After a rough back-to-back road stretch, the Bruins initially felt a "hangover" before playing like the Bruins from earlier in the season. UCLA is now 6-2 (3-2 in the Pac-12) after the victory over Colorado.
1. The Good?
Achilles: I thought I saw a shift from all of those flat passes to more downfield throws, which is a good thing. Devin Fuller had a very good day and it would be great if he turned out to be a "go to guy" in the offense. Some very good catches by the ends, I like the rotation of Payton, Fuller, Evans and Duarte.
gbruin: Brett Hundley looked like he regained some confidence, especially with Devin Fuller, and the O Line did a good job pass blocking. Damien Thigpen added some real pop that we've been missing in the run game. It looked like after the predictable start that the offense did open up a bit. We need more of that.
bruinclassof10: After a slow offensive start, Hundley looked like Brett Hundley again. I think we have a future star in Devin Fuller too. I can't remember the last time a UCLA wide receiver scored 3 times in one game.
Ajax: Devin Fuller was awesome. Pass pro was good. Kick coverage, especially Cameron Judge, was very good. 80,000+ fans in the Rose Bowl for a game against a bad Colorado team was also good.
IE Angel: The passing game and the special teams play, especially the kickoff and punt coverage units. Like everyone else said, Hundley looking like a monster again was enough to make a game that could have been scary a relative blowout.
Odysseus: What a surprise, the passing game goes to intermediate and deep passes and the passing game looks better. Maybe some of this has to do with the level of competition, but to me, the playcalling and Hundley's decisionmaking looked much better. I'm not as opposed to the swing passes and bubble screens as some, but they have to be a part of the offense, not all of it.
Bellerophon: Damien Thigpen made his return and it was good to see that he can still make things happen when he gets into the open field. Perhaps he'll help with Mazzone's insistence on the swing passes and bubble screens since he's excellent in space. I was glad to finally see someone get Mazzone to open up the offense more and let Brett throw down the field. Duarte is going to be a very good player for us over the next few years.
2. The Bad?
Achilles: No running game to speak of. Teams are crowding us at the line, forcing us to throw over the top. Against Stanford and Oregon we couldn't do it. Against a weaker Colorado team, we did. But the next four games are against opponents who are better than Colorado, we'll need to find a running game.
gbruin: The D line didn't handle the CU run game very well, and I think the absence of Eric Kendricks was pretty notable. The secondary sacrificed too much short and underneath stuff in exchange for not getting beaten deep. They have room to tighten that coverage up.
bruinclassof10: Like gbruin said, we need EK in the middle.
Ajax: The running game was bad. Mazzone needs to figure out a way to get our RB's in space. Maybe establish short passing game first? Penalties also continue to be an issue, although several calls Saturday night were highly questionable. Third-down defense needs to be tightened up.
IE Angel: The penalties throughout made the defense look like they played worse than they actually did. This team is not good enough to get away with 120+ yards of penalites. Oregon and Baylor are because of their offenses and clear team identities, the Bruins aren't there.
Odysseus: Penalties reared their ugly head again. The running game needs to get clicking.
Bellerophon: The defense took a step back against a very mediocre Colorado defense, but if this is the biggest letdown that Spanos unit has, I'll take it. The inside running game is still poor and I wish we'd see more of Malcolm Jones. The penalties continue to be a major problem.
3. The Ugly?
Achilles: A ton of stupid penalties. If there is anything that a coach and a staff can clean up, it's penalties. I mean, if we had a few pass interferences because guys got beat and they held on to prevent a big play, fine, that happens. But we're roughing the qb, we're offsides .... just dumb stuff and dumb stuff gets you beat.
gbruin: penalties and the flat start. We're 8 games in and are aiming to get back to the Pac-12 Championship game - it's time to focus and do these things right for 60 minutes.
bruinclassof10: Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. Some of them were on the SPTR's, the others were boneheaded plays on our part.
Ajax: The slow start on D. How do you let CU run the ball as effectively as it did? UCLA's front 7 is way too talented to get pushed around by Colorado's OL. Also, UCLA should not have so many 3-and-outs against a PAC 12 bottom dweller.
Odysseus: Penalties. Need we say more?
