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Spaulding Report: UCLA Striving For Better After An "OK" Win

Jim Mora talked about the Bruins having an "ok" performance on Saturday and that he and his team are trying to find ways to improve in every area.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Mora called Saturday's win "ok". Not great. Not even good. Just "ok".

It's funny as a coach. It's crazy. Sometimes I think you need to learn to enjoy wins more than you do. I don't know if we're the ultimate pessimists or optimists or what we are but it seems like, no matter what, we're going back to try to find out how we can do it a little bit better, which probably is...I know it's a good thing. Everything from our tempo on offense to tackling on defense to eliminating penalties to our substitution patterns to being exacting in our alignments and our routes and being exacting in our run fits and our leverage and coverage. It's everything. Even the most perfect play, when you break it down there's things that just weren't as exact as you like.

Dang. He makes BN look positive.

Hilarious jokes aside, I think we all saw the game as a bit better than "ok". Our resident expert IE Angel graded it out at 3.5 in the Eye Test. Former Bruins Jarrad Page and Bruce Davis recapped the Virginia the game in their Bruin Huddlecast podcast and they scored the team as a B+ and an A- respectively. Clearly the offense topped most reasonable expectations, but I think we're all fine that the team isn't getting ahead of itself and is focusing on improvement rather than congratulating itself on a solid opening performance.

The big story since the game itself has been the loss of Eddie Vanderdoes.

Mora: He did it on a pass rush. He was trying to avoid the quarterback and when he came down and his knee was locked out. He felt a pop. He went to the sidelines and they examined him  As often is the case, his muscles had contracted so he was pretty stable. They let him go back in the game and he could tell pretty quickly it wasn't feeling great.

Chicago Bruin discussed this scenario in the injury thread.

I am understandably cautious about second guessing doctors, and I expect Chicago Bruin feels the same way, because injuries and illness frequently aren't obvious at first glance, and I don't know what the knee exam looked like or what Eddie said at the time. But listening to Mora's account and given the initial mechanism and complaint, Eddie probably should have come out when it "wasn't feeling great", rather than waiting for the ACL to give altogether following the touchdown. Would it have changed the outcome and treatment? No. He still would have had an ACL tear from the initial pass rush that needed a surgical repair, but the optics of it all would look a lot better. Hindsight is always 20/20, but the team doctors and coaching staff need to be sure they are proactive with player health and safety issues. I think fans have been pretty comfortable with Mora's judgement on these things in that past and none wants to see that appearance change.

Eddie will have surgery in the next couple weeks, and while he's off the field, he'll get to spend a lot of quality time with Coach Angus McClure breaking down game film of the following week's opponents in a program similar to what McClure did with Owamagbe Odighizuwa (that does feel good, IE!) during Owa's 4th year while he recovered from hip surgery. Eddie will be studying film and preparing analyses for all the personnel groups and not just the D line, and McClure feels this will keep him mentally connected with the team and help him develop better knowledge of the entire game.

In other comments, Ishmael Adams is still suspended indefinitely as the program continues to gather facts about the incident. However, Nate Starks is going to play on Saturday. The coach would not say why he wasn't dressed for the opener, and there is nothing to say that Nate was connected with Ishmael's incident. But whatever the issue, it is good that Nate is back on the field. From a football standpoint, adding Starks into the RB rotation gives the Bruins a very deep backfield.

And it may get even more crowded. Craig Lee is still awaiting his final grade to come in and the team expects something definite in the next 7 days. Lee has been working with the scout team, but if his grade confirms his eligibility, he will likely get some action before much longer. Mora sounds like he wants to give Lee a chance to play.

Thanks to Ed Lewis from Bruin Sports Report for the videos from today's session.

video from Ed Lewis on BSR TV via YouTube

The Bruins left tackle Caleb Benenoch was also pretty understated about the performance of the offensive line following one of the line's best performances ever.

We had a pretty good day. There's always things to work on to get better. There were some mistakes that were made. It's never as good as you think it is - it's never as bad as you think it is. So we'll watch the film and have those things corrected and we'll look to improve this next week.

