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UCLA Football: Bruins Nation's Arizona Post-Game Roundtable Discussion

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the first conference game of the 2015 season, a blow-out 56-30 road victory over Arizona.

UCLA CB Ishmael Adams INT against Arizona in his first game back from suspension.
UCLA CB Ishmael Adams INT against Arizona in his first game back from suspension.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Big win, big participation!

A special thank you to Seth Chandler for serving as this week's guest panelist on the Arizona post-game Roundtable--all the way from Sweden no less!

Let's jump right in:

1. Who were your top performers on offense?

Seth Chandler: When the offense hangs 42 points on an opponent in one half, it's a little hard to pick one top performer—it takes a lot of people to make that happen. Mazzone calling the right plays, the line opening up holes for the backs and giving Josh time to throw, multiple backs running like first-round picks, Josh staying poised and accurate, receivers making "Did you see that!" catches. Was anyone NOT a top performer? I think when the offense is running like a Swiss watch, with everyone doing their jobs perfectly, you've got to give top performer to the coaching staff, including our OC. I’ve started defrosting my plate of crow and am looking forward to eating it.

orlandobruin: Josh Rosen is the obvious choice, but I am going to go with a tie between the offensive line as a unit and Jordan Payton. The offensive line, with a few exceptions early in the second half, was outstanding. The drive in which Jamabo racked up most of his yards was very impressive, and was the "barn cat" moment of the game for me. Jordan Payton had 136 yards receiving, made a big play to extend a drive when Arizona looked to potentially get back into the game early in the second half, and had an equally big touchdown catch. He was Rosen’s security blanket on the night and those offseason workouts Jordan set up with Josh are paying dividends now. Honorable Mention to Thomas Duarte’s one-handed touchdown catch to even it up 7-7.

beer&math: Josh Rosen deserves some praise after shaking off a mediocre performance last week. His numbers were 19 out of 28 for 68%, 284 yards, with 2 passing TD and a running TD, 0 INTS, and a rating of 177. Nice. Have to agree with my colleague orlandobruin about Payton. He looked slightly hobbled early but it didn’t stop him from making tough catches and generally out-muscling Wildcat defenders. I have a soft-spot for Duarte so he gets a mention for another spectacular catch and, even better in my opinion, the tough yards after the catch for the critical first touchdown. The entire OL deserves some praise. Caleb Benenoch is proving prolific when he declared that "they are the best offensive line in the country" in San Berdo. Against Arizona the OL helped the running backs spring for 213 yards, which doesn’t seem like much in this day and age, but I feel like this is mostly a by-product of the short fields UCLA had to work with (thanks Fuller! I’ll get to you in a bit) and could easily have been doubled if necessary. I’ll admit on defense I didn’t really have a good idea of what was going on since I was busy writing notes during the game. I’ll go with Ish and his interception as the DL allowed too many yards on the ground and too few TFL and Sacks (5 and 1, resp.).

DCBruins: I agree with Orlando but will narrow it down to the "player of the game" being the offensive line.  I also want to give a shout out to Thomas Duarte for the play of the game.  His one handed catch without breaking stride was the big play early in the game that changed the momentum for good to UCLA.

Mexibruin: I’m going with Perkins right off that bat. What a stud. 85 yards on 24 carries doesn’t seem like much. But, let’s be honest, he carried the team.  Rosen did a great job bouncing back after that BYU game, and he certainly deserves some praise. But, did the UofA defense key in on Perkins or Rosen? I’m going with Perkins, and he still ground out those yards. And, how can you argue with 3 TDs? Perkins has my vote. Honorable mention goes to Starks and Jamabo. The future looks bright with those two in the backfield.

uclaluv: I’m with DC on this one. The offensive line gets my vote. They opened holes and protected Josh Rosen. And … I also want to give Thomas Duarte a shout out. That catch he made turned the momentum around early in the game. I also want to mention Jordan Payton, Perkins, and Darren Andrews. I loved seeing Andrews in there. His confidence, and game,  should only improve with experience.

Bruinette88: Jake Brendel. Week after week, UCLA’s offensive line is winning the battle in the trenches. As the leader of the offensive line, Brendel deserves recognition for not only his individual play, but for the play of the o-line as a whole.

