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The "Eye Test": UCLA Covers The Spread, Delivers on The Under, Cashes in a Victory in Vegas

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Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 37-3 victory over the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels in the Bruins' first road game of 2015 to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

I am not a big gambler. Not a judgment on people who enjoy casinos, roulette tables, slots, black jack, poker. More power to you. It's an adrenaline type of thing, I get that.

But I like reliability. Safe, expected outcomes. If I am going to spend my own money to entertain myself, I'd rather just cough up whatever a ticket, dinner, round of drinks or whatever costs and know what I am getting.

That is what I feel like UCLA football is becoming, or at least that is how they've played thus far in 2015. Outcomes of the first two games have never genuinely been in question. Pretty much start to finish wins for UCLA. I don't want a high risk football program.

Go out and handle your business and I get to enjoy watching the UCLA Bruins beat whoever they are playing.

Obviously there are going to be games where UCLA is tested down to the water; but if the Bruins are talented enough to make me feel comfortable for 90% of their games, then I am going to be a happy Bruin fan.

Short up top for this week, but now you get to read more of what you all came here for.

Let's get to the grades:

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?

The defense was outstanding.

1st half numbers to illustrate that fact:

Four 3-and-outs. One interception that was returned for a touchdown on the 3rd play of another drive. One fake FG sniffed out to force a turnover on downs. 2.8 yards per play in the 1st half.

The 2nd string QB looked over his head basically the entire time he was on the field.

The game was never in question and the defense never relented their effort or looked anything but dominant. Even the few big plays by UNLV were followed by short gains or no-gain plays. Tough to say the defense didn't look as good as they did last week. This would've been a shut-out if not for a couple of interceptions by Jerry Neuheisel that gave UNLV the ball inside their own redzone.

Going with another A- (3.7).

2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?

UCLA almost ran 100 offensive plays in this game, 98 to be exact.

I cannot remember how many times I have seen a team get into triple digits in a single contest, but it is rare especially in a game that is not particularly close at any point in time.

The mop up squad on offense coughed up two interceptions (not a positive showing from Jerry Neuheisel on Saturday), and brought down most of the raw totals.

Taking away the unnecessary 8-yard loss on a kneel down at the end of the game, UCLA rushed 46 times for 281 yards. That's tough to complain about. Line blocked well, there was just not enough big chunk plays. Steady 4-5 yards on most touches. Paul Perkins getting 18 carries for 151 and 2 TDs is a damn good day against anyone.

The short and intermediate passing game was respectable, the deep passing game was brutal. Not a ton of exceptional effort to go get the passes by the wide receivers, not a lot of touch on the throws by Josh Rosen. It was unbalanced in the passing game and messed up a lot of drives when those throws got missed.

Offense scored 3 touchdowns against a bad team, had to settle for FGs far too many times. That has to be taken into account. Going with a B- (2.7) here.

3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?

General Observations:

