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UCLA Football: BN Roundtable Discussion on PAC-12 Championship Game

Roundtable among BruinsNation frontpagers discussing UCLA's performance and the 2012 season overall.

A few plays made all of the difference in the rematch vs. Stanford.
A few plays made all of the difference in the rematch vs. Stanford.

Although the outcome was disappointingly the same, this was a very different game as the Rose Bowl was on the line. We shared our thoughts on the PAC-12 championship game itself and the overall season.

1. Initial Impressions?

gbruin: Total heartbreak. We were that close. One or two plays away from being in the Rose Bowl. But that's why Stanford is in - they make those one or two plays that we didn't. They deserve it. A couple days later now, I can appreciate the big strides we made over 6 days to push them to the brink on their turf.

freesia39: That was one of the few UCLA loses I've endured where it actually hurt afterwards. Normally I'm angry or in a "HAHAHA THIS SH*T AGAIN" mood, but I wanted this game bad. And we came so close... and we could have won.

AHMB: Football can be an odd game. UCLA played better than Stanford on Friday, but sometimes a few mistakes is all it takes to lose a game. I give the credit to Stanford for playing an excellent game, but this one hurts because UCLA could be going to the Rose Bowl.

tasser10: What a great performance. I honestly think this was the best overall performance by a UCLA team since 1998 or 1997. These players have bought in, play all out and believe in each other. But we still lost, because of one or two mistakes. Stanford is that good. Although UCLA was the better team that night, it was not mistake free. One better throw, or one better tackle, or one broken up pass, could have won this game for UCLA.

bruinclassof10: Last week, I said that Stanford was the better team. On Friday, UCLA was the better team. What a heartbreaking loss.I feel so bad for our seniors who endured so much but I am proud of how far our team has come along since last season. Very proud. Last year's team with last year's coaching staff would have given the game to Stanford.

Achilles: Agree with BCof10. We were the better team -- or at least just as good -- but we made more errors. The number one thing this team needs to do is cut down on the penalties and improve things like clock management. That last drive was not good.

2. The Good

gbruin: The run game was incredible.

freesia39: The overall effort was, I believe, close to the maniacal effort Mora mentioned in his presser this week. I loved it.

AHMB: Our guys outplayed one of the best teams in the country for the most part. The deficiencies from the week before were pretty much fixed, and we had chances to win the game late.

tasser10: The hunger. These players and this staff are hungry, they crave success, they don't settle. Franklin was a beast, as was our defense.

bruinclassof10: Johnathan Franklin. This was his year and this was his game. He was not going to be brought down. This season was good. Although we fell short of the Rose Bowl, this was an exciting season overall. For the first time in more than a decade, I have confidence in the coaching staff and our QB.

Achilles: I thought the defensive game plan was strong but for one blown coverage. The thing that bugs me the most about Stanford's touchdown on third and long is that you could see the confusion before they snapped the ball. There was something wrong with that play even before the snap. I could remember thinking "call timeout" even before the play began. I'm not football expert enough to say where the breakdown was but you could just see something wasn't quite right.

3. The Bad

gbruin: Mostly just the outcome. I can't get too down on the pick or their long TD - those things happen in football and we have to overcome them as a team. We still hurt our drives with penalties, and that absolutely is something we can control and must improve on going forward.

freesia39: I agree on the penalties. They really killed our momentum. And I'm still not a fan of kicking a 52 yarder. I had seen the conditions all day. I was half convinced he was going to slip in his run up to the field goal. I think going for it would have been the higher percentage play in that instance.

AHMB: Stanford shouldn't have scored on 3rd and 15. According to Coach Mora, there was a blown assignment on the play. That just can't happen in a championship game.

tasser10: Losing.

bruinclassof10: Penalties. The momentum killing INT. Falling short of the Rose Bowl. Adidas cleats made a difference too. Stanford had Nike screw-in cleats that were longer and helped gain traction on the muddy field. Also, I know this is a moot point but asking a true freshman to kick a 52-yarder on an unstable, muddy field to tie up a championship game was not a very good call. Fairbairn (who has improved tremendously and whom I have a lot of respect for) will hit one of those in the future (mark my words), but this was not the time for Mora to be afraid to win.

Achilles: Penalties are obvious, but what is bugging me is that last drive. We had time to play for the win, we didn't have to play for the tie. Spiking the ball on first down with the clock stopped made no sense. The weird thing is, that was the perfect time to run another aggressive play. Stanford would have been worrying about the touchdown, the underneath was open. 10 more yards and the field goal is easier. And we had a shot to score.

