I want to expand a little more on "the Eye Test" which freesia39 did a great job grading out in her first rapid fire post game post. While I have been reading all the post game quotes and notes popping up after yet another tough Bruin loss on the road, I have been trying to organize all of them under the six factors we laid out during the off season.
So I will try to organize them into this post and then give out specific grades for each factor coming up with an overall GPA for this game. We can keep doing this after every game and as we go on, it will give us another metrics upon which we can judge the progress (or lack thereof) in our football program. This will be my effort to look into our football team purely based on numbers, facts and extricating emotion from it [because it is brutal to be completely emotionally invested, even though I cannot help it in our program. :-) Hey, why I have a smiley face here?!]
All right let's get to some analysis and grades after the jump.
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
I trust my eyes here and they are in agreement with the observations offered up by freesia39, DC Bruins, and gbruin. It seems like defensive captain Tony Dye would agree with us as well. In the official post-game video Dye mentioned that our defense was not prepared for Houston's scheme to dink and dunk us with short screen passes. Apparently they didn't anticipate it. Similar comments from Dye also showed up in Yoon's post game report:
"All week we were working to protect the seams because that's usually what they like to hit," safety Tony Dye said. "They changed their things up to where they were hitting the underneath routes on us while we were carrying. So they schemed us up a little bit. We adjusted, but it was mostly on us, the players."
Remember Dye is the captain of our team. Our players also looked unprepared when it came to being crisp in defensive fundamentals.
Emotionally, I guess lot of Bruin alums are more than inclined to give an F in this category. I can understand that. But I also have to give some credit to Case Keenum, who is essentially a pro caliber QB playing in his sixth season in college. He was masterful and let's give him some credit for that. So my grade for this category is D: 1.0.
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
I was pleased with what I saw in offense most of the game. I do think our coaches game plan was pretty well balanced generating over 300 yards in the air and 232 yards on the ground. Richard Brehaut was a gamer and he shattered any notion that he has issues with being a mobile QB, racking up 87 yards in 13 carries. I also liked how Brehaut was able to develop solid chemistry with Joseph Fauria, who experienced a breakout day as a Bruin.
Houston defense was back-peddling most of the day and were unsure what the Bruins would come up with on key fourth down conversions. 8 different receivers caught the ball 20 times for 322 yards. I'd say that showed an offense that was pretty multi-dimensional.
So for this category I am going to go with a B+: 3.3.
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
Here are some of the numbers/facts relevant to this category:
- Bruins were penalized 10 times yesterday for 80 yards, a number of them were drive killers as detailed by DC Bruins in his post game post. KnudsenRockne has a very interesting breakdown though showing most of our offensive penalties didn't matter as we scored TDs. However, the penalty in our 3 and out series in Q4 when we got within 3 points really cost us.
- There were two specific miscues from our senior center were particularly costly.
- We had a crucial turnover in first half which helped Houston seize the momentum with disastrous results for our defense.
- Note the Dye comment listed in category number 1 about the defense being unprepared for short passing attack from Houston Cougars.
- There was also communication issues late in Q4 in our offense. Even Coach Neuheisel in his post comments mentioned that "there were a couple miscommunications when we got to the 20 that we need to fix," adding that Brehaut "didn't get the right signal" from the sidelines.
Now, I am sympathetic to the notion that a team often looks unpolished in its first game. It's not unique to UCLA. I saw it all over college football yesterday as I took in games all day. You just had to look at Pac-12 games all over West to see how sloppy teams were.
Still, I think there needs to be a sense of urgency around program given what has transpired around Westwood last 10+ yards. There has to be sharper focus on details. It's more than reasonable to argue that details cost us yesterday. So the grade for this category is a C-: 1.7.
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
Well our team did not quit. I had the sinking feeling of the BYU/Oregon games from last few years when Houston ended the second half in a flurry. I thought it was going to get ugly. I give our offense enormous credit for the way it opened the second half with a statement drive (as noted by the Joel Klat from the announcing booth). I also give them credit for then taking advantage of the turnover.
That said though, our guys did not seem focused on both end of the football in their first drives. There was also defensive letdowns as have been mentioned multiple times here at the end of first half that cost us dearly. So, I will give credit for the way the team fought but can't overlook how there were clear moments in the game where there were lapses of focus and concentration. My grade for this category is a C: 2.0.
5) Do our players execute?
In some ways we have answered the questions many ways in preceding questions based on numbers, quotes from Coach Rick Neuheisel and his players themselves. On the offensive side, there were lot of encouraging signs but there were issues when game was on the line. From Brehaut himself:
"We had a lot of stuff that we were shooting ourselves in the foot," Brehaut said. "I don’t think Houston did a lot to stop us."
There were massive letdowns on defense.I don't need to slash my wrists this am going over details on that front.
The special teams is also of serious concern. Our kickoff team did not look organized at times. Of course there is the issue about not placing players with speed and athleticism for punt coverage duties. Moreover, there were clear lack of execution problems on in our kicking game. So the grade for this category is a C:2.0 as well.
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
On the offensive sides we did see leadership from Johnathan Franklin, Richard Brehaut and Joseph Fauria. All of them stepped up in a big way. It is going to be very interesting to see how the QB situation develops from hereon out. But I'd like to think Richard Brehaut has earned the shot to start against San Jose State and hold on to it at the current snap shot of time. It may be a moot issue because of concussion related protocols Kevin Prince may not be ready to do full practice by middle of this week.
On the defensive side it gets hazy. I didn't see the kind of leadership we are accustomed to seeing from guys like Rahim Moore, ATV, and Reggie Carter over the years. I really like how Dye owned up to the defensive problems after the game. However, right now we badly need leaders to step up after the game. I was really hoping Dantone Jones would have an explosive debut against Houston but was surprised to see that didn't materialize. Well there is time. Hopefully the guys can get it together against San Jose State and then really come through against Texas. But for now though have to say the lack of leadership on the field was disappointing from the defensive side.
My grade for this category is a C+: 2.3.
Final Grade Card for Houston Cougars
Based on the discussion here is how it shapes up:
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? [D: 1.0]
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? [B+: 3.3]
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? [C-: 1.7]
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? [C: 2.0]
5) Do our players execute? [C: 2.0]
6) Do we have leaders on the field? [C+: 2.3]
Houston GPA: 2.05
I will not offer any more commentary at this point. I am going to wait to see how the numbers look in next few games, game by game. At that point I think for better or rose the numbers will speak for themselves.