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The Urgency/Need For UCLA Offense To Draw First Blood

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When the game kicked off at the Rose Bowl last weekend, I kept telling myself if the Bruins for once would take the lead and set the tone for the game.  After the Kansas State game it felt as if somehow it's the UCLA defense always gives it up and fails to set the tone for our games. So I thought I take a look through the numbers from Rick Neuheisel's 27 games in Westwood.

I don't want to draw definitive conclusions from these numbers but they are worth keeping in mind as we following the team during this coming season. First, I did a chart for the time Chuck Bullough has been the DC for Rick Neuheisel (15 games to date). Then I put together another one for Neuheisel's first year with Dewayne Walker as his DC. Charts and analysis (and lots of datapoints ... we love that word around here) after the jump.

Let's start with last 15 games during which Bullough has been the DC:

v. Team
UCLA Offense
UCLA Defense
First Score
3 plays, 6 yds, UCLA punt
3 plays, 0 yds,
Stanford Punt*
0-7 (Stanford scored on 2nd drive)
@ Kansas St
3 plays, 0 yds, UCLA punt *
10 plays, 55 yds
0-7 (KSU scored on 1st drive)
6 plays, 16 yds, UCLA punt
6 plays, 80 yds
Temple TD*
0-7 (Temple scored on 1st drive)
@ Southern Cal
6 plays, 20 yds, UCLA punt
6 plays, 26 yds,
Southern Cal punt*
0-7 (USC scores on Prince int on 2nd UCLA drive)
Arizona St
3 plays, 7 yds, UCLA punt
7 plays, 42 yds,
ASU int* (UCLA TD)
7-0 (UCLA scored on ATV pick 6 in ASU's game opening drive)
@ Washington St
1 play, 27 yds, UCLA TD
3 plays, 9 yds, WSU intercepted*
7-0 (UCLA scored on 1 play after taking over from a WSU TO)
9 plays, 88 yds, UCLA TD*
4 plays, 39 yds, Washington punt*
7-0 (UCLA scored in its game opening drive)
@ Oregon St
6 plays, 10 yds, UCLA punt
9 plays, 41 yds,
Oregon St FG*
0-3 (Oregon St. scored on its opening drive)
@ Arizona
5 plays, 13yds, UCLA punt*
8 plays, 56 yds,
Arizona Int.
0-7 (Arizona scored on its 2nd drive)
3 plays, 2 yds, UCLA punt
7 plays, 80 yds, Cal TD*
0-7 (Cal scored on its 1st drive)
3 plays, 6 yds, UCLA punt*
4 plays, 10 yds, Oregon punt
3-0 (UCLA scored on its 4th drive in Q2)
@ Stanford
10 plays, 45 yds, UCLA FG
6 plays, 36 yds, Stanford fumble*
3-0 (UCLA settles for FG in 6 play drive after Stanford TO)
Kansas St
11 plays, 64 yds, UCLA TD
9 plays, 37 yds, KSU interception*
7-0 (UCLA scored on its 1st drive following KSU TO)
@ Tennessee
10 plays, 51 yds, UCLA FG*
13 plays, 66 yds, Tennessee FG
3-0 (UCLA scored on its 1st drive)
9 plays, 49 yds, UCLA FG

12 plays, 69 yds, SDSU TD*

0-7 (San Diego St scored on its 1st drive)


So, during the Bullough reign UCLA has fallen behind 8 out of 15 times. Of the 8 times UCLA fell behind early, it came back to win twice (v. San Diego State and Temple).

Here are the defensive specific stats:

  • Out of 15 games Bullough defense forced the opponent to punt or turn the ball over 9 times in the first drive. UCLA won only 3 of those games.
  • Out of 15 games Bullough defense got a TO in the first drive 5 times. UCLA won 3 of those games. Lost against Stanford and Arizona

Hmm. So despite all the criticisms of Bullough, it seems like the defense has been doing it job. UCLA offense meanwhile

  • UCLA offense went 3 and out 5 times losing 4 of those games (ASU was the exception last season)
  • UCLA offense scored a TD on its first drive 4 times in last 15 games. It won all of those 4 games.
  • UCLA offense scored FG 3 times in first drives. Won 1 of them (Tennessee) while losing at Stanford and at Oregon State.

Note what happened when the offense scored a TD in its first drive.

