I'm going to keep this part short and sweet this week.
UCLA has 8 wins after 10 games for the second year in a row. That is the first time that has happened since the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
That's a testament to the job that Coach Mora, his staff and most importantly the UCLA players have done.
The Bruins beat Washington 41-31 to improve to 5-0 at home, and 15-0 when leading at the half under Mora. For as up and down as this season has felt, UCLA has won every game they were supposed to win on paper. Does the Stanford loss feel worse after what Southern Cal did this week? Sure, but losing to a top 10 team didn't shock anybody.
There is a lot of room for improvement with this team, that is why this season hasn't seemed as fun as it should have. Winning games you're supposed to win has become normal, now the fanbase and the team wants to win decisively and play to a higher standard. This upcoming game gives them a chance to display that higher standard instead of just talking about it.
Let's get to the grades.
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
Game-plan for the defense was to stop Bishop Sankey and try to limit the big plays by Washington's passing game. Half of that gameplan was monumentally successful, the other half didn't quite get there.
The rush defense was spectacular, holding an offense that was averaging 229 yards per game to just 102 yards.
No run for more than 12 yards, 14 rushes by Sankey for 2 or fewer yards (not counting the 2-yard TD run). Run defense and the general play of the front-seven was outstanding.
The pass defense had some issues with the physicality and talent of the Huskies wideouts. The pass rush was good, with 4 sacks and about 4 hits or knockdowns. The secondary relied on man coverage quite a bit and were exploited a few times, especially by freshman WR Damore'ea Stringfellow (an IE kid that got away) who had 8 catches for 147 yards.
The passing game of the Huskies went 25-40 for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns, but also two interceptions in the fourth quarter by backup QB Cyler Miles. Miles played the entire second half because the hits finally got to Keith Price in the first half and knocked him out with a shoulder injury. The big plays were the real problem, with passes of 24 yards on a 3rd and 6 (great throw by Price on good coverage by Moreau), 50 yards, 44 yards, 20 yards, 23 yards, 19 yards and a long TD pass taken away by a terrible hands to the face penalty (goes both ways with Pac-12 refs). They did intercept a pair of passes and force a fumble on Seferian-Jenkins, so the pass defense forced 3 turnovers.
Anthony Barr, Cassius Marsh, Eric Kendricks, Ellis McCarthy, Keenan Graham, Jordan Zumwalt (interception and a forced fumble) and Kenneth Clark all played real well up front. And a shoutout to Tahaan Goodman for making a huge impact in limited snaps by forcing a fumble on a hit of Sankey in the first quarter.
Overall, the run defense gets an A and the pass defense gets a C. Works out to a B+ (3.3). Equal results to last week but against a far superior offensive team to Arizona.
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
UCLA put up 41 points in this game, but just 406 yards against an average Washington defense. Scoring 6 touchdowns is good enough to win 95% of games, it is unusual for defensive players to score 5 of them though. I still have a lot of issues with the way the offense is playing this season, outside of the first few games of the year.
The run/pass balance is weird considering the injuries at the running back position (for most of the fourth quarter Paul Perkins was the only healthy running back). 53 rushes to just 23 passes. It worked alright in the box score, because UCLA rushed for 222 yards and 4 touchdowns, but consider that 96 of those yards came on just 4 carries (19 by Hundley, 30 by Malcolm Jones, 25 by Myles Jack, and 22 by Perkins).
That means on 49 other carries, UCLA gained just 126 yards (which is 2.57 yards per carry).
Those are terrible rushing numbers and were a huge reason why Washington was able to hang around, perhaps more so than the two turnovers.
I love the "doffense" or the Old/Young Pac or the Jackpot or whatever name you want to give that formation. But that's not an offense that can move the ball consistently down the field with UCLA's personnel.
It's a short yardage set. A very effective set (Myles Jack scored 4 touchdowns rushing and Cassius Marsh caught a short TD pass), but it is just a short yardage set.
The passing game was held back by the play of UCLA's receiving targets, who didn't play well (or perhaps just played to their level). Blocked poorly on the edges, dropped a few passes and were unable to create separation down the field. I said during the game thread that the difference between the throws that Keith Price had to make and the throws Brett Hundley always has to make are drastically different. Outside of those swing passes that are easy completions, Hundley rarely has wide open targets, and as a result he has almost no room for error on ball placement or timing.
That, combined with consistently lackluster pass blocking makes Brett Hundley's job much harder than it should be. He's been pressured (counting just hurries, knockdowns and sacks) more than 200 times through his first two years as a quarterback for UCLA. That's ridiculous.
Overall, I was really underwhelmed with the way the offense played in this game. The actual offense, not Myles Jack, Cassius Marsh, Jordan Zumwalt, Keenan Graham and other defensive players. The actual offense gets a C and the doffense gets a B+ (penalized for the fumble by Jack, even if it was recovered). Because the actual offense plays a lot more, this grade is going to be a C+ (2.3).
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
Penalty watch, game 10:
1. 15-yard facemask penalty by Taylor Lagace on a punt return by Shaq Evans that was fair caught. How this happened, I am not sure because it wasn't even addressed in ESPN's rush to get to commercial. But it's an extremely foolish penalty.
2. A false start by Brandon Willis on 3rd and 2. Gets bailed out on the next play by a Washington penalty, but still should have been costly.