  • Jayon Brown played outstanding in this game on defense. 1st and 10 on UNLV's third drive, playing OLB and fits to the outside perfectly to make a tackle in space for a 1-yard gain. 2nd and 9. Fits perfectly on a run that goes for no gain, tackle credited to Takkarist Mckinley, but looked like an assisted tackle to me.
  • Two extremely poor plays by UCLA on punt returns in the 1st quarter. One of which was certainly a turnover that somehow ended up with UCLA still in possession of a ball they did not recover after a muffed punt by Randall Goforth. That one was due to an unlucky positioning by Cameron Judge as the ball bounced either off his shoulder or his shoulder knocked the ball out of Goforth's hands.
  • The 2nd was on the next punt where Devin Fuller inexplicably failed to fair catch on a punt where he had no chance of doing anything with the ball. Could easily have been another fumble, but instead it was just a highlight reel hit for UNLV.
  • The 37-yard completion by UNLV in the 3rd quarter was a brilliantly designed play. Motioned the flanker to the two-WR side and had him run a wheel down the sideline. Made Rios run across the entire field, through traffic after the snap and navigate through two deeper breaking routes to the same side. Props.
  • Jacob Tuioti-Mariner breaking up that pass attempt on a 3rd down in the redzone was fantastic. Promising play for the future of this season. Smart to not sell out on the rush there.
  • Deon Hollins on the fake FG attempt was in the perfect spot but cost himself a sack or forced fumble by reaching instead of tackling the holder. Great awareness regardless.
  • Jayon Brown should get credit for another tackle and a forced fumble on a punt return at the end of the 1st quarter. Got robbed in the stats. Perfect positioning and hit. It wasn't a muffed punt, dude just got lit up.
  • Somebody failed to set the edge on the play where UNLV's QB got injured. Hollins seems the most likely culprit since he ran about 5 yards upfield, but the DE to that side looked like he tried to get to the inside of the RT. Those two combined gave the QB an easy read that should've gone for around 15 yards if he doesn't get hurt. Kenny Young also missed a tackle on the play.
  • The next play, Hollins plays it absolutely perfect and should've gotten a TFL. Weird that it was counted as no gain, the QB was tackled a full yard behind the LOS at least.
  • 3rd and 1 mistake by Josh Rosen in the 2nd quarter, in my opinion. 9:37 to go, zone read concept. Clear crash by the edge defender and read man, Rosen gives to Soso Jamabo. Jamabo gets wrapped up for a loss. If Rosen pulls and keep there, he has at least 15 yards, maybe a 28-yard TD depending on how long it takes the Nickel DB to realize the slot WR he's chasing isn't running a route.
  • Not sure what Massington is doing on a 1st and 10 at 7:30 or so in the 2nd quarter. Starts stock blocking when he is clearly supposed to be running a route. Rosen throws his read, but Massington never turns. Odd play that had to be a miscommunication.
  • The interception return for a TD was mostly a product of being in the right place at the right time for Kenny Young. Props to Young for taking advantage of that and for the reaction time/ball skills to go get that errant toss (which is exactly what it was, not a pass but a toss). 2nd string QB on a bad team can make those types of decisions.
  • Deon Hollins doesn't get credit for a forced fumble that he created. Not a fan of whoever was doing the stat keeping in this one. Took a lot away from the UCLA defense, somehow gave Josh Rosen, Devin Fuller and Thomas Duarte credit for tackles on a defensive plays.
  • Deon Hollins creating a holding penalty with an exceptional edge rush. Would have been a sack if not for the hold.
  • Denzel Fisher looked great in mop up time. I understand why he is ahead of Johnny Johnson on the depth chart at this point. Looks comfortable and confident in space and Johnson is clearly getting his legs under him still.
  • Roosevelt Davis absolutely annihilating UNLV's KOR man was a highlight of the game. Dude just absolutely stuck the return man inside of the 10 yard line. Brilliant special teams player.

As always, the penalties are taken on a play-by-play basis with context:

1. A false start on the kickoff after UCLA went up 10-0. Play that needs to never happen.

2. Myles Jack lining up offsides while covering the 2nd guy on a trips set. This is not a penalty that should ever happen. Requires a bare minimum amount of effort to realize you're lined up illegally as a defender. Gives UNLV a free 1st down on a 3rd and 5.

3. Offsides by Deon Hollins. Hollins will probably rack up between 5-10 of these this year. Just happens to a guy with his first step.

4. Holding on a 3rd down by Kenny Lacy, gets waved off due to UNLV committing their own penalty on the play. Late play where Rosen is escaping the pocket, those are where holding penalties happen most often. Can't fault Lacy as much as I normally would for a hold on a 3rd down in a 2-minute situation.

5. Alex Redmond holding on a nice run by Starks. Helped spring the run, was a good call.

6. Myles Jack personal foul for shoving a UNLV OL in the face and pushing his helmet off, away from where the tackle happened, right in front of the referee, after the whistle had blown.

7. False start on Kolton Miller. Didn't see it. Next play is a 56-yard TD run.

8. Chop block on Caleb Benenoch/Alex Redmond. Not malicious, just a high-low that wasn't supposed to be a high-low. It did cost UCLA a likely TD. Had to settle for a FG after having a 3rd and Goal from the 1 or 2 yard line.

9. Late hit personal foul on Poasi Moala. Good call, needless "aggressive penalty". Negated a nice gain on a screen pass to Stephen Johnson III.

10. Delay of game??? after the injury to Tevita Halalilo. Seemed as absurd at the game as it did watching it. Just let the damn clock run out. Neither team cares or is trying to do anything at that point.

I didn't notice there being that many penalties when I was at the game live. It looked cleaner than it did on tape. Still the same issues in regard to penalties.  Myles is now a 4 in two games.

