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UCLA Football: San Diego State Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s first loss ever to the Aztecs.

UCLA v. San Diego State
The disappointment on this young Bruin fan’s face pretty much sums up the game against San Diego State.
Getty Images

It’s only Week 2 and I’m already at a loss for how to approach these questions. Feels like a new record!

1. Let’s start with getting your general thoughts on the game.

AnteatersandBruins: What can I say. It was hot, humid, and the game was absolutely terrible. I’ve never been closer to leaving early in my life, not even when we were losing 35-10 to Texas A&M two years ago. We look like we have no energy or urgency and there seems to be a total lack of understanding of the opponent. On top of that, the playcalling is lackluster. Is it because we don’t have the skill yet? Is it because our quarterback is proving that he really isn’t a quarterback? We need to bench DTR. I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice kid, but that isn’t going to win games. I want to see what else we have.

orlandobruin: I am beyond being angry/disappointed at this point. I have accepted that UCLA is not going to be good at football for a long time. Even my friends, FSU alums who were freaking out that the ‘Noles were losing to ULM for a while, were wondering why I was so calm while UCLA was imploding on the field. I’ll tell you why: #batteredbruinsyndrome.

Shayan Saalabi: I mean, what else could possibly go wrong? To be fair, my expectations were quite tempered entering the season, but to have put together only two, maybe three redeemable drives across two entire games is embarrassing... What else could possibly go wrong?

Dimitri Dorlis: I think it is important to note that everyone on the field got plenty of exercise, which is important in this day and age.

Joe Piechowski: It was hot as hell in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, which only made the football team appear even more odious. The only saving grace was the fact that the sun finally went behind the press box giving most of the fans in attendance some shade, which I immediately want to throw on Chip Kelly.

2. The offense was very hit or miss in this game, at times looking like the unit we saw last year, and others looking like a group that had barely played football before. How would you rate their performance?

AnteatersandBruins: I’d give them a 4 out of 10, or a D-, depending on your grading scale. If you’re into Common Core, then I’d say we’re definitely at the “Standard Not Met” level. OK, so DTR had one fumble instead of two. But the scoreboard was similar to the week before and, if SDSU had less class, they would have punched it in one more time. Our offensive line is performing woefully below the level that I thought we’d see this year and DTR has no touch with his passes. He either overthrows or underthrows and half the time I’m waiting for it to get picked off. He waits too long for his #1 guy to get open and doesn’t move through his progressions quickly enough. By the same token, he doesn’t throw into space or give his receivers time to get to the ball. He expects them to already be standing there wide open and doesn’t seem to know what to do if they aren’t. The line isn’t opening gaps for the run game. So, the running backs are ineffective as well.

orlandobruin: The first drive was an “A.” Then, what the heck happened? A steady degeneration until the last two drives, each of which was an “F.” Overall, the offense gets a D. We have a line that cannot protect, a QB who is inaccurate and, when he is accurate, our receivers cannot be counted on to catch the ball. Is Joshua Kelley going to be able to bail UCLA out of all of that?

Shayan SaalabI: An “F.” This is college football--where teams quite literally fly across the field. I know that this roster is full of freshmen, but that cannot possibly excuse Chip Kelly out of another miserable play calling performance. There is absolutely no creativity — why not open the playbook up and lean on DTR’s athleticism?

Dimitri Dorlis: The problems still start and end with Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but the scheme and personnel usage still leaves plenty to be desired. The entire package is just nowhere near where it realistically should be in Year 2 of a coaching regime, especially under a supposed offensive genius like Chip Kelly.

Joe Piechowski: The offense wasn’t just bad. It was worse than that. It was completely ineffective. To make matters worse, I don’t see it getting better any time soon.

3. The defense was perhaps a bigger culprit for problems in this game, allowing San Diego State to throw the ball at will against them. How would you rate their performance?

AnteatersandBruins: I didn’t know Ryan Agnew was a Heisman candidate until Saturday, because that’s certainly how we made him look. I was actually happy with the fact that we didn’t seem to have any trouble shutting down the run game. Juwan Washington was “their guy” and was a total non-issue. But, man, the pass rush was completely nonexistent.

orlandobruin: It was a carbon copy of last week. Stop the run on first. Stop the run on second. Third and long. . . no pass rush and a completed pass to a wide open receiver for a first down. Wash, rinse, repeat. Oklahoma is going to destroy this team. If I was in Vegas I’d bet hundreds against UCLA plus 21 points and, for the record, I have NEVER bet against the Bruins in any sport in my life.

Shayan Saalabi: The defense — although spotty at times — did enough for the Bruins to win. I could do without drive-saving penalties, though.

Dimitri Dorlis: Bad! It was bad! The interior run defense was once again a highlight, but teams have very quickly figured out that they only have to run up the middle as a courtesy before repeatedly launching balls downfield against our porous pass defense. This isn’t even a personnel issue (though having Darnay Holmes back wouldn’t hurt), but a complete schematic problem, because these same issues existed last year.

Joe Piechowski: The pass defense was bad again. I’m not sure adding more superlatives will make a difference. Bad is bad, and the pass defense is one of the worst units on this team.

4. It’s still early in the season, but this does not look like a team that has made any progress in development from last year. Are you concerned about the general direction of the program?