4. Game's Most Valuable Player(s)?

gbruin: Johnathan Franklin and the Offensive line.

freesia39: Johnathan Franklin.

AHMB: Jonathan Franklin and Anthony Barr.

tasser10: Johnathan Franklin

bruinclassof10: Johnathan Franklin.

Achilles: Jetski

5. Honorable Mentions?

gbruin: Eric Kendricks, Jordan Zumwalt, Brett Hundley

freesia39: Brett Hundley.

AHMB: Brett Hundley and Eric Kendricks.

tasser10: Datone Jones

bruinclassof10: Brett Hundley. Owa. Eric Kendricks.

Achilles: Datone Jones

6. What we hope gets addressed against Baylor during the Holiday Bowl?

gbruin: Baylor is a pretty explosive offense, so our secondary is going to have to come up big. Limit the passes and come up and make tackles.

freesia39: We need to win.

AHMB: Bowl games are often won by the best prepared team. This is Coach Mora's first attempt at bowl game preparation, but he needs to learn quickly. This has been a very good season for UCLA football, but ending with a 3 game losing streak isn't the kind of "finishing strong" that Coach Mora preaches.

tasser10: There doesn't seem to be much to be addressed, IMO. They just have to finish, we need to win.

bruinclassof10: We need a W to finish the season and it'll help in recruiting efforts too. Ending a season on a 3 game skid going into the 2013 season is so Dorrellian.

Achilles: We need more discipline on penalties, not running the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs (do the players even know the ball comes out the the 25 -- because we never get close to the 25 when they run the ball out.

7. The Extra Point.

gbruin: This was the most enjoyable season in a long time, probably since 1998, and the win over *$c was the biggest high since 1993 for me. We started off this season with a hundred question marks - the new coaches, the new system, a freshman QB, an inexperienced line, a running back playing linebacker, a missing team captain, no Forbath, Franklin's fumbles, and it goes on and on. Every single one of those issues turned out as well or better, and often miles better, than we hoped. That is wasn't quite enough to beat Stanford for the title shouldn't detract from a really pretty extraordinary season. But now that we have raised the bar, we have to keep it there, and continue to build from this new level. Thank you to Coach Mora, his staff, and every single Bruin for a great season. Win the Holiday Bowl.

freesia39: UCLA Football, thank you for the season. There's one more game to go, but thank you for giving us a season that was worthy of Johnathan Franklin's final UCLA season (I'm going to cry when the Holiday Bowl is over...), for a season of Brett Hundley, of Anthony Barr, and of a victory over Southern Cal. Let's take this momentum and good will and move forward. Make UCLA Football a force to be reckoned with not just in the Pac-12, but on a national stage.

AHMB: I'm already getting bummed that football is almost over. This season has been a lot of fun, even more than I expected, and I don't want it to end. Of course, we have one more big game ahead of us. I hope there is a strong contingent of Bruins in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl to show our appreciation for the way the team played this season.

tasser10: I am so happy that the seniors on this team finally got to play on a good team, got coached up, played for something big after earning it, and that they beat Southern Cal. I will wait on pins and needles for next season, after we win the bowl game. We will lose some great players, but at least now they can leave after taking a bow, instead of thinking about how much better they could have been.

bruinclassof10: Thank you UCLA Football players, coaching staff and fans for this season. I'm finally proud of an entire season. Although a Rose Bowl berth would've been spectacular, you won't hear me complaining because the Bruins lived up to my expectations this year and I'm thankful that we finally have a team that isn't painful to watch. We beat Southern Cal, beat ranked opponents and played a fun brand of football for the first time since the Cade McNown era. There were no arrests or embarrassing suspensions, which reflects a lot about the character of our team and our coaching staff. The ship is headed in the right direction so let's keep the momentum going and kick some ass on Signing Day! See you at the Holiday Bowl!

Achilles: The point I'd like to add is that we really missed Thigpen after he was injured. I don't want to disparage Jordon James but for whatever reason he just wasn't effective and when Jetski came out of the game we had zero ability to run the football. For whatever reason Mazzone was calling these plays to James up the middle and we were second and long every time or so it seemed. I'm glad we're going to the Holiday Bowl. I think it's the first time. I'm going to go, I think. Should be fun.