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UCLA Football vs. Rice Post-Game: BN Roundtable Discussion

Jordan James (6) warms up for Rice. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
Jordan James (6) warms up for Rice. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

Each Monday during the season, we will provide some of thoughts in the form of a round table discussion. Feel free to agree, disagree and provide some of your insight from the game.

1. Initial Impressions?

bruinclassof10: We are moving in the right direction but this is Rice, not a top 50 team. We should've covered the spread and we did. Upside is there and playmakers are on the field. Some things can be addressed and corrected with practice but there are many things that impressed me including the offense (49 pts is the most pts scored since 2005).
Odysseus: Agreed. The team has big play potential. Much more exciting to watch. The defensive front looked better although vulnerable to option-style plays at times. Pass defense continues to be my biggest concern.
AHMB: I like Mazzone. A lot. I know it was Rice, but 640 yards of offense is good against anyone. More than the production, I liked how the offense got playmakers the ball in space. James and Thigpen are real weapons, and I have a feeling Walker will be another one soon.
gbruin: For all the reasons above, I am much more optimistic today than I have been at any point in the last few years. There is a long way to go, but we had a potent offense, an athletic defense that made good adjustments, and a sense of urgency from the start.
tasser10: We didn't have a slow start, and it's been a while since that happened. We have playmakers on both sides of the field. It seems we are still having trouble with running QBs, but that halftime adjustment, assuming there was one, was one of the best in ages! We will lose a couple of games because of our kicking woes...but talk about the ying and the yang! RIP Kicker U? Too soon, I'm joking, but it'll keep the coaches aggressive.
Bellerophon: At first, wow. Then, reality set in for a bit. But I'm very impressed with the half-time adjustments. Yes, it's just Rice, but for the first time in a long time, you really feel like this team will live up to its potential once they get up to speed.
Nestor: Not sure how much I can add to initial impressions you have already shared. I was feeling a little gloomy during half time. That changed after seeing the adjustments Mora and his staff made during half time. On offense I am digging how coaches are putting guys Jordon James and Damien Thigpen in open spaces.Brett Hundley is showing signs of being the real deal but he still has a long way to go.

Plenty more to come after the jump

2. The Good

bruinclassof10: Loved seeing the playmakers on the field (Thigpen, Jordon James, Lucien, Manfro), the O-Line was aggressive and especially enjoyed seeing Mora go for it on 4th and goal. Also, that guy who took the first snap of his career and scored? He must be pretty good!
Odysseus: 7 sacks in one game compared to 14 all year. Going for it on fourth down (twice) is a totally different mindset. The team was playing to win instead of playing not to lose.
AHMB: Moving Barr to LB. He looks like a different animal. I always thought he played tentative on offense. Now that he's initiating the contact, he's not tentative at all.
gbruin: I loved the aggressive schemes on both sides of the ball. Moving XSF from left tackle seemed like heresy at first, but he was an absolute beast at guard and White was pretty solid at LT. It is an extremely young line which should only get better. Same with Barr going to OLB, this staff is finding the best players and then finding a spot on the field for them.
Tasser10: For the first time in a while, we didn't have a player who looked lost or like he didn't belong. Mora kept his cool when Rice got close, and he never had the Neuheisel to Craft type of ass chewing. I liked that.
Bellerophon: To me, it seemed that the offense was much more dynamic, with better balance. Also, with a few exceptions (the biggest being Manfro's wide open TD drop), there were far fewer dropped balls by WRs (losing Embree is definitely addition by subtraction). Hundley really showed some flashes of brilliance (with a handful of expected freshman mistakes), which is very encouraging. Jet Ski did a great job of holding on to the rock, even when pushing for a few extra yards with Rice defenders ripping at the ball. Jordon James also looked much more dynamic and exciting: what a wonder it is when a OC can utilize a guy's talent. Obviously, Anthony Barr was a total stud, and I was very encouraged by Mora going with a lot of freshman, rather than relying on the more experienced, older players, a major problem for both Dorrell and Neuheisel. That is probably the most encouraging change for me.
Nestor: Let me pick out something that hasn't been mentioned yet. I actually liked how Mora ended up handling our kicker situation. Thought the move to go for 2 after 2 blocked XP was the exact right move because it gave the freshman a little breather after a tough day. I also liked how he didn't say a thing to call him out after the game (far cry from Seattle days when he lashed out at Olindo Mare). That showed me something - it showed me how Mora may have learned something from mistakes of his early years in coaching at other places.

3. The Bad

bruinclassof10: I think we can all agree that special teams gets the recognition but our kicker is a true freshman. Our corners are another issue. Why are we still giving receivers a 10-yd cushion in the slot, when it's 4th & 8?
Odysseus: Well, considering how bad Price looked when they tried to press the big cushions suddenly aren't so inexplicable. Cornerback play was not good. Price and Hester need to step up or take a seat on the bench.
AHMB: PATs. Crikey.
gbruin: Place kicking. Low kicks like that are a technique problem, not jitters. That needs to get fixed fast, but I'm sure Fairbairn and his coaches are on it already. The D's aggressiveness cost them at times, but I'm more confident that those mistakes will get fixed. Heck, they pretty much were by the second half.
tasser10: Cornerbacks are unimpressive, PATs atrocious, still some residual dumb penalties.

