential All-American safety Tevin McDonald. So far, Ishmael Adams, Fabian Moreau, Brandon Sermons, and Anthony Jefferson, who all had little or very limited experience, have really done a fantastic job - and it's not as if they've only faced scrubs so far. Utah just showed us this week that their offense is legit (and very underrated) and Cal's young receivers are very dynamic, so overall, I think they've been the biggest surprise.
Achilles: We're loaded at linebacker. I'm not sure if that's a surprise but the way the unit is dominating is to me.
AHMB: Our secondary has been the biggest surprise, IMO. I thought the running backs would be productive, although Jordan James' numbers have been much better than I thought they would be, but I expected to give up more big plays in the secondary.
UCLAluv: I agree with others, the secondary. They haven't been giving up the big plays and Goforth has been huge in making critical stops.
Ajax: The secondary, by far. Entering the season, the secondary was considered to be a weakness due to the unit's collective inexperience. However, those kids have been playing their asses off. Goforth is one of my favorite players to watch. He's one of those kids that's always around the ball. On the negative side, the DL has not made as much of an impact as I expected that unit to make. Hopefully they will improve as the season progresses. Saturday will be its biggest test to date.
IE Angel: The secondary was going to be my choice, but I'm going to champion the kickoff and punt coverage units and the special teams as a whole to be different. Shaq Evans has been one of the best return men in the country on punt. Guys like Jayon Brown, Steven Manfro, Taylor Lagace, Ryan Hofmeister, Phillip Ruhl, Tre Hale, Damien Thigpen (in his return last week) and many others have played lights out on special teams.
5. Do you think the anemic rushing attack against the Bears was primarily due to absence of Jordon James or was it due to other factors related to rotation of existing personnel and/or playcalling?
bruinclassof10: I think the anemic rushing attack was due to the absence of James and the absence of left tackle Torian White. Shifting players around on the line, has definitely caused some reason for concern. Brendel had a few snaps that Hundley had to pluck out of the air, which caused a slight delay before he was able to hand off the ball. That gave the D some time to penetrate.
Bellerophon: I think it was a combination of the loss of Torian White, the loss of Jordon James, and just general overall lackadaisical effort by the offense. Hundley's stat line is very flattering for how lame the offense looked against Berkeley's pitiful defense.
Achilles: I don't really know. Mora said they were stacking the box to stop the run. From Section 1, I couldn't tell. Losing Torian White is the reason I'm going with.
AHMB: It looked to me like Cal stuffed the box and dared us to do something else.
UCLAluv: Ditto AHMB. I should have read all the questions because I repeating myself again here. The box was stacked. I think James is very different from the other backs. I just think the line couldn't block everyone that was coming or make any space. Mostly I think that was UCB's plan and I think Torian is a big loss.
Ajax: I attribute the Bruins' inability to run the ball effectively on Saturday to the OL. Whether it was blown assignments or just flat out failure to execute, they did not get it done. There were several plays where Perkins got hit behind the LOS or for a short gain, and 2-3 OL would be disengaged from their man. Granted, call was loading the box and trying to take away the run for most of the night, but we need to be better than we were Saturday. I don't think James would have performed any better than Perkins. Also, I would like to see Malcolm Jones get more meaningful carries.
IE Angel: I'd blame the running backs a little bit, the offensive line a lot and the game plan somewhere in the middle. Also have to give the Bears' defense credit. For whatever reason, their strategy was to make Brett Hundley beat them with his arm. He did, and did so pretty easily. But Cal sold out to stop the run. The interior lineman will have to play much better against Stanford to get to 6-0.
6. How should Jim Mora deal with Cassius Marsh? Should he get to play against Stanford if the Pac-12 doesn't take any disciplinary action against him?
bruinclassof10: I thought Marsh had turned a page, but he regressed on Saturday. He's an enigmatic and emotional player, but he needs to show that he can always contain it and play cool. Sure, UC Berkeley players may have "baited him," but he needs to show that he is above that, and show the young guys that this is not the way UCLA football plays. I think he should sit out a half then maybe he won't take PT as granted.
Bellerophon: It's hard for me to comment on something we never got to see. We (well, at least me) never saw any replay of the punch, so it's hard to pass judgment in the blind. The only thing I got from it was the referee explaining the ejection. Let's say he threw a punch: if the conference doesn't impose discipline on top of the ejection, then I think Mora will find an adequate punishment during practices this week that sends the kind of message he wants to send to the younger guys, without punishing the team as a whole by benching one of his best defensive linemen against Stanford.
Achilles: He doesn't need to deal with him at all. He won't get any disciplinary action because a first half ejection is served by missing the second half (a second half suspension results in missing the first half of the next game.) A guy like Marsh -- he's really playing well. I think his emotional play is just part of who he is. I'm more bothered by him lining up offsides (because a nine-year-old knows where to line up) than by him getting in a fight. That stuff happens.
AHMB: I didn't see the alleged punch. If he did swing, then discipline is in order. If not, move on.
UCLAluv: I couldn't see it either so I agree with B. He is a senior and needs to know that he's too old to be taking the bait if that's what is going on. He can't let the other team determine his actions and hurt the team like that. He was out the second half and I think any more discipline, if needed, can be done in practice.
Ajax: That series of plays by Marsh was unacceptable and that point needs to be driven home by the coaching staff. We can get away with idiotic mental mistakes against the UC Berkeley's of the world, but we will pay for those mistakes against the rest of the PAC 12. During my HS football days, I always thought 100 yard bear crawls were a good way for a coach to convey his point (actually, at the time I thought they really sucked).