Bellerophon: The entire first quarter. Getting dominated by the bottom feeder in the division is never acceptable, let alone at the Rose Bowl. Watching Colorado just manhandle the Bruins on both sides of the ball in the first quarter was pitiful. You could hear the boos beginning to come down when Mazzone's offense came up with its second vanilla three-and-out in a row.
4. Jim Mora talked about "managing expectations" and growing pains after another lackluster UCLA performance at the Rose Bowl yet it was him who talked about this season as an "opportunity" to breakthrough. What were your reactions to his post-game comments?
Achilles: I feel like there is typically a disconnect between what coaches say and what they are really thinking and feeling. In general, I feel like Mora is pretty good with the media, you don't get the feeling he's just bullshitting like his predecessor. But I also don't think he's great at handling the media either.
gbruin: I found that "managing expectations" line strange, since Mora is the one who all season has been pushing expectations and saying that his expectation is to win the conference this year, so I wrote it off as coachspeak with not much weight. Overall, I don't listen to his words as much as I listen to his tone. After Oregon, he had to catch himself from swearing a few times and you could easily tell how emotional he was, and that made those comments mean more. The CU postgame sounded more like the standard PR stuff.
bruinclassof10: As long as Jim Mora doesn't start talking about relentless optimism, buckets and justify punting as winning, I won't read too much into it just yet but I sure hope "managing expectations" doesn't mean settling for moral victories. Screw that. I sat through enough moral victories as an undergrad. Don't need them. Don't want them.
Ajax: Managing expectations is not Coach Mora' job. Coach Mora's job is to make sure the team is playing to its full potential each and every week. We have seen glimpses of what this team is capable of when it plays to its full potential. As long as this team plays to its full potential, managing expectations will not be necessary.
IE Angel: I'd say the worst thing was the energy level at the start for the offense and throughout the game for the defense. I said in the Eye Test that it seemed like UCLA's defense was just on the field, not really a factor in the game either way. And the way Colorado dominated UCLA's running game (aside from Hundley) is really concerning moving forward against much better defenses (Arizona State and Southern Cal both are stout up front).
Odysseus: I'm not going to read too much into it except to say that if Mora and the team make it back to the Pac-12 title game, I'm not worried about it as much as if we hear the same type of comments after a late-season collapse. This team is young, but plenty talented enough to win the South if the coaches and players do their jobs.
Bellerophon: I thought it was pretty lame and limp-wristed. If you want to be the big dog in the conference, then you need to talk the talk and walk the walk. You don't hear Helfrich talking about "managing expectations" or any of that other garbage. I'll wait to see how the Bruins finish this year, but given the slate, we should win out and be in the Pac-12 conference game. Hell, even the main guys at BRO had the Bruins going 10-4 overall and falling short to the Ducks in the title game, so it's not like we're out in the wilderness with our expectations.
5. How concerned are you about the fact that UCLA has not played one complete game the entire season?
Achilles: I hadn't thought about it that way. Were Utah or Nebraska incomplete performances?, because I thought those were good road wins in hostile environments. I guess I think this team is good, but flawed. I feel our defense is very talented, capable of being dominant but not always dominant and the offense has been a been inconsistent. No one is making excuses, but losing both starting tackles and our starting running back (who was fifth in the nation in rushing when he got hurt) definitely made a difference.
gbruin: I'm concerned in the fact that to get where we want to go, meaning on par with Stanford and Oregon, we need to be a complete team. It's nice that we're at a level where our incomplete efforts beat most teams, but no one should be satisfied with being the "next best team after Stanford and Oregon". This coaching staff needs to figure out how to get this team's best execution for an entire game.
bruinclassof10: I hadn't really thought about this either. I remember the 2005 season was the season of the "Cardiac Kids." I think we have too much talent on this roster to not be putting together complete games.
Ajax: To answer this question I tried to remember the last time UCLA played "complete game," and what such a game looked like. I think I'd have to go back to last year's Arizona game, where UCLA came out on fire on both sides of the ball and never really let up. The PAC 12 Championship game against Stanford was close to a complete game as well. One blown coverage was the difference. Although UCLA beat U$C, I don't know if one can really call that a complete game, but it was close, considering the result. UCLA hasn't really had a game like Arizona this season, even against the weaker OOC teams. For UCLA to be at 6-2 without having played a complete game says something about the talent and potential this team possesses. While I am not overly concerned that UCLA has not played a complete game this season, UCLA may need to get close to complete games to beat its opponents in the final stretch.