I then took a look at our first drives when Dewayne Walker was here for first 12 games of Neuheisel era. Of course we have to take the numbers from that season with a grain of salt given how UCLA was playing with its third string QB and didn't have much at OL, skill positions on offense. UCLA took the least only 4 times and lost 2 of them (Southern Cal and Arizona State) during that first year. Nevertheless, here is how the chart looks in CRN's first season:

v. Team
UCLA Offense
UCLA Defense
First Score
Southern Cal
3 plays, 3 yds, UCLA punt*
1 play, 6 yds, Southern Cal fumble
7-0 (UCLA scored on 2nd following Trogan TO
@ Arizona St
11 plays, 54 yds, UCLA FG
3 plays, 6 yds, ASU punt*
3-0 (UCLA FG in first drive)
12 plays, 80 yds, UCLA TD*
9 plays, 28 yds, Wash punt
7-0 (UCLA TD in first drive)
Oregon St
3 plays, 1 yd, UCLA punt*
6 plays, 79 yds, Oregon St. FG
0-3 (Oregon St FG in its first drive)
@ California
1 play, 0 yd, UCLA int*
10 plays, 32 yds, Cal FG
0-3 (Cal FG in its first drive)
6 plays, 31 yds, UCLA punt*
3 plays, 26 yds, Stanford fumble
0-7 (Stanford scored TD in its 3rd drive)
@ Oregon
10 plays, 35 yds, missed UCLA FG
3 plays, 8 yds, Oregon punt*
0-7 (Oregon scored on its 2nd drive)
Washington St
6 plays, 26 yds, UCLA punt*
8 plays, 44 yds, Washington St. punt
7-0 (UCLA scored on its 4th drive in Q2)
Fresno St
3 plays, 5 yds, UCLA punt*
8 plays, 24 yds, punt
0-7 (Fresno St. returned punt for TD)
3 plays, 17 yds, UCLA punt*
5 plays, 29 yards, Arizona FG
0-3 (Arizona scored on its first drive)
3 plays, 9 yds, UCLA punt*
11 plays, 75 yds, BYU TD
0-7 (BYU scored on its first drive)
8 plays, 47 yds, UCLA int
3 plays, 8 yds, Tennessee punt*
7-0 (UCLA scored on a punt block)


As you can see from those numbers the defense did its part:

  • During Walker era the D held the opposing team to 3 and out or turned the ball over 5 times (won 2 of those games)
  • In total during Walker era D forced the opposing team to punt or turn the ball over 8 times (won 4 of those games)

As everyone knows by now there was no help from offense, which includes the following details:

  • The offense went 3 and out 5 times
  • Offense turned the ball over twice in its first drive (both picks from Kevin Craft)
  • Overall the offense either punted or turned the ball over 9 times
  • Only once the offense scored a TD in its opening drive (against Willingham's pathetic winless Washington Huskies)

What we take away from this. While we have justifiable concerns about our defense stemming from its conservative schemes, the problem seems time and again it's our offense which has mostly failed to give us any kind of spark during last two years.

Overall, since Rick Neuheisel has taken over UCLA has taken the lead only 11 out of 27 games.  Bruins were 7-4 when they took the lead. Over all Bruins are 4-12 in the games they fall behind early. When you think about it, it's kind of simple. For a young team without a lot of experience, which hasn't experienced any kind of winning culture for almost a decade and has been beaten down by mediocrity, it gets discouraged when it falls behind. Bruins just havn't figure out how to win regularly and have that mindset.

This is why when the refs screwed UCLA against Stanford, the team seem to got down and not to mention the whole Rose Bowl went into a depressive stupor. What all of this does ... is put a premium and urgency on not just the defense attacking early on, but the offense stepping up and setting the tone. Bruins have now fallen behind in 4 straight games and lost 3 of them. If they want to stem the tide, it'd be a good idea to come out and not just throw the first punches but land them from both sides of the field on Saturday night.

Can our guys get it done? Well they better start now, because ultimately it's all about data. Right now through 27 games (if we want to be charitable we can give Chow et al a mulligan and count last 15 because of ridiculous injury and talent issues in their first season) the numbers are not looking pretty for UCLA offense. Hope things start turning on Saturday night.


UPDATE (N): From Ryan in the comment thread re. Bullough v. Walker comparison:

These datapoints illustrate that Walker was superior to what Bullough is bringing to the table now in the beginning of games. Now, I’ve never bought Walker as the next great defensive genius, as some were so eager to call him following that win over SC, but I do think he was an above average defensive coordinator. On the other hand, Bullough has given me no reason to think he is even average or near average.

The numbers indicate that Walker was superior to Bullough, which is the same thing that my eyes would tell me, but the circumstances around it make it even more damning for Bullough. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bullough is doing worse than Walker with more talent and depth than Walker had.

In addition, Walker showed the ability to learn from his mistakes. Losing late at Notre Dame was heartbreaking and the bulk of the blame for that one goes to Walker for his prevent defense late, but he learned from it. You never saw the Bruins beat by their own prevent defense again with Walker at the helm and in other instances, specifically the SC game, he was on the other extreme by bringing pressure to the final whistle. Meanwhile, has Bullough showed anything that resembles learning from his mistakes and bettering himself as a defensive coordinator since taking over?

Agree with all of that. We will get some more answers this weekend. GO BRUINS.