I thought the Bruins were better here than they were last week, but not by a measurable margin. I'll speak on it multiple times, but the defense made UNLV earn every yard they got on Saturday. Not many assignment or mental errors on defense. The offense moved the ball with ease, but was not able to take advantage of the athletic mismatch they had to create explosive plays. That isn't a result of knowing where to be, it is just finishing the plays called. I think a B+ (3.3) fits here.

4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense?

Defense:

  • Explosive plays allowed (20+ yards): 3, with two of those coming in garbage time. That is a number you can win most games with.
  • Deon Hollins staying with the QB on a trick play designed to be a throw back. Easier to chase after the play than follow the QB, but Deon does it.
  • 3rd down play on the same series, Isaako Savaiinaea somehow managing to set the edge on a fly sweep to the wide side of the field. Outstanding sideline-to-sideline lateral agility there.

Offense:

  • Anytime your offense is on the field for almost 100 plays, you are playing effectively from start to finish.
  • The adjustments by the offensive line after losing Brendel and not skipping a beat was impressive. Caleb Benenoch looked great at guard, Kolton Miller seemed much more comfortable at RT than I'd ever seen him play. Alex Redmond held up at center well. Switching spots mid-game is tough as hell to do and the OL just rolled with it and kept making plays.
  • Lots of missed throws or poor routes/effort on the deeper passes tonight. The passing game under 15 yards was good, but anything beyond that was rough.

Special Teams:

  • Kickoffs: Another great outing here by both Ka'imi Fairborn and the entire coverage team. 6 touchbacks out of 8 attempts, with the two returns both being shut down inside the 20.
  • Kickoff/Punt Returns: Could've been much better here
  • Punts: 43.2 yards per punt by Matt Mengel with one that was "returned" for -2 yards and had a fumble forced by Jayon Brown on the coverage unit. Iffy on the rest here because there was a 50-yarder that went for a touchback. Should've pinned UNLV deep there, coverage team was in position to make a play and didn't. 28-yard punt that got fair caught at the 13-yard line. One impressive roll that was downed at the 3-yard line.
  • FG/PAT: Fairbairn was 3-3 on FGs and 4-4 on PATs. That's a perfect day.

Overall, I would say the special teams got a B- for sloppy play in the return game, the offense looked solid but having 2  explosive plays (Perkins' TD run for 56, Payton's TD catch for 29) in meaningful reps against a team like UNLV is not going to cut it. Defensively, it was a great game from start to finish. The 2nd/3rd string looked nearly as dominant as the starters did.

In the debut of this slightly adjusted section of the Eye Test, UCLA gets a B- (2.7).

5.) Do our players execute?

General Observations:

  • Perfect coverage downfield on a 3rd and 9 deep ball by Fabian Moreau and Randall Goforth. By the book coverage by a safety and corner on a deep ball. Physical without being dangerous or handsy.
  • Caleb Benenoch gets beat inside on a 1st and 10 on a handoff to Starks. Would've been a TFL if not for the general physicality of Nathan Starks. Should not happen when a player is stronger, faster and more experienced.
  • Bad pass by Rosen on a 3rd and 5 to Eldridge Massington. Right read and progression, just poor placement on the throw. That was the opposite of most other 3rd down throws, so I chalk that up to "it happens".
  • Devonte Boyd, the same WR that put up a 37-yard completion to start a drive beats Marcus Rios in press coverage on a 3rd and 4. Gets inside positioning and runs a quick slant. Easy 15 yards.
  • UCLA got away with a DPI in the redzone. Fabian Moreau pushed a UNLV WR out of bounds down the sideline and had it go uncalled. Insane no call was what it looked like live, it looked the same on tape.
  • Matt Dickerson should get credit for a sack on a 2nd and 21 in the 2nd quarter. Great rush to beat the LG and collapse the pocket from the inside, chases him down and Kenny Clark helps finish the play. Will likely be rectified.
  • 3rd and 4 run for a 1st down by Perkins in the 2nd quarter was crazy. Gets wrapped up on the edge about 3 yards short and powers through to stretch out a get it. With the help of a generous spot, to be fair.
  • Eli Ankou is inexplicably unblocked on a 2nd and 5 for his TFL. But he makes the tackle instead of getting wide-eyed while unblocked. Solid play.
  • Not a great block in space by Conor McDermott to start the last drive of the first half. Screen to Mossi Johnson where he gets beat inside by a corner.
  • Patience by Paul Perkins running on the 1st play of the 2nd half. Also, the pulling players on that play take time to get to their men but do not panic because they aren't there instantly. Great play all around, goes for 13 yards to start things off on a scoring drive.
  • Backside pull by Caleb Benenoch on Perkins' TD run in the 2nd half. Flawless. Reach blocks the edge defender and springs Perkins for an easy run.
  • Wasn't impressed by Fred Ulu-Perry on the defensive line. Got pushed back a few times too many, ran upfield instead of filling his gap. This is a player that I believe would be better served redshirting.
  • The offensive line on Perkins' long TD run. Slow clap for them across the board. Anyone who is reading this could've gotten at least 15 yards rushing on this play. Huge, huge, safe hole.
  • Takkarist McKinley gets a thumbs up from me on his total Cowboy play that led to a blocked punt.