3. Unsportsmanlike conduct on Myles Jack after scoring his 3rd touchdown of the game. The picture above is what I think they called it on, not his helmet coming off. It's a little immature, but that is the attitude the defense plays with even when they are carrying the offense.
4. Hands to the face on Caleb Benenoch. Caleb got beat pretty regularly in this game and this would not be his last penalty (and they could have thrown many, many more on him). Negated a first down play and put the Bruins in a brutal 1st and 25 situation. Probably cost the Bruins points because the actually had a nice tempo going around and had moved past midfield, this penalty put them back at the 35-yard line.
5. A hold on 3rd and 10 by Benenoch that took away a conversion, if I remember correctly. Instead of a first down past midfield again, it's 3rd and 20. Half ends without UCLA scoring.
6. Offsides by Cassius Marsh. Made a 3rd and 10 into a 3rd and 5 for all of 5 seconds before Washington gave the 5 yards back with a false start. UCLA got the stop anyway on a blocked field goal.
7. Personal foul after the Stan McKay recovery of the blocked FG. This was a total BS call. They called it on hitting a defenseless player during the run back, which they originally said was the kicker (who was never hit by anyone during the play), but the replay showed it was on the holder as he was trying to make the tackle and got pancaked on a totally clean block. Just regular old incompetence by Pac-12 officials, nothing surprising as this game was poorly officiated both ways.
8. Pass interference on Fabian Moreau. Moreau had a tough time in man coverage in this game, the Washington wideouts are just physically more talented than Fabian. This play was Moreau trying to make up for that disparity by pushing Washington's receiver out of bounds as the ball was coming.
These two teams lived up to their reps as the most penalized teams in the conference, combining for over 200 yards in penalties and a lot that were missed by both sides.
Schematically, the defense didn't do as well as they would have hoped in eliminating the big play, but the turnovers they forced made up for a little bit of that.
On offense, the running game was pretty bad outside of some big runs and the passing game looked fine but was mostly a non-factor once UCLA went up 27-7.
If last week was a B, then a B (3.0) feels right once again.
4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
No issues here. Intensity level was high throughout. It was a fairly sloppy game by both teams, but the energy did not dip on either side of the ball.
Offensively, whenever the defensive players are on the field or come off the field, the entire team seems to be more focused.
This seems like an easy A (4.0) here. Not much to say.
5.) Do our players execute?
Offensively, this was a below average game in execution. Three drops by WRs, a fumble by Devin Fuller that was luckily recovered by Fuller, a fumble by Myles Jack that was luckily recovered by Brandon Willis, a fumble by Malcolm Jones that essentially gave Washington automatic points with field position when UCLA had a 27-7 lead, poor pass blocking and, to be honest, poor run blocking throughout the game.
I said this in the back-channel thread with the other front pagers, but I'll repeat it here. UCLA's skill position players are just okay. There are about six #3 receiving threats and Evans is a solid #2 guy. The running backs are all solid complimentary backs, but there is no lead back. When you're going to run the ball 53 times and don't have a lead back there are going to be long dry spells on offense.
On special teams, UCLA blocked another FG, which is the 12th in 2 years under Jim Mora (and more so Jeff Ulbrich, who is going to get a huge raise for his work with the linebackers and special teams). At the same time, there were some poor special teams plays as well, with the most notables being a missed PAT by Ka'imi Fairbairn, the facemask on a fair catch, the fake punt conversion, the fumble by Darren Andrews to open the half and a 5-yard loss on a punt return by Shaq Evans.
This was probably the worst game of special teams that UCLA has played all season, though the kickoff team was still outstanding. 5 touchbacks and a 9 yard kickoff return (plus a holding penalty).
Defensively, there were some lapses in focus that led to poor execution. Tackling wasn't an issue, but breakdowns in coverage led to big plays and TDs. One play that really stands out is Brandon Sermons biting on the run at the goal line and leaving Austin Seferian-Jenkins wide open for a 1-yard TD pass. The 50-yard pass should have been a TD, but was underthrown by Price. That was a total breakdown by the secondary, can't fault anyone without seeing an All-22 angle though. Don't know who had deep responsibility.
The execution was far from crisp all around, so this grade is similar to last week, but a little lower at a C (2.0)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field?
Final Grade Card for the Washington Huskies
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? B+ (3.3)
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? C+ (2.3)
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? B (3.0)
4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? A (4.0)
5.) Do our players execute? C (2.0)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field? A (4.0)
Washington GPA: B (3.1)
For reference, last week's homecoming win over Arizona came out to a 3.1 GPA and the victories over Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico State, UC Berkeley, Utah and Colorado and losses to Stanford and Oregon were a 3.7, a 3.6, a 2.8, another 2.8, 2.9, 2.5, 2.0 and 2.0 respectively.
Next week is the biggest game of the year in the Pac-12 South (until the next week, but one week at a time). Arizona State is perhaps the most underrated team in college football because of their controversial "win" over Wisconsin. They are unbelievably efficient on both sides of the ball (poor special teams unit though) but not an insane amount of talent on offense. Marion Grice is Darren Sproles-ish and Taylor Kelly has made some strides as a QB, but the Sun Devils are led by their defense (Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and others). UCLA will have to play at a high level to beat Arizona State, and they should.
Until next week, Go Bruins!