2. What are your thoughts on the defense's performance against Arizona? Where does Tom Bradley fit in your analysis?

Seth Chandler: Kudos for heads-up play to begin with. It's not a given that we recover all those loose balls. Overall, great effort by the defense to hold a top offense to 14 points in one half and 9 points in the second until garbage time (though defense can't really take credit for the missed PAT—should have been 10). Still, my feeling is we kind of escaped and that to some extent, Arizona's offense beat itself. Without Arizona's drive-killing unforced errors, the defense would have had a lot more to contend with. And if Arizona had had a back-up quarterback who could throw with some accuracy and touch as well as run the ball, well, I don't want to think about what might have happened. The defensive holding penalties might illustrate just how much the defense was struggling. That said, I think our guys showed a lot of character and Bradley showed a lot of resourcefulness in getting the defense ready after the demoralizing loss of three key starters. It was a gut check.

I don't know much about the nuts and bolts of defense, but I have a feeling that Bradley has constructed solid defenses with less talent than he has now, even if our ranks are depleted. "In Tom Bradley we trust," as 281Bruins wrote? Yes, I think we have one of college football's top defensive coordinators who just showed he can make the most out of the talent he has available.

To Coach Mora's point about the sickening number of yards Arizona ran up, I think that partly has to do with all the adjustments to cover the injuries. We got burned by a running QB this time but our guys just spent three years practicing against one of the best running QBs in college football. I think Bradley will be able to remind them this week about how to play defense against that.

orlandobruin: In my preview of Arizona’s offense, I specifically mentioned Randall and the fact that he had 6 carries for over 200 yards and 3 TDs. I said that UCLA had better "account for him" if/when he came into the game. Well, he did and, frankly, the defense did not look ready as he ran UNTOUCHED 39 yards on his first snap. That’s on Bradley, even though I know he specifically stated that they knew about Randall in his postgame interview. Gotta have a spy on that play.  Even when we knew the read option was coming with Randall and Nick Wilson, both of them regularly gashed the defense for 8 yards or so on first down over and over and over again. Luckily, I don’t think we’ll face another QB/RB package with that much athletic ability for the rest of the season. I know Utah runs the read option, but I don’t think Travis Wilson has the same skill set as Randall. Coach Mora was extremely disappointed with the run D and frankly, we all should be. I think, however, it will get better--in Bradley we trust--and won’t have that same type of challenge presented in the Arizona game for the rest of the season.

beer&math: I think it wasn’t a good showing. Although I am sympathetic due to the major injuries on defense, there must be an emphasis on fundamentals and especially tackling by the coaches going forward. I don’t know enough scheme so I can’t really comment with authority. I do think Bradley was content to allow yards but not points. Arizona ran up and down the field but came away with only 23 points on 13 possessions (ignoring the garbage time TD) compared with out 56 points on 12 possessions (ignoring the V formation last drive). If the tackling was a bit better, the score margin is even bigger. Stats wise, nothing pops out at me about their performance.

DCBruins: I thought the biggest problem was the quarterback runs.  The Holiday problem was more obvious but early in the game the defense was set for some stops only to have Solomon break some runs. The ability for teams to run on us is giving me Stanford nightmares.  BYU also ran the ball decently on us at times.  The loss of not only Myles Jack but Eddie Vanderdoes is hurting us here.  We really miss Vanderdoes.  This is a big concern going forward.

Mexibruin: Mixed feelings for me. First of all the defense played great in that they pounced on those fumbles, and gotta give Ish his propers for those 2 interceptions. (Yes, one was called back. But, that doesn’t make his ball hawkishness any less impressive.) That being said; we did not force those fumbles. Can we count on future opponents to hand over the game? I could be wrong here, and I hope I am. But, I’m not as geeked as others are about that lopsided result. I am however ecstatic that we shut both the Zona Zoo and the BSPN talking headings up emphatically.

