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UCLA Football: Fresno State Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s 38-14 defeat at the hands of the Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  1. Initial thoughts on the game?

Markybcool: Fresno State’s 13-play, five-minute initial drive set the tone for the game. There is not much more anybody can say about this game. The UCLA Bruins were outplayed and out-coached during this debacle of a game. I thought last year would be the last year that I used the word “debacle” to describe UCLA Football, but I was wrong. Vanilla play calling, flat team, penalties, and just a look of football that not many Pac-12 programs trot out in front of their home fans.

AnteatersandBruins: I kept thinking, “We paid HOW MUCH for this guy???”. I was disappointed in the play calling, execution, and apparent unpreparedness of our team. Not only were we outcoached, but we looked like we hadn’t even read up on Fresno State,.

Andrew_Goodman3: Not great, Bob. From the get-go, the Fresno State Bulldogs dominated and carved UCLA’s “defense” to shreds in the first half. What I’m most disappointed with is 11 penalties for 96 yards. This team is terribly undisciplined and that falls on Chip Kelly and his staff.

orlandobruin: That was one of the worst UCLA football games that I have ever seen. Shades of 1989 (after Aikman, but before Maddox) and 1999 (after Cade left). It really didn’t seem like the Bruins did much of anything right and my modest expectations for the season (6-6, go to a bowl game with progress) have been substantially lessened. If Fresno State is this year’s UCF, that might take some of the sting out of this loss. “Luckily” for me (sarcasm font), I am an Orlando City Soccer Club season ticket holder. As that Club has won just one game since May 5th, I feel that I have been well-prepared for UCLA’s losing.

Dimitri Dorlis: The bye week literally could not come sooner for this team. They need a total reset of what they’re doing.

Joe Piechowski: It was Dorrellian and/or Neuheiselian. Take your pick.

2. The offense was downright unwatchable for the majority of the game. We’re three games in now, so what are your thoughts on the offense?

Markybcool: I know I have been high on Thompson-Robinson much of the year, but I am also not blind to some of his deficiencies. First, and foremost, the jump from high school to college is obviously huge and, sometimes, he makes the right read and the right play and other times he does not. He’s a freshman. The revolving door at RB is pretty much a joke in my opinion, but we could put Todd Gurley in that backfield and, with our offensive line allowing running backs to religiously get hit at the LOS, Gurley would be bad too. Lastly, the fact that I am watching this current UCLA offense and I have a pretty extensive knowledge of the offense that Chip ran in Oregon, I feel Chip is doing the current team a disservice by not game planning and putting players in better positions to be successful.

AnteatersandBruins: I’m already sick of watching Chip trying to run it up the middle and, always unsuccessfully. Our running backs don’t seem to know how to ride a blocker, our quarterback is making freshman mistakes, and passes are either underthrown, overthrown, or just totally off target. I know we’re young, but sheesh. We also killed ourselves with a number of penalties that cost us yards and gifted points to the Bulldogs.

Andrew_Goodman3: The most disappointing part of UCLA’s offense is their running game. UCLA has arguably the fastest football player in the country in RB Kazmeir Allen. Stop running up the middle. I might have a coronary. Also, I’ve seen enough of Bolu for this year. Like Mark said, Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the future, but he’s far from perfect. Unlike the game at Oklahoma, Thompson-Robinson made a handful of bad decisions and throws. His timing was way off, and it resulted with him finishing with an ESPN QBR of 27.7. Yuck. At least, he made a few nice plays with his feet, though. The “we’re young” excuse is wearing out.

orlandobruin: I am really speechless. There’s the crowd that says “Chip has lost it” and there’s the crowd that says “Thompson-Robinson is not ready.” I can see both points, but I believe, thus far, UCLA’s problems are a combination of personnel and coaching. I believe that a major root of the problem is the offensive line and the fact that the two most veteran guys on that unit are playing out of position.