If anyone on the team had an opportunity to say, "I told you so", it's Caleb. He has been saying all preseason that the offensive line is going to be much better than what everyone was saying, going as far as saying the unit could be the best in the country. Maybe they weren't quite that, but they were really very good. It turns out the OL did not give up any sacks on Saturday. The official scoring on the one sack was changed when on review Josh Rosen got back to the line of scrimmage, turning the play into a run for no yards instead of a sack. Caleb said that Virginia sold out to stop the run early and that's why it took the offense a bit to get the running game going. He also said that "there was no drop-off whatsoever" with running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu making the calls on Saturday. Caleb has been practicing against the Bruins D line for weeks and added that while no one can replace Vanderdoes on the D line, the D line still looks good and that there is good depth with Matt Dickerson and Eli Ankou.

video from Ed Lewis and BSR TV via YouTube

In contrast to Coach Mora and Benenoch who both downplayed Saturday's performance, ILB Myles Jack was highly positive of both his and the front seven's performance on Saturday, noting they all graded out in the 90s. He said the defense played "tremendously" and that he and Kenny Young "did what we were supposed to do". He said he is enjoying the dirt and grit playing inside linebacker and that he feels comfortable there. Myles credited DC Tom Bradley with pushing attention to detail positioning and LB Coach Scott White is the energy guy who is stressing different approaches. He feels that the defense will need to step up to replace Eddie's loss on the D line. He was surprised by the opportunity to run the ball on Saturday since he hadn't taken any live reps at any time in preseason camp.

One intrepid reporter asked Myles about his two flags. Myles said he didn't necessarily agree with them and after watching the film he thought the calls could have gone either way (meaning horse collar or face mask?). He followed by saying he has to focus on getting his hands a little bit lower and acknowledged that the penalties hurt the team and that he has to work on his technique. My advice: watch tape of every tackle Eric Kendricks made at UCLA. There should be about 400 clips.

video from Ed Lewis and BSR TV via YouTube

Jack Wang at InsideUCLA had a clip from the Pac-12 Network of former ASU and Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos(!) QB Jake Plummer, who is leaving his cush retirement in Idaho to do some studio work for the conference. The Snake had high praise for Rosen's Week 1 performance.

"The command of the offense is what really surprised me. For a true freshman to come in and have that good of a command of the offense — you watched him go through reads, to step into his throws. He threw with confidence. His location was really, for a freshman, amazing....

A couple of times, I saw him throw his guys open. That's something you learn to do as a quarterback as you get around stiffer competition.

Plummer also warned not to get too carried away in praising the freshman, echoing what UCLA head coach Jim Mora has said for at least the past week.

The hype may be difficult to control: According to online sportsbook Bovada, Rosen now has a 14-to-1 shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, way up from the 40-to-1 odds he received a week ago.

I said in the game thread there should be no Heisman talk until after week 4, and that only if Rosen was still playing at this level, then I'd lead the charge. It could be I'll be far behind the crowd already by that point. You know what? I hope so.

Plummer wasn't the only former pro QB praising Rosen, but he wasn't the one backtracking in an attempt to revise history and disingenuously trying to claim credit for his success, a la one Trent Dilfer. Recall it was the great Dilfer who publicly criticized Rosen at the Elite 11 Quarterbacks Camp, calling him uncoachable and ranking him #11 among the 11 quarterbacks at the event.

He's super, super smart, but I think it is almost a curse for him. Josh is a guy who has yet to buy in to what I am preaching. He's still a guy who keeps telling me how they do it at John Bosco.

It's funny because I've sat him down, I've complimented him on how much he knows. He definitely understands defenses, but what Josh has to learn before he takes the keys over to a major college program is that it's not about knowing more than the coach, it's about doing it the coach's way.

Well, look who was changing his tune two days ago.

Dilfer said Rosen's understanding of defenses as a high schooler was uncanny. The former NFL quarterback credits Rosen's football smarts to a combination of intelligence and the high-level coaching he received at southern California football powerhouse St. John Bosco High School.

Asked about Rosen's confidence that borders on cockiness and Dilfer is quick to correct: "I don't think it's bordering."

Dilfer coached Rosen hard and was publicly critical of him at Elite 11 because of that cockiness, but he doesn't think it's a negative.

"I think it's necessary to succeed," Dilfer said. "I wanted him to open his mind to more football. I thought the danger was in him thinking what he knew was enough."

Ok, got it. Thanks for coaching him so hard, Trent.