I haven't done an intro to the Eye Test in a few weeks, so I figured that post-Oregon State would be a nice time to jump back into the ring.
UCLA beat the hell out of Oregon State in this game. I do not think that many people saw it live, though my parents took a vacation up to Oregon to watch the game from the 50-yard line right behind UCLA's bench.
I was more interested in watching my alma mater clinch the SCIAC and their first playoff berth since 1994 in Division 3. Shout out to the University of La Verne Leopards. I never got there, but that doesn't make me any less proud of the program for exceeding expectations.
When I first started writing at BN, I found a nice parallel between what ULV was doing and what UCLA was going through. The CRN era ended in a similar way to the era at La Verne where my football career ended prematurely due to my own mistakes. The beginnings of the Jim Mora era and the last few seasons at La Verne had a similar theme but with a lot more success at UCLA.
A marked improvement over the past, but a sense of not quite making it over the bigger hurdles to exceed expectations. The University of Redlands was the Stanford equivalent in this scenario. La Verne had not beaten Redlands in over a decade. Smash mouth style overwhelming a similarly talented team.
This year, La Verne got over that hurdle, beating Redlands on the road and will likely end up 8-1 with a trip to some Midwestern team in the snow.
(Side note that you won't care about: Division 3 football is unfair. Heavily slanted towards the East Coast and flyover country where there is virtually no JC football system to speak of zapping talent away and the farce that is Mount Union and UW-Whitewater being allowed to play at a level they are clearly overqualified for.)
UCLA still has a chance to make it past that hurdle as well. Stanford is that final boss level at the end of the game if UCLA can take care of business the next three games against teams that they should beat in Washington State, Utah and Southern Cal.
If both my teams can hit rock bottom in the same season in 2010, why can't they both get to the promised land in the same season in 2015.
Don't we all want that kind of symmetry. I know I do.
Let's get to the grades.
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
Oregon State had 120 yards on 19 plays in the 1st quarter. Most of that came on two explosive plays that were more the fault of UCLA's scheme than execution, also a lucky bounce on a tipped pass that got them a first down.
After that, the Beavers gained 126 yards the rest of the game on 38 plays. 3.3 yards per play including a 47-yard catch in 4th quarter garbage time.
UCLA's defense got 3 sacks, forced 2 fumbles, intercepted 3 passes and dominated the Beavers in the running game.
The defensive line was stout. The linebackers were disciplined and smart. The defensive backs took advantage of the mismatches their talent provided and were opportunistic.
They also did not allow a point. Pitching a shut out for the first time since the first Dennis Dixon-less Oregon game in 2007. First one on the road in much longer.
This is an A (4.0). Doesn't need much more explanation beyond that.
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
7.1 yards per play over 95 plays. That's crazy.
The offensive line looked great when they weren't being manipulated into false starts by Oregon State pre-snap.
The running backs were super dynamic with the ball in their hands. Paul Perkins might have been the least effective runner out of the 5 running backs with carries in this game and he for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Josh Rosen looked like he was playing against Santa Margarita High School instead of a Pac-12 team.
22-33 for 333 and 2 touchdowns in three quarters. We get to watch this dude play football for the next 15 years or so. I'm excited to see how good he can actually be over the next two and a quarter seasons at UCLA.
Mazzone looked like a wizard in this game with how well everything was clicking. Have to give dude his props when props are due. A- (3.7). Only reason the bump to an A- happens is because Ka'imi had to kick two short FGs when UCLA could have finished drives with touchdowns.
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
- Opening snap of the game on defense, Deon Hollins makes a perfect play on a zone read. This isn't particularly noteworthy normally, but UCLA has had such issues on the edges with this play over the years that it was reassuring to see a player prepared from the get go.