IE Angel: I think you could make the argument that Nevada and Nebraska were complete wins. That's what the Eye Tests say, so that's the angle I take. I think that we have a higher standard for the performance of UCLA because of the way this program has struggled in the past 10+ years. That's a good thing and a bad thing at times. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State have all played mediocre quarters and halves on both sides of the ball. Every team does, that's just how football works. There can't be more than a few games a season where everything clicks for 4 full quarters, or until the backups get in the game.
Odysseus: I can live with incomplete victories, especially if it seems like the coaches and players are giving their best efforts and have adequately prepared. Even the elite teams have bad games or bad quarters. But yeah, until the team can show that it can play at an elite level against elite teams, this question will continue to arise.
Bellerophon: I pretty much echo everything that Ajax and Odysseus said: the fact we're 6-2 despite never putting together a complete, four-quarter effort on both sides of the ball really shows how much talent is on this roster (I think only the Ducks have more and I believe while we have more playing talent than Stanford, they have better coaching and more experience).
6. Is UCLA the better team today than the one we saw against Nevada in the first game of the season?
Achilles: Yes, I think so. But, I dunno. Maybe we aren't. Like I noted above, we suffered some injuries in the one area we couldn't afford any injuries, along the line. I honestly can't ever remember starting three true freshmen on the offensive line in all the years I've been following the team. So the talent level has dropped just due to injuries. This is a tough question, I'm honestly not sure.
gbruin: On offense, no, and I think it is because of the two tackles being out and Hundley's struggles, which seem as much mental as physical (though I think he's limited by an injury right now). As a result, Mazzone has contracted the playbook and the offense is much easier to defense as a result. On the other hand, I think our defense is better today than in the opener.
bruinclassof10: I think as a team, yes. This team has already been through a lot emotionally and physically, as witnessed by the many injuries on the o-line and the passing of Nick Pasquale. Our offense has definitely regressed though.
Ajax: Defensively, yes. However, the offense has regressed. The regression of the offense can be attributed to a number of factors. The most obvious is injuries to the OL. It is not reasonable to expect an offense to dominate in the PAC 12 with three true freshman on the OL. Another factor with the offensive regression is Hundley. He seems to be very indecisive in the passing game. He needs to get better. However, this is ultimately Coach Mazzone's system. It is up to him to put the players he has available to him in a position to succeed.
IE Angel: My way of answering this is asking myself if I would I rather take the team as it currently sits or the one from the start of the year? I'd rather have this group, with 8 games under their belts and just a few significant injuries.
Odysseus: I'm with gbruin. The offense has seemingly regressed while the defense seems to be better. As a whole, I just don't know. I don't think I can answer that until I see how the team performs down the stretch. In my opinion, this is a good team, not a great team, but if the team is improving, it will do well down the stretch.
Bellerophon: The defense has improved a lot, more than the offense has regressed, so I'll say we've improved slightly. I still think this coaching staff is leaving a lot on the field and the Bruins could be much more convincing and dominant than what we've seen.
7. What is the one word that comes to mind when you think about penalties and UCLA football?
bruinclassof10: Two words for me. C'mon mannnn.
IE Angel: (expletive deleted)
Odysseus: This is a family blog.
Bellerophon: "Mother-f**king-son-of-a-b**ch" is one word when I put hyphens in, right?
8. What are your expectations (not predictions) for the Arizona game on Saturday?
Achilles: I expect to run the ball better, to continue to throw downfield and to contain Arizona's running game. I know we aren't making predictions, but I feel we'll win down there for the first time in a long time.
gbruin: I expect the offense will be overly conservative to begin, especially being on the road, and that it will open up from necessity in the second quarter. I expect the defense will bend a lot to start but will get quite a bit better by the second half. Hopefully those two trends will be enough to get a solid win by the 4th. That sounds like the Nebraska game, right?
bruinclassof10: U of A is the classic trap game so I expect us to put together a complete game and not assume that the Wildcats are an automatic W.
Ajax: I expect UA to be fired up and looking for payback for the beatdown the Bruins put on them last season. It is a PAC 12 road game, so style points are irrelevant. Overall, I expect the staff to figure out a way to escape Tucson with a W.
