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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruin Football Hosts Tate-Less Arizona Wildcats

With Khalil Tate out, how will the ‘Cats back-up QB fare? Will UCLA’s offensive line continue its improvement since the return of Boss Tagaloa? Who will lead UCLA in tackles?

Washington v UCLA
UCLA appears to have found its “bellcow” back in Joshua Kelley
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

With half the season down, the UCLA Bruins (1-5, 1-2 PAC 12) finally earned a win with a complete performance against the UC Berkeley Golden Bears last weekend, by the score of 37-7. The rushing game was humming with junior running back Joshua Kelley carrying the rock and junior center Boss Tagaloa quarterbacking the offensive line.

Both the running game and Tagaloa will be featured in today’s PGG.

So will UCLA’s opponent, an Arizona team (3-4, 1-2 PAC 12) that has so far had a disappointing year under first year Head Coach Kevin Sumlin. And now Khalil Tate—who single handedly destroyed UCLA last season, is out. But the match-up of the game, IMO, is UCLA’s newly found rushing attack against Arizona’s #107 ranked rushing defense, which allows in excess of 202 rushing yards per game. Part of UCLA resurgence running the ball is due to the return of Tagaloa to the center position.

After two weeks of fan requests for the musical selections, I went selfish the last two weeks with a song out of Seattle agaisnt U-Dub and two songs out of the Bay Area versus Berkeley. This week, it is back to a fan’s request because, frankly, it is consistent with one of the themes of this article.

Since his return from a three game suspension to start the season, UCLA’s Boss Tagaloa has materially changed UCLA’s offense. The converted defensive tackle took over at the center position, moving freshman Christaphany Murray from center to right guard, which in turn moved Justin Murphy from right guard to right tackle. The results have been outstanding so far. UCLA’s rushing attack (and particularly Joshua Kelley) has gotten better each week since “boss’ return. The pass protection has been much better as well, allowing the UCLA’s freshman QB, Dorial Thompson Robinson, more time to make good decisions with the ball.

So, in tribute to Tagaloa, and with a hat tip to Changito for his suggestion in the post game article after the UCLA win over Berkeley, here is The Grateful Dead’s 1971 tune, “Big Boss Man”:

I was never a huge fan of the Dead, although I knew a lot of Deadheads at UCLA in the late 80s/early 90s. But after listening to this song several times after receiving Changito’s request, I found that I really liked it. Maybe musical tastes change over time. Or maybe the bluesy stuff sounds better and better each day with all of the shlock the music label industry machine puts out today.

And . . . get off my lawn!!!!

Going into the game, the prevalent story is Arizona’s loss of Khalil Tate. Tate was good against UCLA in an Arizona loss two years ago at the Rose Bowl, and absolutely superhuman against the Bruins last year in a record-breaking performance in the desert.

Tate had 230 yards on 15 carries and two rushing touchdowns against UCLA. He was also an efficient 9-13 throwing the ball, for 148 yards and a touchdown. He dominated the game, a 47-30 thrashing.

So now, RichRod’s son, sophomore QB Rhett Rodriguez, who has thrown 46 passes in his college career (117 less than Dorian Thompson Robinson) gets his first college start on the road at the Rose Bowl. To his credit, MiniRod™ completed 27 of those passes, for one touchdown and no interceptions. UCLA fans going to the game . . . can we please make it hard on this kid? Let’s get those mikes to the yell squads, stat! Stand up and scream on third down!

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Predict Rhett Rodriguez’s stat line (passing completions, attempts, yards, TDs, and INTs).

Boss is anchoring the reconstructed offensive line. Statistically, I think o-line play can be measured in three respects: (1) rushing yardage (blowing the d-line off the ball): (2) sacks and hurries (are you protecting the passer?); and (3) passing completion percentage (does the QB have enough time to make the right reads and throws). UCLA has had 151, 150, and 207 rushing yards since Boss came back. I don’t known where to find stats on “hurries” but, without Boss, UCLA allowed 12 sacks. With him, the Bruins have only conceded 5 sacks. Finally, Thomson Robinson’s completion percentage was .546 in the first three games (two of which were at home), and .647 in the second three games (only one of which was at home). This is tangible improvement.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Let’s gauge the line play using these three metrics in this three-part question: Predict (a) UCLA’s total rushing yardage; (b) UCLA’s sacks allowed; and (3) Thompson Robinson’s completion percentage against Arizona.

Let’s make this one easier and less complicated. Last week, once again, UCLA was led in tackles by safety Adarius Pickett. It’s never a good thing when a safety leads the team in tackles, but some would say Pickett plays almost like another linebacker. In any event, Pickett “only” had 9 tackles last week (5 solo), below his average of 11.66 tackles per game, but inside linebacker, Krys Barnes, played a nice game as well and was right there with Pickett, contributing 8 tackles (5 solo). Quentin Lake could be in the mix too.

PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Who will lead the Bruins in tackles this week?

BONUS GUESS: Here has been the attendance at the Rose Bowl this season, with a qualifier for each game:

Cincinnati: 54,116 (first game of the Chip Kelly era)

Fresno State: 60,867 (lots of the Red Wave washed into the Rose Bowl from upstate)

Washington: 51,123 (big time, #10 ranked opponent and students back on campus)

Predict the attendance at the Rose Bowl for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday night game against Arizona.

Make your guesses in the comment section below. Or sound off about anything else UCLA football, or The Dead for that matter.

Go Bruins!