- 13:20 in the 1st, I got the vibe that Takkarist Mckinley was going to have a big game very early. Gets off a cut block on the edge, but has the awareness to see OSU running a back into the flat and get his arms up to interfere with the pass. Causes an incompletion and near big play for Randall Goforth breaking on the route
- 1:45 in the 1st. This is probably going to shock you all. The 160-pound Jaleel Wadood, not a great linebacker. 26-yard run by Storm Woods has Wadood in the box at a version of the Nickel LB spot that Dalton Hilliard and Stan McKay used to run back in the day. He looks like he's never been on a football field before on a power play by Oregon State. Jayon Brown also misreads the play and ends up in the middle of the field on an off-tackle run. Ishmael Adams is also out of position on the play, basically as an outside linebacker. OSU is in a clear power run set on a 1st and 10 and UCLA has 5 DBs on the field.
- 13:40 in the 2nd. Josh Rosen plays #26 of Oregon State like a fiddle. Motions the RB to game up an opening over the middle for Jordan Payton. He had to have seen that player be over aggressive on tape because he knew exactly what he was doing on the play. Not something you see many true freshman do.
- 4:45, Josh Rosen deep ball down the sideline to Kenny Walker. Flawless. Nice blitz pickup up front as well.
- 2:32 in the 2nd. John Johnson is going to be a star. This play is ballsy as hell. Coming off your man in Cover 3 to jump over the top of a seam route to the inside. When he plants his foot and goes to make the play he is trusting his instincts 100%. He's been the best defensive back UCLA has had this season. Eventually, he'll run into issues with bigger WRs because he (along with Ishmael Adams and Jaleel Wadood) is a smaller DB. But his feet are phenomenal.
- 2:26, Thomas Duarte executes the scramble drill flawlessly and is rewarded with a 51 yard gain.
- 13:42 in the 3rd quarter. You can see Oregon State's DL with some visible gamesmanship on a 4th and 1. UCLA stays honest and dominates up front on the play for a 14-yard gain by Paul Perkins.
- 12:53 in the 3rd, Takkarist McKinley gets greedy and a 2nd and 7. Loses contain by trying to get a rush inside. Easy seal for the TE/H-back. Easy first down for Oregon State on a QB sweep.
- 11:52, Jaleel Wadood again gets sealed playing basically an OLB spot against a big, power set by Oregon State. 16-yard run by Storm Woods after Wadood gets sealed and Woods gets to the edge.
- Garbage time play, but 47-yard completion was bad defense. Looked like probably Cover 3, but Nathan Meadors gets burned when he has to be deeper than the deepest and Tahaan Goodman is playing centerfield and drops deep middle with no threat and is late getting over for help. If I were in charge of UCLA's defense, I'd put 15 pounds on Goodman in the offseason and make him a linebacker. Dude is not a starting quality Pac-12 safety.
Overall, this was a good performance. Places to improve, as always. Most of the mistakes that UCLA did make were in this category, so it gets the lowest grade of anyone. B (3.0)
*Feel welcome to complain about how difficult of a grader that I am.
4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense?
As always, the penalties are taken on a play-by-play basis with context:
- Defensive holding on Ishmael Adams. Pretty clear and easy call. Gives Oregon State a 1st down on a 3rd and 4.
- False start on Alex Redmond. This just looked like a normal false start to me, no talking by the DL visible. Seemed like Redmond owned it right after as well.
- Holding on Alex Redmond on the very next play. Blatant hold. Not tough to call. Killed what looked like a scoring drive. Offense was in rhythm and all of a sudden it is 1st and 25.
- False start on Conor McDermott. He leans back too far and has to readjust his feet or fall over. Again, didn't see anything that would make me blame Oregon State. There were definitely plays where you can easily tell the Beavers were doing so gaming up front, which is cheap but sometimes necessary when you are physically overmatched. But I didn't see it on this one.
- False start on Kolton Miller. First one I got an indication that it wasn't the player because Benenoch also started early.