AnteatersandBruins: I’m extremely concerned. How can you have a coach like Chip Kelly and not at least show some progress from year to year? It’s as if they took the entire spring and summer off and just hopped on the bus to the first game. On top of everything else, fan access has been totally cut off from the program. No open practices during Fall camp and only one opportunity to interact with the players from behind a rope at the Spring game. You have no way of knowing what the real problem is. The whole family and community feel that Jim Mora brought to the program is completely gone. I could overlook it if we were winning. It’s like when Oregon was penalized more than we were when Chip was running the program, but they were hanging 70 points on their opponents so it wasn’t a big deal. In the meantime, penalties were costing us games. We don’t have anything to show for a completely lackluster program with a seemingly washed up coach.

orlandobruin: Considering the fact that no information comes out of the Hermit Program™, and all we get is what we see on the field, what reason has UCLA football given to any fan to be optimistic? There were supposedly about 36,000 people at the Rose Bowl on Sunday. That’s the 3rd worst attendance since 1982, and a large portion were in red and black. And I suspect they counted hundreds if not thousands of STHs who bailed on the game in that 36K count. The Rose Bowl looked empty on TV. I fear that we are watching, right before our eyes, a once proud football program wither and die. And what about the students who have been at UCLA for the last two years of Jim L. Mora and now two years of Chip Kelly: do you think they are going to be hardcore STHs and donors to the athletic program in ten, twenty, or thirty years? I don’t.

Shayan Saalabi: Yes, how couldn’t you be? UCLA has dipped to an irredeemable level of mediocrity. Sure, Mora sucked, but at least we had a constant influx of NFL-level talent that kept the Bruins competitive. Who’s their Myles Jack now? Their Kenny Clark?

Dimitri Dorlis: UCLA is giving season ticket holders (and Den pass holders) 4 free tickets to the game on Saturday. Let me repeat that. A primetime game. Against a top 5 opponent in Oklahoma. And UCLA is giving away a boatload of tickets because it apparently can’t sell them and does not want the stadium to look empty on television.

That’s not the sign of a healthy program!

Here’s the long and short of it: Chip Kelly is not getting fired this year. But I don’t think he’ll be able to stand pat and pretend as if things are working. Anyone with a functioning brain can see that they aren’t. I have to assume even Dan Guerrero can tell things are not looking great in Westwood. So it will be interesting to see what kind of changes are made in the offseason. Anything short of major staff changes and wholesale schematic and recruiting changes would be a sign of Kelly’s stubbornness, and would lead me to believe that a change needs to be made. I have to assume Kelly understands this is a last shot for him also; if he fails here, it will be three straight coaching jobs ending in failure, and he can’t afford that for his future coaching prospects.

Joe Piechowski: I’m not sure what the solution is. On one hand, I’m at that point where I think it’s time for UCLA to cut its losses and pay another buyout. This time, it’s $9 million with no decrease until the beginning of Year Five in January 2022. On the other, I’m thinking, “Wow. That number is huge. Maybe we need to stick it out a little longer.”

But I will say that each loss pushes me more and more to the “Pay the buyout and be done with Chip” side of things.

Fan confidence has plummeted into the single digits. And, Urban Meyer has been spending his weekends, or at least part of them, here in LA while working for Fox. Maybe it’s time to set up a meeting. Or, at least, maybe Dan should look to have Meyer interview him for Fox as a pretext for a conversation between them.

Realistically, I think Bruin fans are stuck with Chip until Guerrero retires and a permanent replacement is hired.

5. The Extra Point - Sound off!

AnteatersandBruins: We’re going to get torched by Oklahoma. I’m literally going just to tailgate and to be able to say I saw Jalen Hurts play in person.

orlandobruin: I have accepted what this team appears to be. I have zero expectations. I’ve already mentally penciled in two more losses against Oklahoma and Wazzou on the road. After that, any win would be gravy as far as I am concerned.

Shayan Saalabi: To put into perspective how badly Oklahoma will torch UCLA this week, the Sooners scored more points in the third quarter of their rout of South Dakota than the Bruins have scored in both of their losses combined. The Rose Bowl will belong to the Sooners on Saturday — both on the field and in the stands.

Dimitri Dorlis: I joined the Oklahoma Breakdown podcast over at our sister site Crimson and Cream Machine earlier this week (go take a listen!) and one thing that struck me was that the hosts were surprised at how bad things currently were in Westwood. One of the “benefits” of essentially closing off the program from the media is that information has not really filtered out to the national audience. I imagine that as the losses pile up for a second straight season, all of that changes and the national spotlight will really turn to the disaster that this program has become.

Joe Piechowski: The next, and perhaps only, game I expect the UCLA Bruins to win is the Oregon State game.

It’s sad that the Athletic Department is trying to pack the Rose Bowl for a game against the #5 team in the country by giving away a ton of tickets. Like so many UCLA fans, I got the email which told me that they are giving me four free tickets to Saturday’s game.

That’s unbelievable. It’s the marquee game of the season and they are comping me twice as many seats more than I actually purchased. That’s a huge loss of revenue for the UCLA Athletic Department, which I’m sure they were counting on to fund both Chip and other sports.

But, Dan Guerrero is a good financial manager.

Maybe he will finally realize he should retire. Then, the real rebuilding can begin.

Go Bruins.