Spaulding Roundup: Duck Droppings and Looking Forward

Brett Hundley talks about the Bruins' offensive struggles - Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

The Bruins begin preparations for Colorado by revisiting the Oregon game and trying to learn from their experience.

The two biggest games on the schedule are done and the Bruins are still dealing with the mess left afterward.

I don't think it is completely fair to be down on the team simply because of the losses, but it is absolutely fair to be down because of how those losses occurred, particularly on the offensive side.  The defense did enough against Stanford and for 3 quarters against Oregon to win those games.  A decent offensive performance would have beaten Stanford easily, and would have made the Oregon game close enough to change the dynamic in that 4th quarter when Oregon pulled away from a tired Bruin defense.

Instead, Bruin fans are left to ask what went wrong and how those mistakes can get fixed going forward.

Brett Hundley and Anthony Barr both met with reporters after meeting today.  All the talk was about the Oregon and Stanford games and how the Bruins need to adjust going forward.

Some initial notes from the interviews:

Props to Ed Lewis for being the first to address the elephant in the room when he asked Brett Hundley directly if the hit he took against Utah has contributed to his struggles we have seen since then.

Lewis: Can you put the Utah rumor either to bed or to rest or even confirm it , that that hit, people are saying that may have been...speculation

Hundley: Oh no. No, not at all. I mean that was a hit. In football, that happens.

Lewis: So that nothing came from that Utah game?

Hundley: No.  Not at all.

So there you have it - if you believe Hundley - lol.  He wouldn't be the first athlete to "inaccurately answer" a direct question about an injury, but props to Ed Lewis for addressing it and Brett didn't seem to make a big deal out of the question or have any trouble responding, so I guess we should take Hundley at his word on that one.

It sounds like Simon Goines will be returning to his left tackle spot on the offensive line this week, which means XSF will probably move back to left guard.  Scott Quessenberry did pretty well at times and got beaten at times at LG on Saturday, and with the redshirt now gone, he will be available to add some depth along the OL.  Jack Wang at Inside UCLA wrote last night about Q's debut.

He held his own against the Ducks' defensive front, even drawing on his background in the middle of the line to make reads. Throughout the game, he was seen communicating with center Jake Brendel.

"He was kind of making all the calls that I couldn't make, couldn't see," said Brendel, whose recurring struggles with low snaps almost disappeared. "As a freshman, just as a player, he did a really good job."

Quessenberry is also our backup center, so if Jake Brendel has any more struggles, Quiz is now an option to step in.  On that note, though, Brendel handled the center chores and the snaps very well at Oregon.  Wang also added that tackle Conor McDermott may be available to return this week as well.

Here is the Hundley interview. Thanks to Ed Lewis and Bruin Sports Report (via BSR TV on YouTube)

Most of the discussion today focused on the team's performance at Oregon and what they saw after watching film this morning. Hundley addressed what he saw on film and both in himself and with the team as to how they can improve

It was just a lot of things we could have done better  I could have done a lot of things better.  So watching that film, it just showed how good we can be and the steps we have to take to get to that point.

No matter what happens, really you just gotta say I can do better than what I've done these past two games.

I think we learned that we can be a great team, but I think we also learned that in order to be a great team we gotta be consistent. That's on all three facets of the ball...no matter what we're doing.  As long as we're doing what we need to do we can be a really good team, but we have to be consistent with it.

Hundley talked about the challenges of the last two games and how things look for the rest of the season.

I think these next , the last run of the season, I think is a huge thing to finish off strong.  As we can learn from last year, we gotta be able to finish out strong.  We're still in the position of still controlling our destiny.  We do what we have to do, we win our games, we can still be in the Pac-12 Championship, we can still get our berth to the Rose Bowl.

I believe we will play one of them Oregon or Stanford) again and I can't wait for that.

Hundley agreed that the offense has been inconsistent lately and hasn't played as well as it could have.  He also noted that the Duck defense didn't do anything surprising, but the problems were in their own hands.

[It's] Just execution.  Obviously I have to do a bettter job just around the ball, just what we're coached to do, and being consistent like I talked about.

That's just one thing of understanding sort of where you're at in the game and not taking a lull and I think that's what we have to do to be that great team is not hit a lull at any point in the game, and gotta be able to play all 60 minutes and play efficient.

We knew what we were getting into and they played what we thought they were going to play.  It all comes down to execution and doing what we were coached to do.