- False start on Alex Redmond. This was also weird because McDermott started early as well. Rosen gestures towards the sideline and Mora starts going after the refs a little bit. Oregon State player on that side of the field kind of visually celebrates toward the sideline about it.
- False start by Caleb Benenoch. Didn't see anything odd. It was just a flinch by Caleb.
- An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on somebody on offense. Probably either Josh Rosen or Caleb Benenoch. Looked like a pretty weak call. Was offset by a matching penalty by Oregon State. Was on the play Rosen scrambled and got hit fairly hard. Pac-12 refs.
- False Start by Conor McDermott. Definitely on the defensive gamesmanship.
- Personal foul on Kenny Young. Away from the play, looked pretty weak. OSU player is blocking after the whistle and Young pushes the facemask to get him off. Only reason it is flagged is because the two-man scrum passes right through the referee's eyeline under 3 feet from the ref.
- False start by Caleb Benenoch.
The offense ran smoothly no matter who was in the game. The 7 false start penalties did not seem to impact the rhythm much.
The wide receivers looked good, both in the passing game and blocking downfield. I don't get enough praise for the effort that guys like Duarte and Payton and Nate Iese and Kenny Walker (really underrated job as a blocker this year) do week-to-week as blockers.
Josh Rosen and Mike Fafaul and Jake Hall all ran the offense smoothly. Jerry Neuheisel's hair was nice, as were the really shamelessly complimentary comments from the announcers whenever Jerry was on the screen.
The entire defense was dominant in this one. Three explosive plays, two of which were schematic break downs and 1 of which was 3rd string defensive backs getting burnt, accounted for close to half of Oregon State's offense yardage in the game.
The defensive front was eye-popping even with a pretty nondescript game from Kenny Clark. Matt Dickerson had his best game as a Bruin, Takkarist McKinley was all over the field. Aaron Wallace was rock solid, Deon Hollins popped in limited snaps. Eli Ankou played well yet again. Jayon Brown and Kenny Young looked solid.
I'd prefer to keep the 160 pound safety in the secondary, but other than the times he got physically overwhelmed by offensive lineman, Wadood had a plus game. John Johnson continues to solidify his role as the most reliable defensive back on the Bruins. Ishmael Adams and Randall Goforth played well.
There isn't much room for critique here.
Ka'imi Fairbairn continues to set himself up for a Lou Groza award with two more made FGs and a slew of touchbacks.
Matt Mengel had another strong performance in his return from the most inane benching in history.
Ishmael Adams could've had a better day returning punts, but looked good on the one kickoff. 39-yards in very nice.
Coverage units had a nice week.
There is again, not much to nit-pick here. UCLA played a fundamentally sound game start to finish. A- (3.7)
5.) Do our players execute?
- 10:59 in the 1st quarter. Not a drop, but one of those plays that separates a 4* type of player from a 5* type of player. I make notes of these regularly, but don't always include them in the Eye Test because it seems nitpicky. There are probably 3-5 every week on offense. 3rd and 6 to Jordan Payton on a deep out by Josh Rosen. Hell of a pass, put where only Payton could get it. Payton has it go off his finger tips because he mistimed the jump. Payton will play in the NFL and deserves every ounce of praise he gets for being an all-time consistent option at WR for UCLA. But he can't make that play, the player that makes that play has never been successfully recruited in the Jim Mora era. For reference: the 2nd play like this was at 3:05 in the first, also to Payton. The 3rd play was at :48 seconds left in the 1st half.
- 10:12, Jayon Brown gets beat down the sideline by Victor Bolden for 30 yards in man coverage. I'm not crazy about the defense on this play personally. Bolden is lined up in the backfield to the right of Mitchell and motions into the slot to the left. UCLA has Kenny Young and Jaleel Wadood to the left and Jayon Brown lined up head up with Bolden to the right. When Bolden motions, instead of having Wadood take him in man or Young bounce out, Brown has to go across the formation, avoid Young and gets beat because he never gets ready before the snap. Easily avoidable big gain, in my opinion.