uclaluv: On the face of it, UCLA’s defense looked like they did a good job. Arizona had been averaging 53 points per game I believe, so holding them to 30 looks impressive. However, the teams they played previously aren’t on the same level as anyone in the Pac-12, so we need to use our own eyes to see how they played. First, I haven’t seen that kind of poor tackling by UCLA’s defense in I don’t know how long. I don’t know what that was about. It seems that goes beyond scheming. However, I do wonder if it can have something to do with not being comfortable yet with all the changes. Playing defense aggressively - which I think includes tackling with total intent - must rest to a large extent on trust, trusting you know what you are supposed to be doing and that everyone else does as well. In many ways, this was like an opening game for this defense. We will need to see how they play next week. Second, I felt like I was watching Wisconsin or Miami all over again. If the score hadn’t been so lopsided, I would have had great fear that the defense wasn’t going to be able to stop the run, ever, and that Arizona would beat us with long runs that we could not stop. I was glad to hear the coaches being just as upset about this as some of the feelings that were accompanying those flashbacks I was feeling.

Bruinette88: To be fair, I thought it was a really tough week for the Bruins to face an offense as potent as Arizona’s. After losing both Myles Jack and Fabian Moreau--two of our best defenders--our defense would have looked less dominant against any opponent. I don’t know how well the defense will ultimately adapt to a season without Vanderdoes, Jack and Moreau, but I expect it to improve on its performance against the Wildcats, and I have confidence that Coach Bradley will do a good job of developing the "next men up."

3. Tell us your biggest surprise from the game.

Seth Chandler: Well, I predicted we were going to win 28-6 by pounding the football and playing hard-nosed defense. It never occurred to me that we would hang 56 points on Arizona and be up 42-14 at the half. Never. In fact, I cannot recall any U.C.L.A. offense I've ever seen being so dominant against a ranked opponent in conference play. It was an eye-opener for me. This offense does everything so well. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. All the signs were there. The attack is so balanced with probably the best contingent of backs in college football, some excellent receivers and a very poised quarterback who can complete passes and manage a game. So I don't think this performance was a one-off, I think it was a coming-out party.

orlandobruin: The halftime score. And that we recorded six touchdowns on our seven possessions in the first half.

beer&math: Devin Fuller. I’ve always praised his dependability though he’s never been a ‘breakout performer’ until now. He’s found his niche as a punt and kick returner and was as big a reason as anyone for the big win. His punt return numbers were 3 for 36 yards and kick returns were 2 for 62 yards. That’s unreal. 8-clap for Fuller!

DCBruins: Our ability to convert difficult third downs in the first half.  The first drive we converted a 3rd and 9, the third TD drive a 3rd and 3 and and a 3rd and 4, the fifth TD drive a 3rd and 13.  We were not going to be stopped in the first half.

Mexibruin: The offense. After the ugly win against BYU, and Mazzone’s comments about not knowing what defense the Cougars were in, I expected another ugly offensive game. But, the Offense was hitting on all cylinders. The O line was in beast mode all game long, and simply dominated the UofA D line. Let’s not forget the way in which they converted all of the Wildcat turnovers into points. Even with shortened fields, it’s an impressive feat. We’ve all seen far too many Bruins teams in the past fail to capitalize on opponents miscues.

uclaluv: I have to admit I wasn’t surprised by the play of the offense. I thought they would come out and run all over Arizona. I don’t exactly know why I thought that, but I did. I even had picked UCLA to have the most points of all the teams in the Pick ‘Em tie breaker. I was surprised that we were so bad against the run. Actually, I was quite shocked. I was happy for many players - especially Darren Andrews - who had a bit of a coming out party, Devin Fuller - who seems to have found the place he can shine best on this team, and Ishmael Adams - who looked like the old Ish.

Bruinette88: Like Coach Mora, I was shocked by our inability to stop the run. And I agree with his assessment that it reflects a failure that starts with the coaches. That said, as I noted above, it was unrealistic to expect Coach Bradley to replace two star defenders in less than a week and shut down a team with as much offensive firepower as the Wildcats. The other surprise for me was how quickly Arizona self-destructed. I expected a much more closely contested game, but then again, I also expected the Wildcats to execute football fundamentals, like snapping the ball and tackling, with competence. In that respect, Arizona was a very generous host.

