Key to the Game: A Look Back at the Key Play from UCLA vs. Arizona

Andrew Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

The sixth installment in a series looking at the key play from each UCLA Pac-12 game from the 2012 season. This week looks at the Bruins' 66-10 victory over the Arizona Wildcats.

On the night that UCLA debuted the extremely well-received LA Nights alternate uniforms, the Arizona Wildcats happened to be at the Rose Bowl. Arizona looked like it was going to be quite the opponent. Even if Matt Scott had been suffering from obvious concussion symptoms that were overlooked by his coach Rich Rodriguez and the team medical staff. In a karmic way, the result of this game makes perfect sense.

66-10. That’s where this ended up.

In the biggest beatdown of the season, how can I be expected to pick out one play that was the key to the game? When you beat a team by 56 points, what moment was the difference?

Getting off the bus?

The point where it went from 14-0 to 21-0?

One of the six 3-and-outs or 3 turnovers?

It isn’t possible. So, I picked out the most important play instead.

Setup:

After taking the opening kickoff, Brett Hundley got off to a quick start by completing two passes to Shaquelle Evans and Johnathan Franklin. Another 10 yards by Franklin got the senior running back within shouting distance of the all-time UCLA rushing record of 3713 by Gaston Green. Breaking the record was a foregone conclusion, it was just a matter of when and where. After a incompletion on first down, Hundley completed two more short passes to Evans and Devin Fuller. The 4-yard pass to Fuller gave the Bruins a 1st and 10 at the Arizona 37-yard line.

Positioning and Execution:

(The play here is the entire video. Thanks to puntingiswinning for uploading this.)

WRs vs. DBs:

UCLA lines up in a 4-WR set with Jerry Johnson split on his own outside of the numbers at the bottom of the screen. On the opposite side, UCLA has a trips alignment. Jordan Payton is split wide, with Devin Fuller inside of him. In the slot, Shaq Evans is on the right hashmarks.

To counter this look, the Wildcats are in a 3-3-5 look in their Nickel package. The cornerback over Jerry Johnson is giving a little over 5 yards of cushion, as is the defensive back over Evans in the slot. No defender is directly over Fuller. The corner covering Payton is giving up 10 yards of cushion. The Arizona safeties are two-high, with the safety at the top of the screen shaded over Fuller to help with the trips set. The safety to the bottom of the screen is between the numbers and hashmarks.

OL vs. DL/LBs:

The Bruins have their normal starting lineup in the game. Simon Goines and Jeff Baca at the guard and tackle on the right side, Torian White and Xavier Su’a-Filo on the left side and Jake Brendel at center.

Arizona has 3-down lineman and 3 linebackers stacked over the top of the lineman. Next, I’ll break down their alignment a little further. The end-linebacker stack at the top of the screen are both outside eye of Simon Goines. That linebacker has to have eyes on Evans in the slot to eliminate the possibility of a hot route from Hundley if the play had happened to be a pass. The middle stack is lined up almost even with the ball over Jake Brendel. The stack at the bottom of the screen is a little late to line up, but end up similar to the other side in being outside-eye of the tackle Torian White.

Backfield:

This is a very simple alignment. Brett Hundley is in shotgun here with Johnathan Franklin to his left about a yard behind him. As I discussed in an earlier post, this is a dead giveaway for a zone read type of play as a defense. The play doesn’t end up being a zone read, but a run here was clear as a pre-snap read.

Analysis of Action during the play:

WRs vs. DBs:

On the backside, the wrinkle is the fake bubble by Fuller in the middle. The nickel back over Evans, commits up to the fake here and has no chance to get into pursuit after taking a few steps towards Fuller.

Payton runs a clearout designed to commit the corner to the deep route and keep him away from pursuing the play. It works out perfect here because the corner settles and tries to get hands on Payton as he runs by. When he realizes that it is a run play, he is two yards from the sideline and Franklin is headed towards the numbers on the opposite side of the field.

