The Bruins finally stumbled at home, losing to ASU 38-33 despite a last-ditch attempt to score a TD. A missed Fairbairn field goal also led to momentum stalling in the final few minutes.
1. 1st Impressions?
bruinclassof10: This was probably one of the worst played games this season. Our D, curiously without Myles Jack had difficulty against the run. Offensively, Hundley looked hesitant and took many sacks against an aggressive ASU d-line. Fairbairn did not look good either.
Tydides: Like getting beaten with a bag of oranges. Heard a lot of nonsense this season about how we don't have to demonstrate that we can put together a complete game because OMG we still won and scoreboard. Yeah well, that works till it doesn't, and now we got to watch ASU win half the conference on our home field.
Bellerophon: This was one of the worst coached games I've seen, and that includes a lot of the Karl Dorrell deer-in-the-headlights games. Taking out one of our most dynamic defenders and using him only on offense, when the rest of the nation now knows about him, so there's no element of surprise, was incredibly stupid. It not only really hurt the defense (you have to believe that Jack's athleticism and ability to pressure the QB and hunt down RBs would have helped against Kelly and Grice), but it didn't do much to really help an offense that had to play from behind since the defense got carved up. Mora really screwed up here.
gbruin: I thought this would be a tough game, but the way we lost was too frustrating. We dug an insurmountable hole, but mostly from our own doing. We made so many mistakes, coming out flat, missed kicks, giving up 9 sacks, the pick-6, allowing that TD before halftime, moving Jack from defense and getting torched by their run game, too much bland play calling - to name a few. If we had gotten any one of these things right, we win. If we had gotten all of these things right, we win by a mile. And that's the problem. We don't get all the things right, and we don't seem to be making much progress toward that end. So, we are stuck as a good team, but we don't seem to be making progress towards being a great team. That's a damn shame because the pieces are there.
Achilles: Absolutely the worst time to play a terrible first half.
AHMB: The coaching staff's biggest problem at this point seems to be an inability to get consistent play from the team. That was one of the worst first two quarters of football that I've ever seen, but the fact that the team could play well enough in the second half to have the ball with a chance to make a game winning score after being down 35-13 shows how much talent these guys have. That game was too big to have a first half no show.
Ajax: Disappointed. Regardless of our injuries and youth, this was a winnable game. The staff and players were not ready to go defensively until the second half. Good teams don't do that.
Odysseus: Incredibly disappointing but it just goes to show what we've been saying all along. Penalties, an NFL coaching mindset, questionable playcalling and coaching decisions have led us to this point. ASU scored enough points to win in the first half. And yet the team still bounced back and got close, but not close enough.
2. The good?
bruinclassof10: This game should serve as motivation for next season. While the Stanford and Oregon road losses hurt, this one hurt more because it was at home, for the Pac-12 South title and we should have won this game.
Tydides: The Trogans can't be P12 champs.
Bellerophon: The Bruins still have a shot at 10 wins, but will need to drop a resurgent Southern Cal team under Orgeron and then win whatever lame-ass Karl Dorrell style bowl we end up in to get there.
gbruin: Ishmael Adams and the kick return game was fantastic. Shaquelle Evans had a really good game with some clutch plays. And I much give credit, because the SPTRs are typically horrible, but Guns Jr and crew did a pretty good job last night.
Achilles: They didn't give up and had a couple of chances to pull things out.
AHMB: The second half sans the last drive.
Ajax: The Bruins' second half defense was stellar. Ish Adams' punt and KO returns. The kick coverage and return game has been terrific all season. Vanderdoes receiving skills.
Odysseus: The second half defense was very good and there were moments when the offense played well. Clearly the team didn't give up at half time, but the team was so unprepared and so uneven in the first half they just didn't quite have enough to get it done. We don't believe in moral victories and this was a hugely damaging and disappointing loss, but obviously, losing a close one is better than getting blown out. I think past Bruins teams would have been blown out. Ishmael Adams in the return game and special teams generally (outside of the missed field goals) were very good.
3. The bad?
bruinclassof10: Mazzone's playcalling. Mora's decision to start Jack at exclusively RB and the many holding penalties against our young linemen. Also, the decision to kick when down by more than 3 points.
Tydides: Too many to list here, but what pissed me off most was the pick six and the missed chipshot FG, although I also consider that karma for pissing away great field position again and again and again. Sick and tired of the N Zone choking up and messing the bed in the Red Zone.