4. Penalties. Discuss.

Seth Chandler: Penalties. Sigh. they were mostly on defense, weren't they? I can't really fault our guys for choosing to hold instead of getting beaten for a touchdown. And I'd cut them a little slack in the first game after losing key people. But a little better situational awareness would help. They weren't showing the replays, but I think that hold on Josh's run was pointless. We also might have gotten some home cooking on certain calls and no-calls. I think there was a questionable call on tackling out of bounds, for example. Meanwhile, Arizona only got called for holding, like, once, when the game was over. I'm such a homer. I probably shouldn't comment.

orlandobruin: The STPR’s missed a whole bunch of ‘em against Arizona. Deon Hollins continues to get held and PAC 12 refs continue to overlook it. That’s two games in a row. Perkins was clearly horse-collared right in front of a ref and he kept his hand off the flag. ESPN was awful by not showing replays of UCLA’s penalties so it was tough to assess whether the calls were valid. 9 for 76 yards is not great, but it is still better than in past years. I saw from the game threads that the penalty that negated a long run by Paul Perkins was questionable. That was a tough one because Paul’s 30 yards or so do not show up on the stat sheet. It goes down as a 3 yard penalty (the hold was when Perkins was already 13 yards downfield), but it was a cost us 33 or so yards.

beer&math: We currently rank 106 in the country in penalty yards (7.75 penalties and 76.5 yards per game), dead-last in the Pac-12. As orlandobruin notes above, versus Arizona was had 9 penalties for 76 yards, right on cue. This is who we are and it’s embarrassing. It’s getting better marginally (we’re under 80 yards -- yay! not.), but I expected more after hearing Mora speak of about this exact issue during the off-season.

DCBruins: This game we avoided some of the really dumb penalties (the late hits, targets, etc.) but penalties cost us turnovers.  On offense we overcame the early penalties without an issue.  I guess I am not as worried as others about the penalties, but the defensive penalties seem more troubling.

Mexibruin: Not bothered by them right now. At least, not bothered by penalties in this game. Sure, it was frustrating to see some good plays called back. But, I was also painfully aware of a bunch of non-calls against Arizona. In a much closer game, it will much easier to harp about them, but not tonight.

uclaluv: I guess we are consistent! My biggest complain was the failure of the refs to call holds against Arizona. I know we couldn’t tackle and that cost us yards. But I also know that too many of those runs were helped by holds and several times our pass rush was thwarted by holds. I was pleased that after the two early false starts, that those stopped. I was getting that sick - here we go again - feeling.

Bruinette88: I’m pretty disappointed. As beer&math notes, there was reason to expect improvement this year after Coach Mora addressed the issue in the offseason. But through our first four games, the results look awfully familiar.

Year Penalties/Game Penalty Yards/Game
2013 8.1 73.1
2014 8.0 75.3
2015 7.8 76.5

Those numbers aren’t indicative of meaningful change; rather, they represent more of the same.

5. What’s your take on the relative strength of the Pac-12 conference? Follow-up: Do you think a 2-loss Pac-12 champ will be excluded from the CFP?

Seth Chandler: The Pac-12 is as strong as any conference in the country. I don't see how a Pac-12 champion could be excluded even with two losses because at least one of those losses would have to have been in conference play. And the other loss would have to be in conference play or in a game too early in the season to count for much. If both losses were in conference, it would just show how tough the conference is. My question is what if we have an undefeated champion and a one-loss runner-up? Would both get into the playoff?

orlandobruin: I am answering the questions in reverse order. If that 2 loss champ is Oregon, yes, I think they will be excluded. Nobody can honestly vote them in after that beatdown by the Utes. If a team loses a couple of very close games to very good teams, maybe they get in. A lot of it depends on Notre Dame. If they get into the CFB, only 3 teams from the Power 5 Conferences will go. No way would a 2 loss team get in if Notre Dame gets in. As for the strength of the PAC 12 Conference, the strength is in the PAC 12 South. In BN’s preseason prognostications, I only had 3 teams for the North as bowl eligible (Oregon, Stanford, and Cal). That’s looking about right. I thought that the South would have 5 teams bowl eligible. That appears to be on track as well, and UCLA, Utah, and just$C* have legitimate shots to win the division. Arizona is a dark horse now.

beer&math: I think it’s on par with the big, mighty ess eee see. The Pac12 has 5 teams ranked (#7 UCLA, #10 Utah, #17 *$c, #18 Stanford, and #24 UC Berkeley) with another two who still look like top 25 teams (Oregon and Arizona). I want to believe a 2-loss Pac12 team can get in depending on the circumstances. For example, if UCLA loses to Stanford and Utah by less than 6 points combined, and Stanford and Utah turn out to be 10 win teams. That would put UCLA 11-2 with a 3-2 record over ranked teams (assuming *$c is still ranked and the team from the North is ranked in the P12CG). If we beat Stanford in the rematch, I’d like our chances to be in. I haven’t really seen any team in CFB really look that much better than anyone else, so I want to believe a good Pac12 team gets in under these circumstances. I mean, that’s the same excuse the SEC used for nearly a decade, right?

