"It hurts," defensive tackle Brian Price said. "I'm just lost right now. I'm confused."
There is no suger-coating around what is going on with UCLA defense under defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough. We have seen the slide happening for last few weeks. I think our defense started reading a little too much of their press clips after pulling of that win against quarterback-less Volunteers. The stats around this defense were impressive after we went 3-0 against three opponents with mediocre to poor offenses. However, it is now getting exposed as a mediocre to less than average defense after taking on three credible Pac-10 offenses in last three weeks.
Coach Neuheisel is trying to make the best out of a bad situation and doing his best to accentuate the positive around our defense:
"I don't see a lack of effort," Neuheisel said. "I see it as being almost too aggressive, where we get out of control. Tackling is aggression, but you have to stay in control."
Assessing the defense's play thus far, Neuheisel said, "I think the defense has had one bad half this season. The Cal game was not indicative to how the defense has been all season."
But the defense did give up 131 yards rushing against Stanford in the first half. Neuheisel pointed out: "We were down 14-6, so I wouldn't call it a terrible half."
But 14-6 became 24-6 with one minute left in the third quarter. Oregon rushed for 131 yards in the second half.
I find it troubling that CRN pointed to first half of the Stanford game and didn't agree that it was "terrible." I am not sure I can go along with that assessment considering from what I saw Stanford offense ran all over our defense. The score was only 14-6 at half time in Palo Alto because Stanford offense is designed to eat up clock in long grind out drives. From what I saw in that game our defense early on really didn't have any answers against Gerhart and Luck. Yes, they were helped out by that unfortunate penalty by Rahim Moore (which has been another nagging problem with our defense the entire season) but on the whole the Stanford O methodically dominated our front-7. It also looked as if Chuck Bullough wasn't able to make any kind of adjustments to the Stanford attack staying in the same base defense the entire first half.
As for the game against Cal lot of apologists for our defensive efforts are pointing out to the fact that we contained Cal's offense to just 10 points in the second half and kept Best bottled up except for that monster 93 yard play. Unfortunately for our defense they had no answer for Shane Vareen. From the LAT:
The Bears gained 289 yards rushing, which included a 93-yard touchdown run by Jahvid Best.
"We held Jahvid Best to eight yards in 17 carries and 93 in the other one," Neuheisel said.
The Bears' Shane Vereen, meanwhile, romped through and around the Bruins for 154 yards. Take away his 42-yard touchdown run and he still averaged 7.0 yards per carry. The Bears scored 35 points in the first half.
Those numbers are ugly any way you look at it.Oh and Vareen specifically called out how predictable UCLA was on defense:
"We knew their secondary had trouble against Oregon wrapping up the runner," Cal running back Shane Vereen said after the Bears' 45-26 win at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. "We knew that coming in, and we knew we would have to run hard against that. We knew we had to keep running our feet and good things would happen."
Not the first time an opponent has commented about the predictability of our defense. Following the Stanford game Jim Harbaugh made some specific comments about how UCLA's defensive coaches were not making any kind of adjustments to Stanford's jumbo package and as our guys kept the same personnel in for the entire game. Moreover, the Stanford coaches had our defense thoroughly scouted enough so that they went for the flea flicker specifically when Brian Price was out of the game.
I think the defensive numbers potentially will get even uglier next weekend in Arizona when we take on an offensively red hot Wildcat team. I don't have much confidence in our defensive scheme and players to bottle up good offensive teams. This defense which was built by Dewayne Walker have had their 13-9 moments here and there. However, time and time again they have come up short and often down right embarrassed against college offenses with imaginative and creative schemes. Unfortunately there might be other problems plaguing this defense as well.
Jon Gold from the Daily News has a troubling quote from Kyle Bosworth:
"We've got a lot of great players, we've got preseason All-Americans, past All-Americans, All-Pac-10 guys - we've got guys who can make plays individually and are great," Kyle Bosworth said. "I don't know if it's necessarily time for us to start kicking ass - this is something where you either want it or you don't. If you don't want it, we'll pull someone else up who does want it."
Hmm. I don't know. is Bosworth calling out Carter, ATV, Price and Moore? I am not sure if he can call out Brian Price given how he has performed in recent weeks. Is he calling out the other three?
Reggie Carter hasn't been looking great on TV. ATV had a horrible day on Saturday getting lit up in at least could of plays. He got burned on that long TD plus in the very first drive for inexplicable reasons he was giving Cal receiver 7-8 yard cushion for easy pick ups on first down. So not sure how else to read those quotes from Kyle but it is troubling to say the least. His brother Korey added:
"We really need to focus on getting this turned around, and I'm glad we've got an away game this week," Korey Bosworth said. "It's just going to be us. A lot of people are going to throw dirt on our grave, a lot of people are going to just give up on us. With this away game, it's really gonna come down to people in house. It's on our shoulders, and it's something we've got to do to turn around this program."
Well, I am kind of tired from hearing from this guys and writing about how we need to "focus." I feel like we have had to talk about focusing and concentrating better after every week without seeing any kind of improvement on the field (at least on the defensive side). I also don't care much for all the rhetoric from coaches and players about how they need to tackle better. Yeah, we can see that. What I want to see is a well prepared and well coached defense that is put in best position to make plays and execute the game plan.
Just tired of watching a "lost and confused" Bruin defense when they take on offensively talented team week after week. Can't really sugar coat around that and make everyone feel warm and fuzzy this week. Given what I have seen so far this season I expect it to get uglier next weekend and the following. Even with reasonably low expectations of hoping for a 6-7 win regular season, a 5 game losing streak was unfathomable. Well it's looking like a reality after the pathetic defensive efforts from last few weeks.
Perhaps I will be proven wrong. I sure hope I turn out to be "lost and confused" just like Brian Price. Sadly I doubt it given what I have seen in recent weeks.