Some observations about the dropped passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles:

  • Mossi Johnson drops a pass on a screen on 3rd and 3 in the first quarter. Bad look, was an accurate throw and hit Mossi in the hands. Need to finish that play.
  • Kene Orjioke got his ankles broken on a QB keep in the redzone. Ended up on the ground because he overcommitted outside.
  • Bad snap by Jake Brendel ends an extremely promising drive for UCLA toward the end of the 2nd quarter.
  • Not sure what Rosen was trying to do on his interception. He gets hit, but that doesn't change that he had no window for where he was trying to throw the ball. Just chalk that to a freshman mistake. Trying to do too much combined with getting hit while throwing.
  • Brutal dropped TD pass by Mossi Johnson. Rosen did break the golden rule of "never throw late over the middle", but it should've been 6.
  • Kenny Walker quitting on a deep route in the 4th quarter that was put on a dime by Rosen. Walker has had a bumpy career at WR, not appearing to be changing in the near future. Tough to argue for him to get playing time over the Darren Andrews, Logan Sweet, Tyler Scott, Alex Van Dyke group with how he's played. Even if he has the over the top speed.

The execution in person did not seem quite on the same level as last week from start to finish, but watching it on tape changed my mind. Just a pinch better than the UVA game. The mistakes were not egregious and there was no point where UNLV had any rhythm on either side of the ball. UCLA basically did whatever they wanted on offense and defense, just missing a couple of throws downfield kept this as a 37-3 score instead of something like 57-0. B+ (3.3)

6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

Thought that Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch showed a lot of poise transitioning to their new positions in this game once Brendel left. The line did not miss a beat despite having a new player on the field and two others out of position. Two games so far have looked nearly as good as any in the last 3 seasons for the offensive line. They're getting a lot of push, picking up blitzes well, not getting torn up in pass protection in 1-on-1 situations. There are a ton of positives in what UCLA's front is doing.

Jayon Brown played out of his mind on defense and special teams. Stats don't do him justice on the impact he had in this game. Will be tough to justify him not starting in the future in place of Aaron Wallace (who has played fine and should be getting reps still, but Brown flashed in a big way Saturday).

Takkarist McKinley and Deon Hollins both balled out up front on defense. Fabian Moreau had a good day in coverage, looked closer to what is expected out of him.

Overall a solid game in the leadership camp. B+ (3.3)

Grade Card for the UNLV Rebels:

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? A- (3.7)

2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? B- (2.7)

3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? B+ (3.3)

4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense? B- (2.7)

5.) Do our players execute? B+ (3.3)

6.) Do we have leaders on the field? B+ (3.3)

UNLV GPA: B (3.26)

For reference, the GPA for last week's victory over Virginia was a 3.45 (B+). Two good weeks for UCLA football. The Bruins are doing what they are supposed to do in these games.

The Bruins will take on the BYU Cougars next week, after the Cougars won back-to-back games on last minute Hail Mary type of throws and had a player do this:

While also welcoming back a player from all of an one game suspension after doing this:

Isadore Outing (number 94 for Memphis) is my hero for throwing that. Best type of teammate and friend to have in that type of a situation.

And don't forget about this from their week 1 win over Nebraska:

BYU is a tough opponent because they have a ton of grown men on their team (22-year old true freshman QB at the helm) and play with the mentality seen above on most plays.