DCBruins: Man did we pick the wrong year to get a bye against Oregon.  I agree with Orlando except I don’t think a 2 loss PAC 12 team makes the playoff.

Mexibruin: First of all, I am now crazy worried about Utah. Jeeeeeeeezus did they look good against the Ducks. We all knew the Ducks were not what they have been in the past, but to beat Oregon like that in Autzen?! I don’t think anybody could have expected that. And, let’s not bury the Ducks just yet. I can easily see them progressing as the year goes on and pulling off an upset that could affect both Pac 12 and national standings. Do I think a 2 loss Pac 12 team can make the playoffs? Sure; but it would very dependent on who they lose to, and, they would have to avenge one of those losses in the Pac 12 championship game. Just playing devil’s advocate here.

uclaluv: I think the Pac-12 champion is in. I think the nation recognizes the Pac-12 is a strong conference.

Bruinette88: I doubt that a two-loss team will make the playoff, whether or not it is a Pac-12 team.

6. Does UCLA still have the pieces to win the Pac-12 South?

Seth Chandler: We might need a little luck. The question mark before the season was the quarterback. Now it's the defense. The defense did well against Arizona, but how long before other coaches figure out how to exploit our weaknesses? Or can coach Bradley stay one step ahead? With great teamwork, fundamentals, discipline and play-calling he could do a lot with the talent we still have and make it a solid unit, if not the dominant one it could have been without the injuries. Meanwhile, the offense has shown it can score a lot of points, and it's just going to get better. We might win the conference by winning a lot of shootouts.

And, by the way, the coaches' knowing we can't necessarily count on our defense to hold might begin an era of gambling, balls-to-the-wall offense. Could become the highest-scoring team in U.C.L.A. football history. You heard it here first.

orlandobruin: Absolutely. The new guys on defense will only get better. Defensively, I think we match up pretty well against ASU (check out my preview of ASU’s offense on Wednesday to see why), and I think we will play well at home next week. I think we match up better against Stanford too. Their power running game is a completely different beast than the read option with Randall and Wilson. For example, I think Kenny Young has a better skill set to play against a power team like Stanford than how he played last Saturday (not good). On offense, if our line stays healthy, I think we can average over 40 points a game this season (we are at 37.75 PPG right now). The health of the line is key. I cannot emphasize that enough. If we get through ASU and Stanford unscathed, I think we go into Utah undefeated. Rosen will essentially be a sophomore experience-wise by the time we get to Utah and the Trogans.

beer&math: I’m a bit squeamish about the defense, but if the offense stays healthy (knock on everything wooden around me) we definitely have the talent. Looking at the schedule again, I still feel good about our chances against all our opponents except possibly the last two road games in November. A split there is probably good enough to win the conference. Lots of football left to be played though.

DCBruins: Yes.  We have to beat Stanford for a number of reasons.  I think it will be tough to beat Utah at Utah depending on the weather.  I think the Trogan game will have extra meaning this year.

Mexibruin: I honestly don’t know. I had thought before the season we would have a dominating defense that would mask our deficiencies on offense. Now, we have a big question mark for a defense. This was particularly on display when Jayon Brown got hurt. I literally had to pull up a roster to see who else we had that could come in. And, I want to point something out. We have stock piled the talent for the last 4 years, but what really matters is game experience. What talent really means is that someone can come in and their speed or talent will minimize their learning curve. But, they can be exposed against a savvy all star or scheming coach.

uclaluv: I think so. But I think Utah also has the talent to win the south. I think the defense will find its way and be solid. Like I said above, this was like the first outing for this particular group. I actually think there could be more up and down with the offense just because a passing game can be up and down. I still think we take the south, but I am concerned about Utah.