Bellerophon: Besides the obvious (special teams, WTF?!), Price and Hester got owned by WRs from a bottom-tier C-USA school. That does not bode well when we come up against Pac-12 receiving talent. They need to step up their game, quick. There were still some very dumb penalties (i.e. Zumwalt, Lucien, to name a few), and the most concerning is that we lacked the step-on-their-throat killer mentality in this game. Rice was reeling: down 19-0, this game looked like it was on the fast track to making 66-3 look like a boring score. And then we got mentally soft, made mistakes, and let them back in the game. Big kudos to Mora for making some huge half-time adjustments and whipping these guys into shape during the break. Let's hope he uses the practice time to instill the mental toughness to go for the kill at the outset.

Nestor: I hope the guys who are second on our depth chart behind Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price are ready. If these two seniors are not getting it done early against Nebraska, really hope coaches don't hesitate to send a message. They were not good.

4. Game 1's Most Valuable Player(s)?

bruinclassof10: Brett Hundley & Jetski
Odysseus: Anthony Barr
AHMB: Barr and JetSki.
gbruin: JetSki, Xavier Su-a-Filo, Anthony Barr
tasser10: JetSki, Hundley, Barr
Bellerophon: Jet Ski, XSF, Barr, Locke
Nestor: Jet Ski and Anthony Barr.

5. Honorable Mentions

bruinclassof10: Damien Holmes, Anthony Barr, Shaquelle Evans (got a nice shoutout on SportsCenter for his blocking), XSF, Jeff Locke
Odysseus: Damien Holmes, Datone Jones, Hundley, Jetski
AHMB: Can I nominate Noel Mazzone?
gbruin: Hundley, Shaq Evans, and Jeff Locke.
tasser10: Evans, Jordon James.
Bellerophon: Jordon James, Hundley, Shaq, and Owa
Nestor: Brett Hundley, our OL and Owa.

6. What we hope to see vs. Nebraska?

bruinclassof10: Less sloppy tackling technique, Fairbairn needs to become a guy we can rely on for PAT's and our entire secondary needs to step it up a notch or sit down. I'd like to see the youngsters get a shot.
Odysseus: better play in the defensive secondary and special teams. Less mental mistakes and boneheaded penalties
AHMB: Offensively, I hope Fauria gets into the game plan a little more. He's a walking mismatch. Defensively, I'd like to see some more exotic blitz packages.
gbruin: Definitely better secondary play. We'll need more disciplined pursuit and contain responsibilities on D, too. More production from the punt return. Kevin Prince getting a turn at 4th quarter mop-up time.
tasser10: Better containment of the QB (Martinez), no stupid penalties (though aren't they all?), more Fauria, less Price.
Bellerophon: I'd have to agree with everyone above: I'd like to see more of Fauria in the offense, tackling needs to sharpen up, and the secondary needs to pick up their game. I don't feel the urgency from Hester or Price: I hope Mora will go to Rios and Adams if the starters can't get it done.
Nestor: Ditto to everyone above. I also like to see coaches work in some vertical passing attacking. Look for Fauria and Lucien down field a little more.

7. The Extra Point (No Pun Intended)

bruinclassof10: I know it's only the first game, but it was great seeing players help each other up (Ellis McCarthy is a big boy) and get fired up after a big play (like Lucien's catch). Last year, it seemed like the players went by the whole "Team within the Team" mantra where a big play would happen and most players were waving to their fat girlfriends in the stands (Mike Leach reference anybody?) or more concerned with their post-game plans. Also, what was with the Rice fan holding up a "Stanford Rejects" sign in the stands? I didn't even apply to Robber Baron U!
Odysseus: The team seems totally different, faster, more aggressive less passive mindset. There was a lot of improvement, but there's still a lot more needed
AHMB: I was impressed with how the team started and finished. It got a little ugly in between. It was the first game with new schemes on both sides of the ball, but they'll have to execute quite a bit better to beat Nebraska. Having two extra days is a very good thing.
gbruin: The players and coaches looked more locked in pregame than I've seen from a Bruin team in a long time, and the 3 quick TD's showed that. I like that when Rice came back, we didn't collapse or desperately struggle to keep even to the end. We buckled down at half and fixed a lot of the problems and won going away. That's the killer attitude we've been missing. And did anyone notice that EFM was unstoppable in limited time toward the end of the game? Finally, exile in Colorado is infinitely better than exile in Houston.
tasser10: Some bad habits still persist, but losing poise does not seem to be one of them, so far. The defense actually looked fast, like they swarmed to the ball. I was at the SJSU game last year and they looked real slow. If Hundley gets his timing right...starts leading out!
Bellerophon: Holy ****! A UCLA coaching staff that knows how to read a game, make half-time adjustments, and get business done in the second-half. Wow. Let's see if they can keep this up.
Nestor: I was one of the guys picking us to beat Nebraska. I havea steak dinner riding on the game. But, I think this is going to be a really tough game. I still think this is a winnable game but for it get it done we need to get our special teams play cleaned up, secondary tightened and improve our offensive execution. It is going to take a great effort.

Please chime in with your thoughts and expectations for the next game and beyond!