Dimitri Dorlis: The offense, at this point, feels like a near-fatal mix of bad personnel usage and bad self-scouting. It really was designed for last year’s personnel, with its reliance on a QB that can make throws all over the field accurately while making reads quickly, a line that can provide protection consistently, and wide receivers that can do multiple things. UCLA doesn’t have that,and trying to force the personnel grouping they do have into a system that does them no favors is just bad coaching, period.

Joe Piechowski: I keep referring back to what Chip has said about tailoring the scheme to fit the personnel and the like and I’m wondering what he sees that no one else is seeing and why it feels like he’s trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I’m perplexed.

One thing is for sure. Either Speight needs to get back fast or Modster needs to get some playing time, because playing Dorian Thompson-Robinson ain’t working. He’s not the only problem, but a lot of this team’s problems can appear to be fixed with competant quarterback play and, right now, Thompson-Robinson cannot provide that no matter what his dad thinks.

3. The defense, too, looked like a sieve at times, though held up for a few quarters. What’s going on here?

Markybcool: The defense still cannot tackle. The linebackers are not very good. There are too many penalties. And, there is not a single quarterback that has played against our secondary that has believed the hype that some in the media have put out about our “highly-rated secondary.” With that being said, if your offense is not very good and cannot sustain drives, the defense is going to suffer.

AnteatersandBruins: I think they got incredibly tired at one point and almost gave up from exhaustion. Our offense couldn’t stay on the field long enough to give them a break. We also had a number of costly penalties on this side of the ball and that’s just plain discipline.

Andrew_Goodman3: UCLA’s defense has showed flashes this season, but it’s difficult to keep it up when the offense can’t do anything. The Bruins are getting exposed on the ground and through the air. The secondary has been a huge disappointment thus far.

olandobruin: I’d like to say that the defense is the better unit but Fresno State was a major step backward. Progress is not always in a straight line. That having been said, here are two more focused thoughts: (1) UCLA cannot stop a QB sneak at the goalline (four such scores for Fresno State); (2) the defense was on the field for 40 of the 60 minutes. Time of possession doesn’t decide games, but it was a huge factor in Pasadena on Saturday. A&B is right, the D was gassed in the second half.

Dimitri Dorlis: This one feels more like a complete misjudgement on the part of the defensive coaching staff, believing they could generate consistent pressure while only rushing 4 and playing with a sizeable cushion on the outside. Fresno State was able to pick it apart and grab an early lead, and fully took over when the defense collapsed in the 3rd. More than the offense, these mistakes are fixable (aka don’t trust that only your four linemen can generate pressure consistently) and the unit should look better.

Joe Piechowski: It’s funny. I sat there inside the Rose Bowl on Saturday and watched how the DBs were eight yards off the ball when there were on four yards to go for a first down. I immediately complained that we were back in the bend-but-don’t-brake defense of Tom Bradley and I wondered aloud if Bradley was up in the press box.

I understood running a less aggressive defense against Oklahoma because Kyler Murray would run all over the defense if he broke contain. But, why was it still there against Fresno State? The defense needs to get aggressive again like they did against Cincinnati.

Oh, and can someone please show Darnay Holmes how to tackle? That pass where the receiver gained an extra five yards because Darnay was trying to pull his upper body down was an embarassment to anyone who ever played defense at the most basic levels.

4. 0-3 is not how anyone expected to start the season. How has your opinion changed about the team?

Markybcool: Yes, I predicted a .500 record at the start of the season, and now that is probably never going to happen. I am still willing to let this thing play out, but I reserve the right to continue to criticize, critique and complain about things that I see from this football team as we continue down this path to...I don’t know what.

AnteatersandBruins: I’m disappointed, but I’m not calling for Chip’s head just yet. This entire year could be down right abysmal, but I’m just hoping it leads to something better down the road. But I can only say, “we’re a young’s a rebuilding year....they’re learning a new system” so many times.

Andrew_Goodman3: We knew it would be a “rebuild” season, but it’s still deflating to start a season 0-3. Chip Kelly was dealt a mess, and it will take a bit to get “back.” However, a little versatility would be nice offensively, rather than calling the same 4 plays all game. We’re going to need to see progress, and soon.

orlandobruin: Forget about 6-6 and a bowl game. I want to win some games that matter in November. Whether Chip can mold this group into a team capable of doing so seems suspect at this point.