The reporters asked Hundley several questions about playing behind the young makeshift offensive line.  He seemed to agree that it's been a bit of a challenge but that it wasn't enough to account for all of the teams' struggles.   He was also asked specifically whether the playbook was limited due to the changes along the line (thanks again to Ed Lewis for asking the questions we have been wanting to know)

To be honest, at the end of the day, you gotta deal with what you got.  To take that next step, even with me, no matter who is out on the field.  I gotta trust who is out on the field and I gotta play my position to the best of my ability.

We've had a lot of changes on the offense and the plays, at the end of the day, whatever play is called as long as we execute it, anything is possible.  Obviously, we're gonna get back to what we normally do and stuff like that but I believe whatever play Coach Mazzone calls can work as long as we execute it on the field.

It's a difficult point, but you know, I believe the offensive line played a great job at Oregon and they've consistently done a great job.  Obviously there are some times I've got to step up or make somebody miss and keep my eyes downfield so that's something I take accountability a lot and helping them as far as what they have to do.

This is where I'm gonna veer away from what Brett actually said and I'm going to read between the lines on how he said it, because Brett spent more time qualifying this response and shaping it than any other.  I got the definite feeling that the playbook was intentionally limited due to the changes on the O Line. Whether this was necessary and whether it hurt the offense are questions for Mazzone (my answers: no and yes), but it sounds like Brett expects the play calling to open back up now with the return of Simon Goines.

One last thing I noticed in that interview is that Brett was wearing a tank top.  It's 41 degrees here in exile in Colorado.  I miss Westwood.  Sigh.

Anthony Barr met with reporters today as well (I only felt a little better seeing him in a hoodie, because now I know that was just by choice and not by necessity).  Thanks again to Ed Lewis and BSR


Like most of us, Barr felt the defensive performance was pretty good through 3 quarters.

I though we played well for the most part.  Third quarter, two minutes left we were tied, and then, I don't know, it kind of just fell apart a little bit.  It's disappointing.

I think it was just little details, it wasn't anything specific, one player, one person, just a collective group.

Well, you have something to build on I guess, but you have to build on that during the game, you can't wait until after to fix those problems

We've talked before about the adjustments the Bruins have made at halftime through the season, and though we really didn't see much in either of that the last two weeks, we have wondered why the Bruins weren't seeming to make adjustments in game as much.  It is one thing to have a good game plan going in, and it's another for a coach to evaluate and react on the fly.  I think DC Lou Spanos has done a very nice job with the defense this season, but this is an area where the defense still has room for improvement.

Barr felt that the defense was well prepared for Oregon's vaulted team speed and fast tempo.

They're fast, but I don't think we were overwhelmed at any point.   They had that one long run that ended up being a touchdown and that was because people weren't in the right spots.  I don't think it was a lack of speed beating us.

It [Oregon's tempo] was slower than what we practiced, how we prepared for it.  They had a couple series where they were going pretty fast but I think those series ended up with stops. A couple 4th downs.  So I don't think it was a problem.

Barr was asked about Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and he had some really interesting thoughts.

I think he's a real tough guy.  I think people don't give him enough credit for his toughness and his competitiveness. There were a couple plays where he actually got hit, maybe late, I think the one Jordan hit him on the sidelines, and he's actually telling the ref, "Don't blow the flag. That was clean".  That's cool to hear from quarterbacks.  Usually they're the ones complaining the most, asking for that, those penalties.  I respect him for that.

You can't get much better than garnering respect from your opponents after a game like that.  I remember a couple of those hits on or near on the sidelines and cringing, wondering if the flag was coming out.  I also remember Mariota patting Bruin defenders on the helmet a couple times as he was coming back in the field to say nice play.  That's a good guy and a good football player.

Finally, Barr was asked if some of the details the defense needs to work on are the same issues as previous weeks.

A little different.  We installed some different defenses and so we hadn't practiced those for multiple days  that makes it tough.  So far it's just reading the pass keys and getting to a certain spot and setting up and I don't think we did that quick enough especially the linebackers.  If you can do that and make plays on the ball we can actually intercept a couple passes.

I would like to see Barr get a pick and then watch him on the return to see whether he would rather truck the offensive players trying to tackle him or just leave them in the dust down the sideline.

Speaking of Anthony Barr, congratulations to the senior LB on being one of 12 players named as a finalist for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top college linebacker.  Barr is being touted as "the likely winner for the award" by NFL.com.

GO BRUINS!!

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