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Poor Game Management Was a Big Factor in UCLA’s Loss to Memphis

Jim Mora’s conservative NFL mindset cost the Bruins dearly yesterday in several key spots.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Having discussed how I felt “meh” after yesterday’s loss, let’s take some time to analyze some of the key points of yesterday’s game.

Specifically, let’s look at some of the key points in the game where poor game management affected the outcome.

I’ve had a lot to say so far this season regarding punting. That’s been because Mora’s conservative NFL mentality has hurt the team in the past and his conservative NFL mentality hurt the team again yesterday.

Let’s take a look how.

Well, in the first drive of the first quarter, the Bruins faced a 4th and 6 from the Memphis 47. Using the NY Times 4th down guide (which, admittedly, is designed for NFL games rather than college and, therefore, not the best guide, but it’s the only one out there), the Bruins should have gone for it.

Considering that the Tigers got the ball on their own 9-yard line and moved 91 yards in two plays, there was no downside to going for it here. There was only upside if UCLA were to get the first down.

On the Bruins’ second drive, they should have punted on fourth down and they did actually punt.

With 3:20 to go in the first quarter, UCLA started a 13 play drive on their own 28. This drive left the Bruins with a 4th and 6 from the Memphis 16. As expected, Jim Mora trotted out the field goal team and JJ Molson kicked a 33-yard field goal.

This could be seen as a critical junction in the game. Jim Mora took 3 points instead of opting to trying for a first down or, ideally, a TD. In retrospect, a TD nets the Bruins seven points instead of three which would have given them enough to win the game 49-48. Hmmm....

UCLA’s next two fourth down situations were 4th and 10 and 4th and 11. They should have punted and they did.

The next questionable call came at the end of the first half. With less than a minute left, down three points and with the ball on their own 25, UCLA ran the ball once and went to the locker room rather than even trying to move down the field quickly into field goal range or chucking the ball downfield deep.

The next two fourth down situations merited punts and that’s what happened.

And, of course, the final fourth down situation occurred on UCLA’s final drive. They went for it and failed.

While there were individual situations on both sides of the ball where the players, including Josh Rosen, could have played better, at the same time, there were definitely several key situations where the coaching staff’s decisions hurt the team’s chances of winning and they need to start playing to win and stop playing to not lose.

I’ve updated the “Fourth Down #NeverKick” chart to include yesterday’s game.

UCLA on Fourth Down After Three Games

Opponent 4th Downs FG Attempts FGA % Punts Punt % 4th Down Attempts Never Kick % 4th Down Conversions Conversion %
Opponent 4th Downs FG Attempts FGA % Punts Punt % 4th Down Attempts Never Kick % 4th Down Conversions Conversion %
Texas A&M 9 1 11.11% 5 55.56% 3 33.33% 2 66.67%
Hawal'l 1 0 0.00% 1 100.00% 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
Memphis 7 1 14.29% 5 71.43% 1 14.29% 0 0.00%
Total 17 2 11.76% 11 64.71% 4 23.53% 2 50.00%

Let’s look at the postgame videos from yesterday.

First up is Coach Mora. The video of the postgame interview is courtesy of David Woods of Bruin Report Online. David has a full transcript of Coach Mora’s interview available, which, at the time I’m writing this, is not behind the BRO paywall.

Mora admitted that the team didn’t take advantage of their good field position in the first half. “We didn’t capitalize on field position well enough in the first half offensively and put the ball in the end zone, so it’s a very disappointing loss,” said Mora.

Really, Jim? Who’s fault is that? Who sent out the punt team the first time? Who sent out the field goal unit instead of trying to get the first down or a TD on the Memphis 16-yard line?

Yeah, this is on you.

The rest of the postgame interviews are from Thuc Nhi Nguyen of First up is defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Coach Bradley doesn’t really seem to say a whole lot in this interview.

Next, we have offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. With Fisch, it’s what he doesn’t say rather than what he actually says and he looks like someone who was incredibly frustrated with the fact the team scored 45 points and still lost the game.

Of course, Josh Rosen discussed the game as well.

Darren Andrews also spoke after the game was over.

And, finally, we have Lokeni Toailoa discussing the play of the defense.

Go Bruins.