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Sunday Thoughts: Kansas State Datapoints, Neuheisel’s Words & "Bounce Back" Memories

So let's do this. I have tried to read through most of the comments and posts from yesterday here. Lot of repetitive stuff but haven't read a post that put all the numbers in one place. Here is an attempt to aggregate all the datapoints from yesterday's game. I will divide them up in 2 buckets. Most of these statlines were compiled from the official site:

Positive Statlines

  • Piled up 193 net yards rushing (208 total) averaging 5.2 yds per attempt. Big ups to the UCLA OL and Coach Bob Palcic.
  • JetSki rushed for 60 yards in 13 carries averaging 4.6 yds per attempt. Malcolm Jones IMO looked like the best RB out there getting 20 yards in his only 3 attempt. I sure hope he has lot more than 3 attempts next week. Derrick Coleman had 29 yards in 5 carries averaging 5.8 yds per attempt.
  • Our two safeties - Tony Dye (15) and Rahim Moore (7) - were 2 of the top 4 tacklers. Akeem Ayers (11) and Sean Westgate (7) were the other 2, while Nate Chandler was the only member of defensive front 4 in the top 5 with 8 tackles including 1 sack. Not a bad debut for Nate.
  • Kai Forbath was perfect (what else is new) going 3 for 3 with 2 FGs over 40, while Jeff Locke got the job done with booming punts averaging 45.7 yard per attempt
  • Per UCLA's official site 5 true freshmen participated yesterday: Anthony Barr, Malcolm Jones, Cassius Marsh, Jordan James and Jordan Zumwalt (hmm don't remember James and Zumwalt in the game).

 Negative Statlines

  • Prince's line is just ugly: complete only 9 of his 26 attempts for 120 passing yards. Threw for 1 and rank for 1, while throwing 2 picks.
  • Gave up a staggering 313 net yards rushing (350 total ... YIKES) averaging 5.8 yds per attempt. Not quiet in the Edgerrin James category but yeah we all had those nightmares.
  • Kansas State converted 8 of their 16 3rd downs while UCLA was only 3 of 13.
  • KSU's time of possession advantage over UCLA: 35:56 to 24:04. This number was pretty ugly and had a role IMO in getting the defense tired down the stretch.
  • Committed 8 penalties for 55 costly yards which included an inexcusable one on 4th and goal situation in first quarter when a good defensive stop was thwarted for having too many guys on the field. The extra guy was lined up around our secondary (IIRC). So he didn't make any difference in the stop. It was simply an inexcusable mistake by the coaches.
  • Before I left the house (with around 4.55 left in the game) I had counted at least 7 drops from our wide receivers including from seasoned "veterans" such as Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario and Morrell Presley (not a freshman any more Morrell). No excuses for those guys at this point.
  • I put Tony Dye's team leading 15 tackles in the "positive" category. I think arguably it can also be seen as a negative because it underscores the point just how frequently the Wildcats were getting into the second level of our defense.
  • I am putting this in the negative category but some like DCBruins will probably disagree. As bluebland noted we punted from on 4th and 3 from the 40 and 4th and 5 from the 36. I was very mixed about it. Part of me wanted to go for it and was upset the coaches weren't being aggressive. If Kai was totally healthy we'd probably attempt the 53 yarder. Still on the other hand the field position decision was understandable considering our defense was having ... well issue.

Now let's get into some broader issues after the jump.

There are two kind of losses. There are those beatings like we took in the hands of BYU couple of years ago which just make you totally numb. Those losses just set you back to total reality and putting the program in place. Then there are those losses like the one yesterday that has you replaying number of moments over and over and over in your head all day Sunday and kind of drives us crazy.

I am sure, I am not the only one who is wondering what if Pressley and Embree didn't drop those passes. What if the coaches didn't screw up on 4th and goal. What if Chuck Bullough cooked up a defensive scheme and mindset that made sure we were the attackers in first drives on both halves. I was thinking of the comments Neuheisel made during "UCLA Media Day" on August 9th. From the official site (emphasis added throughout):

[I] mentioned that to our football team because it bears mentioning that we just can't beat ourselves on either side of the ball. We just can't turn it over. We looked back, just bringing up one game, the Oregon game, and there we are giving up a kickoff return and an interception return in a game that is see-sawing back and forth and then we are out of the game. Those are the kind of things that as a football team, we can't afford. So we can't beat ourselves. And we are going to talk openly about turnover margin and making sure that we are as fundamentally sound as we can be. It is a challenge to our coaches to make sure that everybody understands that and that we get that kind of play from all positions and all factions of our team."

Uhm, I guess those words can essentially serve as paragraphs  for post game reflection on yesterday's excruciating loss. The problem is they were included in some form or another during post game reflections on losses against Stanford, Oregon, Cal, Oregon State and Southern Cal from last season. That is the reason there is so much frustration in our post game threads. That is totally understandable (even though as many have mentioned some of the reactions went way overboard).

There is really nothing to add to what CRN mentioned on August 9th. We sure hope and expect he is going to get those words and mindset through his team by next weekend and put forth a team that will show a dramatic improvement in those areas against a Pac-10 opponent.