IE Angel: A win. However it is accomplished, there need to be more UCLA points than Arizona points at the end of the fourth quarter.
Odysseus: Yeah, I'm all for results. I don't care about style points as much as long as we win. Especially in conference, the opposition will be doing its best to prepare as well. Road games are tough, especially if SPTRs do their thing. What we should be able to expect is a solid game plan. Arizona can run, so we should do our best to stop the run and use the entire field horizontally and vertically to open up our running game. The running game really needs to get back on track for the stretch run.
Bellerophon: I expect the Bruins to establish themselves early on the road and take control of a game against a team that really showed how mediocre they are in barely squeaking by Berkeley. The Bruins have a huge talent advantage on both sides of the ball, and while people talk up the "revenge factor" for the Mildcats, the Bruins also have the confidence of knowing they can beat the s**t out of these chumps: I think the confidence will help, especially with Hundley, who I expect should be able to spread the ball around, in the short, intermediate, and long passing game.
9. The Extra Point
Achilles: I felt okay after the CU game, but I always see things a bit different and more positively when I watch in person. I felt like we did to CU what Oregon did to us: started slow, then just pulled away once things got going. I doubt Oregon felt bad against their win against us and I'm not down after beating CU. CU plays pretty hard. Their QB did a nice job of avoiding pressure and moving the ball early on. Finally, I think we started (or at least played extensively) nine true freshmen, including Covington. On offense it was Quesenberry, Duarte, Benenoch and Redmond. On defense it was Jack, Goodman, Isaac S and Vanderdoes. Probably more played that I missed. That's a big deal. If you put aside Covington, we are starting 8 freshmen out of 22 guys, some by necessity and some just because they are among our best players. They are talented which bodes well for the future, but they are young and going to make more mistakes than they will next year and down the line. So, I guess I'm copacetic, I feel we will beat AZ.
gbruin: Every time we say that "this game will tell us a lot about our team", we seem to fall flat. Even at Utah, the offense was ineffective and we benefitted from Utah's QB hitting our DBs so regularly. This is another one of those games, and I want to see us face one of these big challenges by coming out and playing really really well on both sides of the ball so that we leave no doubt that we are the better team. Until we do that, I am always going to have that lingering sense of dread.
bruinclassof10: Remember 2005. We can't fall asleep against conference opponents. That is how we ended up losing to a really bad U of A team, then getting blown out at the Coliseum.
Ajax: I've been to every home game this season, and Saturday night was the first time I have heard boos from the home crowd. Bruin fans are growing tired of the predictable zone read play on first downs time and time again, especially when its clear that the opposing defense is ready for it. I really want to see if Mazzone has what it takes to adapt and modify his system to fit the personnel he currently has to work with. (Achilles: Have to reply to Ajax. First time I heard boos this season as well. The first quarter was frustrating. I kept thinking "a bunch of BNers are here today, because everyone was down on the playcalling early on. I heard lots of anti-Mazzone grumbling in the stands.)
IE Angel: I think that there is a strong chance that in two months, we will all be looking back on this season as a great step forward for UCLA. It has been a disappointing month of football, but UCLA still controls their destiny in regards to the Pac-12 South as well as the Rose Bowl. Win out and no one will remember the Oregon-Stanford slate or a slow October, just the roses.
Odysseus: I'm actually surprised the overall tenor of this post isn't more negative. I'm not down on the performance from Saturday, but it wasn't always pretty. There was plenty to complain about. That said, a win is a win. Colorado plays hard and Mike MacIntyre definitely seems to have Colorado competing, which it didn't do in the past. Credit to them for not giving up. Also, can I just say it sure is nice to have excellent special teams play. Jeff Ulbrich deserves a lot of credit for his work.
Bellerophon: I think people will realize how mediocre Rich Rodriguez is as a coach. Most of his wins came at West Virginia in the very weak Big East (which no longer even exists). He fell completely flat on his face at Michigan and he hasn't had any real breakthrough in Tucson. I think he'll keep the Mildcats in the middle of the conference (which is where they historically belong), but he'll never take them any further than, say, the Karl Dorrell Sun Bowl. I'll put cash money that Mike MacIntyre will turn Colorado around before Rodriguez does the same with Arizona, despite RichRod having the head start.
Feel free to share your own thoughts on this game and other aspects of this season. Bring on the Wildcats!