“No. Our temptation is to try to beat Fresno.” - Chip Kelly, September 10, 2018
Those were Kelly’s words when asked last week if he was tempted to just grow with freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Well, that reminds me of some very wise words from Jedi Master Yoda. “No! Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”
Last night at the Rose Bowl, UCLA did not. Again.
Putting the wisdom of Yoda aside, I’m scratching my head this morning in disbelief. There can be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that the performance of the UCLA Bruins against the Fresno State Bulldogs last night wasn’t just a step back. It was multiple steps back. Not only did the team look worse than it did against Oklahoma, it looked worse than it did against Cincinnati. The question is “How much worse?”
By some measures, historically worse.
As markybcool correctly pointed out in last night’s post-game article, UCLA is now 0-3 for the first time since 1971. I graduated from UCLA in 1994. Next month, I will celebrate my 47th birthday. The last time UCLA started 0-3, I was not born yet.
But, wait! That’s not all!
Rodgers actually lost the first four games of the 1971 season. If the Bruins cannot beat Colorado on the road after this week’s bye, Kelly will tie, and then probably surpass, Rodgers for the worst start since 1943.
How bad was last night’s loss? Well, that depends.
On one hand, UCLA lost to #24 Texas, 49-20, in 2011. The year before, the Bruins lost 35-0 to #25 Stanford. But to find a worse loss against an unranked team at home, you’ve got to go back to 2008.
That’s when UCLA lost to an unranked Oregon State team, 34-6.
There was so much wrong with last night’s game that I’m not sure where to even begin trying to dissect it.
So, let’s start with quarterback.
We’re now three games into the season and Dorian Thompson-Robinson has played in all three. In the Cincinnati game, he was terrible until the final drive. He played better against Oklahoma. Last night, he was worse than either of his previous two games. He was just 10 of 24 for 151 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions.
To his credit, he was UCLA’s leading rusher last night having gained 61 yards on 8 carries. All things considered, it was nice to see him finally starting to run the ball a little bit.
Last night, I got inside to the Rose Bowl earlier than usual. I was inside a few minutes after the 30-minutes-until-kickoff fireworks went off. Devon Modster was running the second-string offense, not Wilton Speight.
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I would suggest that Chip Kelly has gone insane by continuing to play Thompson-Robinson. If you’re serious about trying to win football games, it is incomprehensible that Modster has not seen the field. Thompson-Robinson has not gotten the job done. It’s high time that Chip try playing someone different if he’s serious about trying to win football games.
It’s also telling when your quarterback is your best rusher. It’s also problematic when your QB almost outrushes all of your running backs combined, but that’s what happened. The running back ran 23 times for 70 yards.
So, we know that the Bruins couldn’t complete many passes and they couldn’t rush the ball.
How did the defense play? Well, let’s just say I was left wondering if Tom Bradley was still calling the defense last night.
The aggressive defense that we saw against Cincinnati has completely disappeared. The defense had just one sack and just one hurry.
What about the secondary? When your opponent is completing 67% of their passes and almost completes as many passes as you attempt, you’re going to have a problem. When three of your top four and four of your top five tacklers are in the secondary, you have a problem. That’s what happened last night.
Before I forget, I have to mention Darnay Holmes tackling technique. It looked like he literally dragged a defender about five yards forward at one point trying to tackle him by wrapping his arms around the receiver’s torso. This may have been the first time I’ve ever seen a successful arm tackle.
The fact is that I’ve seen high school teams that tackle better than UCLA did last night.
The good news is that the run defense remains a highlight of the Bruins’ defense. They only gave up 150 yards rushing last night. “Only.”
The reason that looks as good as it does is two-fold. First, it’s because it really has improved substantially compared to the last two seasons. Second, compared to the rest of the defense, it’s the brightest spot there is.
Turning to special teams, Stefan Flintoft certainly had a nice night. There were two punts, in particular, which seemed to just take off including his 70-yard punt. Overall, he had 291 yards punting. That’s more yardage than the offense put up overall. Punting is winning, indeed.
But, hey, let’s be optimists!
Things have to get better this week! UCLA can’t lose this week, can they?
Of course not! A team can’t lose during a bye week, right?
Most Bruin fans just wanted to see progress each week. So much for that as nothing in last night’s game remotely resembled progress.