- 9:15, Matt Dickerson blows up a run by blowing past the LT on a down block at the snap. He's developing well as the season progresses. Pops every once in a while.
- 8:07, I love watching Caleb Benenoch at guard. He run blocks so effectively and angrily. Pancakes on a down block on this play. He should not move from this spot if Kolton Miller plays the way he has. He can play guard in the NFL, will not play tackle.
- 6:17, 16 yard completion to Darren Andrews. This play by Rosen, just amazing. He's so freaking talented. Rolling to the right to buy time, comes back across his body to throw a safe ball towards the sideline and it is a perfect pass on the run.
- Nice punt by Matt Mengel to pin Oregon State inside the 10. Gets nice backspin on the ball in tough conditions. Only credited as a 30-yard punt, but would have been a net 20 yard punt for most punters.
- 15:00 in the 2nd. Conor McDermott gets straight tossed by an Oregon State DE on a stretch play to the left side. Bailed out by a late hit out of bounds by the same player on a TFL.
- 12:17 in the 2nd. Jake Brendel probably costs UCLA a 1st down in the redzone. Whiffs on a pull block on a 3rd and 3. Normally makes that play, just happens sometimes. If he gets a hand on that guy, Perkins gets the extra yard he needed for the 1st down.
- 10:00 in the 2nd, Benenoch with another devastating pancake on a very unlucky defensive back.
- 9:05, Thomas Duarte routes up Oregon State's safety for a TD. Love this. Pre-snap is a great look for the offense, Duarte clinches the TD on his 3rd step. Got the safety leaning when he was already at a disadvantage.
- 2nd TD to Duarte is an Aaron Hernandez play. That's who Duarte reminds me of as a player, this type of route verifies the comp in my mind. Takes a wider release on a deeper in route and accelerates around the break to make up for it. Gets the man covering him spinning around like someone tapped on his shoulder and kept staying out of sight.
- 13:28, TD run by Nate Starks was super impressive and went underrated, in my opinion. Arguably the best individual run that any Bruin had in this game. Bounces back off an initially stuffed line, cuts outside to find a new hole. Then, once he gets to that hole, he plants his outside foot and gets his shoulders square to find the end zone. Looked like a 2014 DeMarco Murray run.
- 9:40 in the 3rd. Takkarist McKinley was more impressive on this play than on either of his sacks. Beats the RT off the snap inside and blows Nick Mitchell up.
- Last play of the 3rd quarter, 30-yard TD run by Soso Jamabo. He's the real deal. UCLA is not going to miss a step when Paul Perkins goes to the NFL. Jamabo is going to be a star as well. Starks looks great as that counter punch type of runner. Future is very bright. Coach Polamalu deserves a ton of credit for this stable of running backs. As good a group as any in the country.
- Roosevelt Davis with the huge blitz pickup at 1:55 in the game. Cut blocks a blitzing DB and almost flips dude. Then Davis gets up, explodes downfield to get another block after Eldridge Massington gets a reception. Davis relished the moment in the 4th quarter. Cheered as hard for his plays as I did any by Jamabo, Perkins or Starks.
Some observations about the dropped passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles:
- UCLA's defense should have had a 3-and-out to start the game on defense, but a ball got batted into the air and there just happened to be an OSU receiver behind the initial route. Tough break, could've been a turnover easily.
- Kolton Miller looks like he got lost on a blitz pickup on the 1st sack of Josh Rosen.
- 0:10 in the first. Nice recovery by Kenny Young on his forced fumble. Looks slow to read the play, but gets to where he needs to be and gets his helmet clean on the ball to pop it out.
- 11:04. Interception caused by great team defense. Disciplined in the secondary, good rush up front by Eli Anjou.to get in the QB's face. Forced an inexperienced QB to make a poor decision. Nice play on the ball by Wadood to tip it up, nice play off the deflection by Goforth to come up with the interception.