Bellerophon: Where to begin? There was (1) Mora's terrible decision to use Jack exclusively on offense, (2) Mazzone's idiotic play calling (for an "offensive guru" his teams sure stall in the red zone a lot), (3) Hundley's continued inability to hit open receivers (except for that one throw to Lucien, which was still slightly underthrown) on the deep ball, (4) Hundley's pick-six, (5) Fairbairn choking on makeable field goals, (5) a presumably stupid coaching decision in not having Jerry Neuheisel, the normal holder, out there for FGs, (6) how lost and inept our defense looked for the first half, (7) someone deciding Zumwalt and Kendricks were the best options to cover Grice on wheel routes, (8) ahh f**k it, I'm getting angry again.
gbruin: Terrible coaching decisions in all phases. Taking Jack from defense to run him up the middle a handful of times? That was a tiny gain at a huge cost and no one can say that coaching decision wasn't a huge difference last night. Now, the defense was very good in the second half, so there were obviously adjustments, without Jack, which worked - which then begs the question of why Spanos waited until ASU had 35 points to make those adjustments? The O line got beaten badly last night, and I have to admit that age and experience was a major contributor there, but Mazzone did nothing to adjust (quicker passes, moving the pocket, etc). And we really really need a PK we can count on.
Achilles: I really disagree with the decision to play Jack only on offense ... but shoot, we are down four of our five running backs. Perkins is a good player if he's just one guy in the mix, but we couldn't give him 30 carries.
AHMB: The pick six was the first game changer, but ASU's 40 second touchdown drive to end the first half was a back breaker.
Ajax: Wow, where to start? Starting with Jack-If you are going to rob Spanos to pay Mazzone, Jack better get 40 carries. When the score dictated more passing by the Bruins, the staff should have adjusted and let Jack play more D to help cover Grice out of the back field and to shadow Kelly. The strategy with Jack for ASU resulted in one of our best players having very little impact. Moving on to Spanos and the D in the first half--WTF was that? The defensive adjustments need to be made sooner. ASU's drive to close the first half was a killer. Finally, I would be remiss to not to mention the general behavior of ASU fans at the Rose Bowl. It wasn't all of them, but there were enough assholes in maroon and gold to justify my opinion that ASU fans occupy a special place with other bottom dweller fans in the PAC 12.
Odysseus: The decision to play Jack exclusively on defense was a real head scratcher. The pick six and two missed field goals obviously could have changed the game, as well as some of the NFL play calls. But as bad as all of that was, we could have overcome that if the coaches and the players had been prepared for just a decent first half of football.
4. What are your thoughts on this season so far?
bruinclassof10: We are a good team but not a great team. While we showed grit against teams like Arizona, Nebraska and UW, we showed that we are still capable of reverting back to Dorrellian ways (this includes playcalling). I expected a 9 win season with losses to Stanford, Oregon and Nebraska. If we want to be an elite team, we should not be spotting ASU a bunch of points in the first half.
Tydides: An overachieving season is now off the table. Win out and expectations are barely met. Again. Don't win out and the same questions from last year persist and get a lot louder. While that's not commentary on the season so far, the culmination of what we have "achieved" leads us to these last two do-or-die games.
Bellerophon: Back in December, I expected us to win at least 9 games, win the Pac-12 South, and beat Southern Cal. In August, I indicated that for Mora to demonstrate UCLA was progressing toward the ultimate goal (elite status, regular trips to the Rose Bowl, and an occasional run at the BCS title), he would need to win 9 games, win the division, and beat the Trojans. Regardless of the next two games, he can't check all three of those requirements off, with Arizona State clinching the Pac-12 South. But he definitely has to win next week or this season will be a step backward for me, especially with Southern Cal relying on the emotion of their players fighting for their interim head coach rather than depth or talent. If Mora wins out, we'll finish 10-3 with a win over Southern Cal and a mediocre bowl game win, so I'd say the year was a small step forward (although we had a chance to take a huge leap forward and blew it). If he beats Southern Cal and loses in the Karl Dorrell Bowl, then we finish 9-4 and that's basically treading water, which is okay given the increased difficulty of the schedule, but nothing that really inspires confidence. If he loses to Southern Cal, regardless of whether we win the Cialis Victoria's Secret No One Knows About Us Bowl Presented by Hyundai, this season will be a big step backward and will make Mora's seat get warm.
gbruin: The overall record is pretty much what I expected at this point, but the overall level of the team is below what was reasonably expected. The coaching management is a lot worse than it needs to be, Hundley has not improved as much as he could have, and even Barr isn't dominating the way he should be. Zumwalt, Jack, Evans, Fuller, Marsh, and XSF have been some of the places we've consistently been better than expected. This season is now all on next week. Win and it's a good year. Lose and there will be very serious questions whether this staff is the right group.
Achilles: Eight wins would be a regression, nine wins a shrug, ten wins slight momentum going into next season. For what it's worth, Mora has only one truly "bad" loss in two years, vs Cal last year. As much as this one hurt and as much as I thought we could win, ASU is definitely a good team. They were favored. This wasn't an upset.
