1. Let’s start, as usual, with first getting your general thoughts on the game.
AnteatersandBruins: It was cool to see a potential Heisman winner play live at the Rose Bowl. It’s too bad he was on the other team. I actually looked up last year’s stats and compared them to this year, and as abysmal as it looked in person, the game was no worse. We had one more touchdown this year, but in my opinion, we left ten points on the table with a touchdown called back and a missed field goal. We missed one Red Zone opportunity, but time of possession was about equal. Our problem is our pass rush and the fact that our quarterback isn’t really a quarterback.
Shayan Saalabi: I’ll just say that I had a lot more fun watching Arizona State pull off the upset against Michigan State in East Lansing.
Joe Piechowski: After having our tailgating plans for the day ruined when the car died on the way to the Rose Bowl, I was just happy to sit in my seat to watch this game. Unfortunately, UCLA looked absolutely awful and there is no hope in sight.
Dimitri Dorlis: Gotta love a game where you distribute 75000 tickets, only 50000 people show up, and the majority are there to root on the opposing team. Again, UCLA was giving tickets away for a game against a top 5 opponent, and couldn’t fill the stadium. I’m not sure what’s more damning about the current state of affairs than that.
2. Through three games, UCLA sits at 129th in the nation in yardage per game on offense with 263.3. Only Georgia Southern sits below them. Where are things going wrong on this side of the ball?
AnteatersandBruins: Again, our quarterback isn’t a quarterback. The play calling is suspect, but is that because we don’t have the skills to do anything more? It’s hard to say with the closed off nature of this program, but I have a hard time believing that an offensive minded coach like Chip Kelly actually has nothing up his sleeve. However, he needs to work with the personnel he’s got, and I don’t think he has really adapted his offense to the guys sitting in front of him. They’re doing everything they can, but the players can only do what their coaches tell them to do.
Shayan Saalabi: It’s clear that Chip Kelly’s offense lacks any sort of identity. There’s been no indication from the program what exactly they’re trying to establish on offense, and that’s a terrible sign. Mike Leach revived Washington State with his air raid -- what’s Chip Kelly telling his players? There can be no more half-measures.
Joe Piechowski: Chip Kelly seems to be incredibly stubborn. He insists on starting a quarterback who isn’t a quarterback. He also seems to not have a clue as to what offense best suits his players’ strengths. That’s incredibly problematic.
Dimitri Dorlis: Chip Kelly seems insistent on coaching with one hand tied behind his back on offense by refusing to go with the offense that brought him to the dance in the first place. Refusing to run the Blur is one thing; choosing to run an overly-complicated offense with college players just to prove your NFL tenure didn’t end in disaster is another. But I have to respect Chip Kelly for willingly blowing up his offensive reputation just to fail to prove a point.
3. The defense’s issues have been underplayed through the first two games, but were brought to the forefront in this game. What are the problems here?
AnteatersandBruins: PASS RUSH. We don’t have it.
Shayan Saalabi: The secondary looked, well, confused by whatever routes Oklahoma’s receivers ran -- they couldn’t keep up.
Joe Piechowski: Well, we knew the pass rush was suspect coming into the season. The swiss cheese secondary is also problematic given that there is no pass rush as it lets a quarterback like Jalen Hurts pick apart the defense. The fact that Darnay Holmes was back for this game helped, but the rest of the secondary was still a disaster.
Dimitri Dorlis: Really, it’s a combination of scheme and skill. For one, the scheme is bad. The coaching staff at this point has to know that there is no natural pass rushers on this team, so it needs to do a better job of generating a pass rush through the scheme. Similarly, playing with a large cushion in the passing game makes it easier for opposing quarterbacks to pick them apart. And on a skill point, UCLA’s defenders just look poorly coached; repeatedly biting on any play fake thrown their way, missing tackles, and generally looking lost. It’s a full indictment of the coaching staff on this side of the ball.
4. With the non-conference schedule now complete, the focus now turns to a Pac-12 that generally looks good but not great. What are your expectations for conference play?
AnteatersandBruins: We have a few wins there. Luckily, the Pac-12 is pretty much trash from top to bottom save a couple of schools, so maybe it’ll get better from here.
Shayan Saalabi: The Pac-12 -- believe it or not -- is back. HALF of the conference is ranked with a combined 16-2 record, and that’s not including a 2-1 USC team that trounced Stanford 20-45. UCLA is scheduled to play four of those ranked conference opponents, as well as USC, and I don’t like their odds in any of those matchups. Hell, can the Bruins even beat an unranked Arizona, who’s 4th in the nation in total offense so far?
Joe Piechowski: UCLA’s next home game is October 5th against Oregon State. My only expectation for conference play is that the Bruins win that game. In fact, UCLA should run a Guaranteed Win night promotion for that game. If UCLA doesn’t win that game, the next game is free until the Bruins win.
Dimitri Dorlis: Color me unimpressed with the Pac-12 still - Arizona State got outplayed by Michigan State and only won because Sparty refused to, Washington and Oregon failed their only tests against quality competition so far, and Stanford looks especially bad, which negates Southern Cal’s “dominant” win over them, especially when they turn around and have that kind of performance against BYU. Which is not to say UCLA will do better here - lord knows it’d be hard for them to do worse - but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them steal a few games in conference play.
5. The Extra Point - Sound off!
AnteatersandBruins: STOP BOOING THE PLAYERS. That’s just heartless, cruel, and totally uncalled for. If you want to be heard, figure out another way to do it. Get mad at the coaches, but leave the kids alone. They play their hearts out and have to get up and go to class and face the world on Monday. This isn’t the NFL and football isn’t their job. Getting an education from UCLA is their #1 priority, and football has given them that opportunity. I saw Boss Tagaloa with his family at the end of the game and it was crushing to see. You could just feel the disappointment because this surely wasn’t what he signed up for when he committed to UCLA (and he gave one of the best signing day speeches I’ve ever heard). The players have no place in your criticisms. Sorry, but Mama Bear doesn’t like this one.
Shayan Saalabi: Let’s look at some numbers to see where UCLA ranks against their Pac-12 peers -- UCLA is 11th in total passing yards, 11th in quarterback rating, 12th in total rushing yards, 12th in yards per rushing attempt, 12th in total points scored, and 12th in total yards gained. Washington State, who the Bruins play on Saturday, is 1st in total points, 1st in total passing yards, 1st in quarterback rating, and 2nd in total yards gained… If that isn’t bad enough, Washington State alum Gardner Minshew has stepped in nicely to replace Nick Foles as the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback while Josh Rosen toils away on a tanking Miami Dolphins behind Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Joe Piechowski: I don’t think the players are being booed. I think it’s the coaching staff, in general, and Chip Kelly, in particular, who are being booed. Given what he’s
making stealing from the athletic department, he deserves to be booed as does Dan Guerrero.
Dimitri Dorlis: I’ve been generally pessimistic about UCLA in recent weeks, so allow me to, at the very least, offer something for the other side of the ledger. Washington State was in a similar state that the Bruins are in right now when Mike Leach took over, and he instituted a slow growth model that favored development, which now has the Cougars at the point they’re at now. Now, the comparisons aren’t one to one, especially since Leach’s team showed noticeable improvement in skill and ability by the second year, but there are examples that this strategy can work. I’m just not sure if this particular implementation will.