- 7:52, probably one of the easiest sacks that McKinley has had in his college career on a great speed rush. Just runs around the LT. Barely has to work to get around a woefully overmatched player.
- 6:20, bad snap almost gives Oregon State the ball inside the 20. Was 10-0 at this point and could have very quickly been 10-7.
- Effort sack by McKinley again. Almost forces a fumble with his butt on an aggressive spin. Rolls off the block, pursues and gets Mitchell on the ground.
- Drop by Jordan Payton at :48 seconds. Would have gotten UCLA inside the redzone with 40 seconds left. Guaranteed points. Has to make that catch.
- 10:22 in the 3rd, Eli Ankou gets a coverage sack. Holds his gap responsibility and is rewarded with a sack.
- 9:33, interception by Jaleel Wadood. Mitchell got crushed while throwing the ball by Kenny Young on a rollout. Nice to see the Bruins stepping on the throat instead of letting up with a 31-0 lead late in the game.
- Muffed punt in the late 3rd quarter by Ishmael Adams. Gets lucky and falls right on it. Would have given Oregon State the ball inside of the 10 yard line.
Good game here. B+ (3.3)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field?
Basically every player on UCLA's roster played in this contest.
Anytime that happens, either it was a great game or a terrible game. This was a case of the former, so that shows leadership from the top to bottom of the roster.
Winning any game against a D1 football team on the road by 40+ points is going to have a lot more positives to talk about than negatives.
I'd point to the entire defense as deserving praise in this section, as they pitched a shut out. The 2nd/3rd stringers that were out at the end of the game tested my confidence a bit, but came through clutch to finish what the starters had worked so hard to start.
On offense, the last couple of drives showed the desire and pride of the backup skill position players (the starters on the offensive line were still in, which is pretty common when traveling in conference play). They finished with long sustained drives to get even the 4th string QB Jake Hall in-game reps after Mike Fafaul came into the game as the 3rd string QB.
Tough to envision anything but an A+ (4.0) in this column. Those moments are so important for the lifeblood of a team because it incentivizes all the hard work those players put in every day despite not getting the on-field appreciation every week. Jake Hall completed a pass as a UCLA Bruin QB. He gets that memory of entering a D-1 game for the rest of his life. Roosevelt Davis has had plenty of reps in his career on special teams, but getting those substantial carries at the end and churning out yards had to brighten up the entire sideline.
Grade Card for the Oregon State Beavers:
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? A+ (4.0)
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? A- (3.7)
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? B (3.0)
4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense? A- (3.7)
5.) Do our players execute? B+ (3.3)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field? A+ (4.0)
Oregon State GPA: B+ (3.62)
For reference, the GPA for last week's win over Colorado was a disappointing C (2.25). The game (the word "loss" doesn't seem to sum it up well enough, so I'm just calling it a game) against Stanford was a D+ (1.52). The loss to Arizona State was a C (2.17). Those stand in sharp contrast to victories over UC Berkeley B+ (3.57), Arizona, a B- (2.9), BYU, a B (3.27), UNLV, a B (3.26), and Virginia, a 3.45 (B+).
Two best games of the year have happened in the last two weeks. Hopefully, the improvement continues against Mike Leach and Washington State on Saturday, which has an absurdly late start time. Sorry, East Coast Bruin fans and any Playoff Committee voters. You don't get to watch UCLA play in their alternate jerseys on Senior Day.
UCLA is set up in a position to win the Pac-12 if they keep winning games. 10 regular season wins is on the table, the Pac-12 South is still on the table, a Rose Bowl is still on the table. Even a spot in the Playoff is still technically on the farthest end of the table, but about 10 other teams are going to need to pass it down the table for UCLA to have a chance at getting some.
If UCLA handles their business the rest of the way, every expectation of this season can still be met.
Until next week, Go Bruins!