IE Angel: I trust the staff's judgement on what to do here. I still haven't seen a quality replay of the incident, so I can't speak on it one way or the other. Marsh is a key part of the defense and sitting him out against Stanford isn't going to change the way he plays football. He'll be a fiery guy the rest of the season and in his future in the NFL. And he is an NFL-caliber defensive lineman. If the Pac-12 sees fit to penalize him, then so be it. But I don't see a reason that UCLA should enforce their own punishment on him.
7. What are your expectations for next two games? 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2? Are you going to settle for moral victories?
bruinclassof10: The homer in me says 2-0 but I'd be happy for 1-1. There is no such thing as a "moral victory" to me; a win is a win and a loss is a loss. Stanford just lost to Utah and should be questioning themselves before our game next week, and I think that we have the defensive playmakers to give Mariota a harder time than the Huskies did. We can't play as sloppily as we did against Cal, but if we play all out like we did against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, then we should be able to pull out a W in Palo Alto. As for the Ducks, they seem to have one letdown game a year and the team has been facing some distractions, with DAT (DeAnthony Thomas) nursing an ailing ankle and playmaker Colt Lyerla leaving the team. Marcus Mariota is playing out of his mind but I think we can bring them down to earth.
Bellerophon: My expectation is that we'll play solid football and be in a position to win both games on the road in tough away game environments against a pair of top-15 opponents. That said, my prediction is that we'll win a very close game in Palo Alto but lose by 14-20 points in Eugene. I think the Bruins have the extra bump in their game to get over the Cardinal (remember, they only lost by 3 in the conference title game in a rain-soaked game in Palo Alto last year) and this year's Cardinal squad is not as impressive as last year's team. Oregon's offense is just way too much of an oiled machine. Our mental mistakes will hurt us big time in Eugene and the Ducks will take advantage. We'll score too but we won't be able to keep up in the foot race, at least not yet.
AHMB: A football season may be a marathon, but it's playing in short bursts. I won't know what I expect against Oregon until after I watch them play Stanford. I'm not the type of fan that typically says that fans can't look ahead, because we can, but I just don't know what to expect over the next two weeks. Those two road trips are incredibly tough, and they are two very different opponents.
UCLAluv: I expect us to beat Stanford and possibly Oregon. We will have to get rid of all of the mental mistakes and come out much sharper than we have. But the defense has been really improving this year and I think they can disrupt Oregon and Stanford. We have speed, strength, and smarts on d and we need to use it. Marsh cannot be getting 2 penalties in a row and then kicked out. His emotion makes him great. His emotion then hurts the team. He needs to find the way of the masters in controlling that. I am not saying I could control mine in such a physical, painful game, but it's a great challenge for him to take on. I think Marsh, the o-line, and Hundley coming out solid are the keys to our winning. I think they are the question marks for these games.
Ajax: My expectation is that the Bruins go 2-0. I never expect the Bruins to lose. We have a very good coaching staff that will put together solid game plans for both games and have these kids ready to play. That said, I would not be terribly disappointed if we go 1-1. Stanford and Oregon back to back at their respective houses is a tall task. I hope that the term "moral victory" never crosses coach Mora's lips. Championship teams do not have moral victories.
IE Angel: My mind says 1-1. My heart says 2-0. Going on the road against teams as good as Oregon and Stanford would be a tough task for any college football team in the country. Alabama would be lucky to go 2-0 in these games. But UCLA can and should expect to win both games. because that is the mentality that a BCS caliber team should have. Prepare as best they can, go up north and ball out and let the cards fall where they may.
8. Extra Credit?
bruinclassof10: Sonny Dykes is great for UC Berkeley football. Ed Oregeron is even better for Southern Cal football. I heard a lot of people complaining about the W over Cal. I'll take complaints about wins over feeling great about moral victory losses any day. (Yes, I suffer from Battered Bruin Syndrome and no, I do not believe in moral victories or feeling good about losing to a good team).
Bellerophon: Muscles Junior is a much better referee than Glasses Ref. And I'm not just saying that because he can beat me up.
Achilles: "Ed O" is now and forever the great Ed O'Bannon -- we need to find another name for SC's head coach. I'm giving myself extra credit for attending every home game so far this season and for already having tickets to the rest. I can't remember the last season where I managed to attend every game. I'm also giving honorary captain Cheyane Caldwell extra credit because I haven't heard his name since he played for UCLA. Way to go, Cheyane!
AHMB: We finally got a few upsets in college football this past weekend, and our guys have a chance to make more noise in the BCS picture of the next couple of weeks. I can't wait for the game on Saturday, and hopefully our guys can finally take out the Tree.
UCLAluv: "Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power." -Lao Tze
Ajax: The Bruins are 5-0, in the top 10 and in the discussion for a BCS bowl bid. If someone would have told you that we would be in this position in the aftermath of 50-0 two years ago, what would your response have been? While it hasn't been a perfect season, this program is clearly heading in the right direction. UCLA football is fun again. A win at Stanford this Saturday will make it even more so.
IE Angel: Teams that can have a case to play in the BCS-title game if they win out are: Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, UCLA, Louisville, Baylor, Texas Tech, LSU, Texas A&M, Stanford, Missouri, Miami, South Carolina and maybe Georgia. At least 3 of those schools will be off the list by the end of Saturday. UCLA is essentially playing a single-elimination slate for a BCS title. They've made it through 8 weeks unscathed. If they make it through 10 weeks undefeated, they'll be a favorite. When is the last time a Bruin fan could say that without sounding biased.
Feel free to fire away with your own answers!