Was UCLA's Defense "Bad" Against ASU? Breaking Down the Stats.

Christian Petersen

Bumped. Go Bruins. - BN eds.

Reviewing the comments in the aftermath of UCLA's 62-27 victory over the Sun Devils, many are concerned with the trajectory of the UCLA defense. Many have pointed to the lack of a pass rush. Personally, I think we game planned to stop DJ Foster and make ASU's back-up QB beat us, which means you would not be blitzing and, instead, rushing only 3 or 4 guys.

Others have pointed to ASU's stats. At first blush, they look ugly: 105 plays; 38 first downs; 626 total yards of offense; 27 points; and 34:07 Time of Possession. But how much of this was the result of UCLA's defense getting even more conservative with a big lead, allowing ASU to dink and dunk, but not allowing an explosive, big play to get them back in the game quickly? I reviewed each of ASU's drives in the second half, to see how much of ASU's stats were racked up after the Bruins had gone up 34-17 (remember, Adams scored his TD with :02 left in the first half; UCLA got the ball to start the second half, and scored on its first play, and 80 yard strike to Jordan Payton, which took :19).

Here is a summary of ASU's 2nd half drives:

Drive 1: 12 plays; 4 First Downs; 58 yards; 5:17 TOP; Result: Field Goal

(Adams then ran back the kickoff, boosting the lead to 41-17)

Drive 2: 1 play; 0 First Downs; 0 yards; :07 TOP; Result: Strip sack & fumble recovery

(Nate Starks scored a TD shortly thereafter, boosting the lead to 48-20; at this point, with 8:27 left in the 3rd Q, I think UCLA consciously decided to allow the dink and dunk type short passes--a prevent type defense, if you will--forcing ASU to chew clock)

Drive 3: 11 plays; 5 First Downs; 75 yards; 4:17 TOP; Result: Touchdown

(UCLA punted on its next possession, after 4 rushing plays and one screen pass, consistent with the strategy of chewing the clock)

Drive 4: 12 plays (all passes); 3 First Downs; 72 yards; 3:44 TOP; Result: 4th down stop

Drive 5: 12 plays; 5 First Downs; 74 yards; 3:07 TOP; Result: 4th down stop

Drive 6: 7 plays; 2 First Downs; 39 yards; 2:58 TOP; Result: 4th down stop

Total 2nd half stats for ASU (with total games stats in parenthesis):

55 plays (out of 105)

19 first downs (out of 38)

318 yards (out of 626)

10 points

19:30 TOP (out of 34:07)

Analyzing these stats, a few things jump out at me that cause concern: 50 plays, 19 first downs, and 308 yards in the first half, when the game was very much in doubt. The TOP does not concern me one bit. The TOP in the 3rd Q was roughly 12 minutes (ASU) to 3 minutes (UCLA), even though UCLA outscored ASU, 21-10. Oregon routinely gets dominated in TOP. That is natural in a quick strike offense.

Before I crunched these numbers, my thought was that the plays, first downs, and yardage, would be skewed toward the second half, and especially after Starks' TD, when UCLA went up by 28 points with and quarter and a half to go. Unfortunately for UCLA, this is not the case. The first downs, plays, and yardage are almost equal for ASU when comparing the first and second halves. This is a concern.

One can say that this was part of UCLA's strategy: take away Foster (UCLA did), allow ASU to dink and dunk, avoiding the big play (UCLA did), and let the QB try to beat us, hoping for mistakes (2 INTs and one fumble by ASU's backup QB). ASU scored 27 points; I think most of us would take that in each game, given that UCLA will likely score at least 28 points per game. Someone mentioned in the comments that UCLA played a "contain" defense, and I agree that this was the case.

Even if this was part of the game plan, 50 plays, 19 first downs, and 308 yards in the first half is not good. Yes, it was hot. Yes, the D was worn down because the O scored so quickly. But isn't that why we went to San Berdoo? To acclimate to the heat. Don't we want to be a quick scoring O? We run the no-huddle and Coach Mora is constantly yelling to be up-tempo, ("Faster, faster!") in "The Drive"? If so, the D needs to know that it will be on the field a lot, and be conditioned accordingly.

The defensive first half performance we saw in Tempe will not fly against Oregon (and maybe some other Pac-12 teams, starting with an under-ranked, under the radar, and well-coached Utah team that just punked Michigan at "The Big House"). I would guess that the game plans will be wildly different for Utah and Oregon than it was against ASU, but the bottom line is, UCLA's defense must get better (especially on third down) for this team to meet its own goals, and the goals set here on BN. I think Coach Mora and Coach Ulbrich understand this.

This concern, however, will not keep me from continuing to savor the win. Hanging 62 on a ranked team at their house is HUGE, no doubt, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Go Bruins!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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