Bruinette88: It’s certainly possible, but the Bruins margin for error is razor-thin now. Through the first three games of the season, we were excited about winning with our defense. Now we’re talking about winning with our offense. At this point, we can’t afford to lose anymore key defensive players, and a lot of our other defensive starters--especially our linebackers--have to step up and produce consistently solid performances.

7. The Extra-Point. Fire away:

Seth Chandler: At Mora's press conference, I liked when he started talking about how they don't care about what other people think of them, they care about whether they are meeting their own standards. When he said he couldn't think of anything good about the performance of the defense, that the yards they gave up made him sick—and quickly added that defense starts with him and the assistant coaches—I thought that was a pretty good standard. And when he joked that he was pissed that they didn't get TDs seven out of seven times I thought that was a pretty good standard, too.

orlandobruin: The answers to my Pregames Guesses are: (1) Tahaan Goodman with 10 tackles, one for a loss, and a sack (12 points). I know Goodman has played a bit in the past and he was borderline as a "next man up" candidate but he only had 3 tackles all season, so I am giving it to him. Jayon Brown was second with 7 tackles and might have taken the honors if he stayed healthy the whole game; (2) Nick Wilson had more yards than Perk (but Perk had 3 TDS; zippo by Wilson); (3) Arizona did NOT reach the 33 point threshold (but UCLA exceeded 34); and (4) by my count, Fowler and Herbie only "discussed" the absence of Myles Jack three times during the broadcast, well below my over/under line of 6 (and much less that most posters guessed). gbruin came closest to getting all guesses correct, with picks of Ish, Wilson, No, and 3 times Myles was discussed. 3 out of 4 ain’t bad, g, good job!

beer&math: I’m curious about how Perkins should be used as the season progresses in terms of the Heisman race. This looks like the year of the running back and I’d like Perkins to continue to get the love he deserves. This means piling on stats. Before the game, I knew the RBs would be a key to the game and knew the Arizona RB Wilson would get way more yards than Perkins since we would use our stable to keep Perkins fresh and Arizona uses pretty much only Wilson. However, I didn’t realize Perkins had 24 touches and only got 85 yards out of it. I guess we’ve been spoiled in the past. Perkins dropped to 13th nationally with 128.5 yards per game (Arizona’s Nick Wilson is 8th with 142.5 yd/gm). As a team, UCLA is 23rd nationally with 233 yards per game. The team is pretty balanced, though, so I’m not sure there’s anything to change.

DCBruins: I think it is underestimated how important a playmaker on defense is.  I think people underestimate the loss of Myles Jack for this reason.  He was a big play waiting to happen on D.  I think for that reason the return of Ishmael Adams is huge.  Yes, he can get burned.  However, Ishmael is the player on the defense most likely to make a big INT and turn it into six points.  Ishmael is not Myles but he can make the play that changes a game on D at some point this season.

Mexibruin: That Duarte one handed bobbling catch for the TD was a thing of beauty. Take a bow buddy. That one’s going to be etched in Bruin lore for a generation!

uclaluv: I would also like to highlight Duarte’s catch. He has been so solid, well ever since they started seeing that he is always open. Not only does he get open, but he also seems to make a big play after the catch. I also want to give props to the staff for covering up that stupid sign Arizona puts up by the opponent’s locker room with the temperature. I didn’t hear what was being said, but first saw someone looking like they were trying to take the screws out, but were probably told they couldn’t do that. Then, the garbage bag was taped over it. I know it’s a small thing, but the act seemed like the first sign of a kind of "take no prisoners" attitude that showed throughout the game. This team doesn’t back down or take the petal off the metal. I love the fire!

Bruinette88: I think it’s appropriate to use the "extra point" to praise Ka’imi Fairbairn for his terrific performances so far this season. Fairbairn has a 79.3% touchback percentage this season, and his kickoffs have been the key to UCLA’s kickoff coverage unit ranking third nationally. Fairbairn also deserves recognition for his consistency on field goals and PATs. At his current pace, he will leave UCLA as the Bruins’ all-time scoring leader. We should appreciate what we have in Fairbairn while he’s still at UCLA.


That's it for the Arizona Postgame Roundtable. Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts and I welcome anyone else to share their own answers in the comments.