AHMB: I agree with Achilles, but the way we played that first half was troubling. I thought ASU was a better team going in to the game based on the football that I've watched, but there is no excuse for a 35-13 halftime deficit.
Ajax: It really comes down to the SC game and the bowl game. Win both, and I would say that this season can be considered a small step forward in the big picture, especially considering the amount of true freshmen getting significant playing time. Regardless of what happens in the bowl game though, we need to beat SC. They are starting to show signs of life and need to be smacked down at their house in order for UCLA to maintain its momentum in the rivalry.
Odysseus: Sort of agree with everyone here. This was hugely disappointing, but only one bad loss would be an improvement over last year. There are two takeaways and neither should be surprising. First, we're a pretty good team that can't win the big games to put us in the conversation for a legitimate top 10 program and second, it all comes down to beating Southern Cal.
5. What needs to be addressed before the USC game?
bruinclassof10: Holding penalties, Jack's role on the team and Mazzone's red zone play calling.
Tydides: The general malaise that sets in in our first halves. Don't know why it takes until halftime for this team to show a pulse and wake up out there, but if Mora can't get this team fired up to play a balls to the wall first half against the Trogans, then when can he?
Bellerophon: Jack needs to go back to being a linebacker first and a running back in the jumbo package only. I keep saying this and it never happens, but Mazzone has got to mix in intermediate passing routes, including routes over the middle. No more f**king screen passes. More Ishmael Adams in the return game. Neuheisel needs to hold for Fairbairn since he knows how to put the ball down with the laces out. Someone needs to tell Paul Perkins to quit dancing with the ball and run north-south: he wastes a lot of time trying to juke out the first defender at the line of scrimmage, letting secondary defenders close down the space.
gbruin: Don't try to outsmart things. Put Jack back at linebacker and make your defense as good as it can be. Help the offensive line by moving the ball and the QB/pocket around more and stop running up the middle so often, especially with Jack. And geez, come out of the tunnel ready to play. If you can't get up for this game, then you shouldn't be there at all.
Achilles: Agree with g. I've been writing for weeks now that we're a defensive team first -- then Mora goes and panics. I'm going to try and give him the benefit of the doubt - he took a risk and it backfired. But credit for taking a risk.
AHMB: Our offensive line got absolutely manhandled by ASU. The Sun Devils had 9 sacks, and I'm sure the line is going to be pretty embarrassed when they watch that game film. If they can't correct the blocking scheme, Saturday is going to be a long day.
Ajax: Defense needs to show up early and not dig the team into a hole. On O, I'd like to see Mazzone incorporate more quick hitting/ timing routes to get the ball out of Hundley's hands earlier. It seems like the longer he holds the ball, the more likely it is that the OL gets flagged or he takes a sack. This issue is bogging down the O in spots and needs to be corrected. I'd also like to see more creativity in the red zone. For example, show, the jack hammer formation (is that what we are calling it?), then motion to spread and quick slant.
Odysseus: Jack needs to play linebacker and be used as a goal line back. Obviously, we were counting on James to return and when he didn't play, maybe that's why the coaching staff panicked or felt it was necessity to move Jack to offense. But he should be primarily a linebacker. The offensive line and running game need to do a better job. Hundley has guts and I love his scrambling ability but he needs to know when not to take a sack. The penalties actually were better, except when they killed us on the last drive. Can't have that. Beat Southern Cal.
6. The extra point
bruinclassof10: Sorry Bruins - we have not arrived yet. Talks of winning the Rose Bowl, competing for a national championship and such don't mean a thing if we can't take the Pac-12 South. Oh and "screw" SC.
Tydides: The halftime video tribute to Geoff Strand was set to the utterly predictable, well worn, and informally titled "Time of Your Life" by Green Day. Though utterly predictable and well worn also describe Strand's schitck, the more amusing part to me is that the actual title to that song is "Good Riddance". Thanks RB video editor, I couldn't agree more.
Bellerophon: It's been funny to watch all the "Gutty Little B**ches" come out in full force and talk about how "elite" and "top notch" Jim Mora and this staff are. I think one moron even said this was the best coaching staff in the conference, which is just LOL funny. UCLA football is never going to be elite as long as losers like this are okay with 8-4 seasons and playing in the DeWayne Walker Interim Coach Bowl every year.
gbruin: You cannot spell SUCKS without a U, an S, and a C.
Achilles: We are a year away.
AHMB: Beat SC.
Ajax: The next two games are critical for the overall trajectory of the program. 10-3 sounds a lot better than 9-4 or 8-5. Oh yeah, and F-SC.
Odysseus: Beat Southern Cal.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the game and BEAT SC