Evans, to be honest, doesn’t do anything but chase Franklin on this play. Can’t elaborate too much.

On the playside, Jerry Johnson stock blocks the corner. The corner dips inside, probably getting the best read of any defender on the field. Johnson does an outstanding job here of not clipping. He gets perfect position on the defender, sealing him off from having a chance at tackling Franklin. The defender has no choice but to drop and try to sell the clip by Johnson, which even the Pac-12 refs manage to realize didn’t happen.

OL vs. DL/LBs:

Here’s an individual breakdown of each lineman’s role on the play.

Simon Goines:

Goines has a tough job on this play. I believe his responsibility is to block the first threat on the backside. Normally, this would end up being the linebacker to the outside or the slanting defensive end. However, both of those players end up going to the outside (which is certainly not what the defensive coordinator wanted to happen), so White has to try and get to a middle linebacker that is lined up in the middle of the field while the run is going to the opposite side. That would be an almost impossible for an All-Pro NFL right tackle, much less a freshman in college. The fact that Goines got hands on #33 (see on the original block at :05 and at :28 where he gets engulfed by other blockers at the point of contact) is a big part of why this play gets sprung.

Jeff Baca:

Baca is the pulling guard on this play, something he excelled at as a Bruin. On this particular play, the first threat that emerges is the playside linebacker. He gets out-athletic-ed (just made that word up) and ends up having the linebacker duck underneath the block into the natural running lane. Baca, a damn good athlete himself, manages to turn almost on a dime to get enough of the linebacker to help push him a yard upfield using the linebacker’s inward momentum.

Jake Brendel/Xavier Su’a-Filo:

Brendel and XSF have a combo block on this play, which is always easier when done by the two best natural blockers on the team. At the snap, Brendel gets good leverage and would have been in a good position to block the noseguard on his own. XSF comes in to tip the scales. Look at where the noseguard is at :04 compared to where he ends up at :06. XSF actually knocks him into Simon Goines. It’s a beautiful piece of blocking and physical dominance by one of the best lineman in the country. Not content with pancaking a noseguard, XSF picks up the middle linebacker as well which completes an absolutely perfect combo block.

Torian White:

White’s job on the play is straight-forward. All he has to do is seal the DE to the outside. Because the end is already outside-eye, he can’t mess it up unless he falls down. What I’d like to note on this play is how fast White was flying downfield after Franklin broke away. He’s flying after the DE once he breaks off of White’s 4 seconds of blocking.

Overall, very good job by the offensive line. They were matched up against an ideal formation, but the middle of the line is a strong point as it was throughout the year.

Backfield:

Brett Hundley’s job is to just hand off to Franklin. The story here is Johnathan Franklin. Franklin takes the handoff, and the play look to be designed to go up the middle. Had he taken the play inside, it’s probably a 5-yard gain. Instead his instincts lead him outside and he cuts around Baca’s block of the linebacker, sprints past Johnson’s stock block of the corner and arrives at his only real challenge of the play. The safety is the last line of defense for the Wildcats at the 30-yard line. He is in a bad position to tackle right away, overcommitting to the outside instead of using the sideline as the 12th defender it is, and Franklin makes him miss easily. Luckily for that safety, this play won’t be replayed over and over in every UCLA highlight film because it was a record breaking run. Wait a second...

Aftermath:

From there it is just a race between a safety and a guy who happens to run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash. Franklin gets to the endzone and what happens after was one of my favorite moments from last season.

Franklin gets his moment in the sun and is recognized in front of the largest home crowd at a UCLA game since 2008. Great moment for the best running back in UCLA history.

In this game, Franklin would end up rushing for 162 yards and UCLA would score 8 more touchdowns before the game would end in a 66-10 victory. This win moved the Bruins to 7-2 overall with a 4-2 record going into the Washington State game with a ton of momentum, having won 3 straight against Pac-12 South teams.

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