Dimitri Dorlis: My fear right now is that we’re going to end into a chicken-and-egg scenario: Chip Kelly needs talent to make his system work, but it’s hard to bring in talent when all you’ve got to show in your recent resume is bad football. Rinse, repeat. I’m not worried so much about this year (I’ve already mentally prepared myself for 0-12) but what it could mean for UCLA going forward and, at some point, Kelly needs to put some positive results on the field.

Joe Piechowski: I went into the season feeling positive about the fact that Chip Kelly was our new head coach. After initially thinking UCLA should have gone in a different direction, I got on board the Chip Train once he was hired. I haven’t called for his head...yet.

I don’t think I will this season either, but each loss is making that more likely, even though his job is totally safe for at least two more years.

5. The Extra Point - Sound off!

Markybcool: Actually, in my opinion, this week is a bad time for a bye week in most cases since after a loss like UCLA just endured you want to just get back out there and play. However, I said most cases, and a trip to Boulder, Colorado on a Friday night this week would probably not be a good thing. So in this case, the bye is ok, and now we can talk about DTR’s dad calling Chip Kelly a fluke for the next two weeks, and further Twitter digging will show this is not the first time Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s dad has had some issues with UCLA football this year and with the people reporting it. His dad had already called out the offensive line, said the wide receivers had hands of stone, and told Thuc Thi Nguyen that she has no understanding of the game of football. So this is not new from him. Fun times in Westwood!

AnteatersandBruins: I’m hoping the ten steps we took back against Fresno State will wake some guys up and push them forward as we take on Colorado and Washington in our next home game. We have almost two weeks to get it together, and three weeks until we’re home again. At some point, all this stuff will shake out. It has to. I already paid for my tickets.

Andrew_Goodman3: You can only go up from here, right? The bye week will do the Bruins some good, lick those wounds and get some rest. However, if the penalty problem doesn’t get hashed out, it’ll be hard for the Bruins to stay competitive. Time after time, we’ve seen UCLA shoot themselves in the foot. If we see the same, flat UCLA team after the bye week, it might be time to hit the panic button.

orlandobruin: Florida State has already turned on Willie Taggert. At least we are not Florida State...yet. Thank you for the bye, football gods and Pac-12 schedule makers. The team has a lot of work to do in the next 10 days. I just read Markybcool’s answer above. I guess Thompson-Robinson’s father told a female, asian reporter that she knows nothing about football? Why? Because she’s a woman? Because she is Vietnamese? Shameful. This is the worst of all his comments. Hopefully, the apple fell far from the tree when it comes to that sort of stuff.

Dimitri Dorlis: I sat in the Rose Bowl on Saturday and marveled at the 3rd quarter exodus of people, because it was so emblematic of where the program is at the moment. 20 years of relative frustrations have been inflicted on the paying customers who still show up to games and now they’re being asked to trust that a bad football team will get better. These people really need something resembling hope right now, because, otherwise, the Rose Bowl is going to be pretty barren soon.

Joe Piechowski: We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hope is not a strategy.

The problem is that, right now, the strategy isn’t working. We’re three games in and the team is starting to regress. Maybe...just maybe...the best thing to do at this point would be to identify areas where guys are not performing...cough, cough...quarterback...cough, cough...and give someone else some reps. It’s not just quarterback, though. It’s all over. Narrow some of the rotations at receiver to get the ball to Theo Howard and Caleb Wilson more. Bench a few guys to show who’s in charge. Do something differently. It certainly can’t result in a game that would be much worse than last week.

Finally, for the stathounds...The last time UCLA started 0-4 was also 1971. Pepper Rodgers’ first season as coach. The last time UCLA started 0-5 was 1943. In fact, the team started 0-7 that year before winning the eighth game of the year and losing the ninth and final game and finished 1-8-0. It is the only one-win season in UCLA history.

There have been three winless seasons. The last was in 1924 (0-5-3) and the others were in 1921 (0-5) and 1920 (0-5).