So more from CRN from that day on August 9th (hey we remember these things):

"I believe that we are going to be a faster team than we were a year ago. I think we recruited well in terms of speed. I think guys like Randall Carroll and Josh Smith are going to have an influence with respect to our speed. Damien Thigpen, Sheldon Price  and all those other kids that are track-type guys also have a year of experience under their belt, so I think their speed will start to show up on the field.

Well we saw what Josh Smith could do but where was Randall Carroll? I appreciate what Taylor Embree brings to the program. He is a great kid who has earned a scholarship in this program through working his tail off and setting example at practice day in and day out. I saw in firsthand the kind effort Embree brings to Spaulding on a daily basis (unlike hoops when none of us have any idea WTH Ragovic ever did during hoops practices). Yet despite Embree's contributions to this program, I do think coaches need to explore options in injecting more speed into our offense and special teams.

If Embree is supposed to be the guy with "sure hands" it is time for him to show it at a more consistent level. This is his third season in the program. He needs to step up and make those money catches helping out a QB desperately looking to get back in rhythm. Yesterday wasn't the first time Embree dropped passes. He did last season and he also has had difficulty getting separation from DBs.

The responsibility lies here on WR coach Reggie Moore, whose unit needs to take a big step forward from last 2 seasons number wise. 1 game does not make a season. However, we are going to watch the production numbers of our WRs very closely and if there are not tangible improvement by the end of the season, we fully expect CRN to address the issue decisively.  As Norm Chow reminded us this week through Gandhi:

"As Gandhi said, `Consistency is the refuge of fools."'

Well speaking of Coach Chow, loved our overall offensive scheme yesterday. Not his fault that Morrell Pressley caught BPD virus instead of catching the ball. If Pressley caught those passes to start the game, who knows Prince's timing could have been different. The effectiveness of the revolver formation was clear in the way our repatched OL was pushing around the KSU defensive line. Now to be clear, the KSU's defensive line had its own issues and was repatched like ours. Yet it was pretty impressive for an OL, which  only had something like 31+ combined starts last season. Hats off to them and Coach Bob Palcic for being ready and stepping up.

So in terms of Kevin Prince, don't really have much to add to all the points that has been made. I do believe the calls for starting Richard Brehaut or giving him time is extremely premature to say the least. It was clear Prince's timing was off. Kevin Prince switched his from "14" to number "4" this season following graduation of Terrance Austin to honor his favorite QB Brett Favre. But not everyone can be Mr. Wrangler by missing 90 percent training camp, and then get chauffeured in via Leer Jet, picking right where he left off. I do think Prince gave us a better chance to win than Brehaut with our line. If not for those dropped passes, it would have been a different game. Woulda, coulda, should ... I know ... not fun.

As for the defense, there is not much else to add about Chuck Bullough. He should certainly be on the clock this season. Yesterday wasn't a total disaster. When I had to leave from watching the game last night there was about 4:40 left in 4th. The score was 17-16 in favor of the Cats. The performance of the D wasn't a total disaster at this point but at the same time wasn't inspiring. Watching our guys, at times was fun but also at other was maddening as it was clear Akeem Ayers was blowing assignments and we were not getting any kind of containment whatsoever.

What was even more maddening to see us package in a vanilla base defense on second and long and then promptly give up chunks of yardage to a mediocre QB with brand new receivers to make the situation more manageable for the Wildcats. When a guy ends up leading with "playing not to lose" mindset, seems like time and again he ends up losing.

Perhaps Bullough has a legitimate excuse as he was breaking in number of new guys including Marsh, Keenan Graham, Nate Chandler, Patrick Larimore (who IMO had a solid game), and few others who are not used to this much playing time. However, he needs to make adjustments fast and put together more aggressive game plan. What we saw yesterday is not good enough, if there are not improvements through rest of the season.

As we leave, we need to start thinking about the huge game coming up on Saturday. I have always believed this is the game that has the potential to set the tone for this season.  I actually feel optimistic heading into this game unlike how I felt yesterday.

 peggysue69 brought up the memories of the Washington State game on the road in 1998 (that was Bob Toledo's second season). That was one of those crushing bitter losses against Ryan Leaf's Cougars when we had chances to win with a junior Cade McNown. That loss was also followed by another heartbreaking and bitter loss against Payton Manning's Volunteers. Of course we then went on to bust out magical 66-3 and never looked aback.

I thought about those games as well but to me yesterday kind of reminded me of the heartbreaking back to back season opening losses against Cal and Nebraska in 1993. I was at both of those games and wanted to pull my hair out after having a great time all day at the Rose Bowl (OK the Nebraska game was a hot and sunny 12:30 start).

Following those losses in 1993 we ended up beating Stanford on the road and went on to the Rose Bowl. Now I certainly don't think this team is even close to the caliber of those teams. However, I do think there is a shot the team can refocus and bounce back and put together a productive season along the expectation line we have discussed all off season (click on the tag "2010 UCLA football expectations" to catch up on our previous discussions).

Let's hope the coaches and players now have a sense of what they need to do to correct their mistakes and bounce back against Stanford (once again).