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The "Eye Test": One Down, Two To Go In The UCLA Bruins' Quest For A Pac-12 Championship

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Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 17-9 win over Utah in the first of two must-win games in UCLA's quest to finish first in the Pac-12 South to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It felt incredibly satisfying to watch the UCLA Bruins win a football game that they should have lost.

I know that Devontae Booker didn't play and that the Bruins have a clearly more talented roster and it was basically a gambling push for being only a 2-point underdog on the road.

But Utah had clearly been a more functional football program in 2015 than UCLA had been.

They had two much better win than any on UCLA's schedule with their blowout of Oregon on the road (without Vernon Adams, who has beyond delivered on the hype when healthy) and their season opening win over a College Football playoff contender in the Michigan Wolverines.

But, the Bruins went into Salt Lake City and beat the #13 team in the country.

As a result, if the Bruins can make it a 4-peat against Southern Cal on the 28th, UCLA will finish in first place in the Pac-12 South and get another shot to conquer Jim Mora's nightmare opponent, the Stanford Cardinal, for a Rose Bowl bid.

This has been the case before under Jim Mora, so far the Bruins are 0-3 in delivering on the goal of a Pac-12 Championship.

2012:

Jonathan Franklin with the throat slash, Brett Hundley with 3 touchdowns, Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price shut down Robert Woods and Marqise Lee for 3 quarters, and Anthony Barr ends Matt Barkeley's career

via GIPHY

Then the Bruins lose to Stanford twice in a row.

2013:

Choke by the offense in Palo Alto in Game 6, the coaching staff going with Running Back Myles Jack against Arizona State (my personal low point of the Jim Mora era was this happening against a team with Marion Grice).

Blow out Southern Cal with 6 sacks of Cody Kessler and a balanced offensive attack.

2014:

Arizona State and Utah choke late in the season to give UCLA a backdoor chance at a Pac-12 title game. UCLA manhandles Southern Cal yet again with 6 more sacks and almost 500 yards of offense.

All UCLA has to do is beat a 6-5 Stanford team. Kevin Hogan proceeds to look like an NFL QB and all is lost again.

Here we are again.

Will 2015 be different?

We shall see.

Let's get to the grades.

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

UCLA was beaten in the first half schematically, aside from a couple poor decisions/throws by Travis Wilson (one negated by a pass interference penalty, one near interception negated by a bad pass). The Bruins were extremely lucky to keep Utah to 6 points at the break.

Overall in the first half, UCLA's defense did not play particularly well. The 6 points allowed is deceptive because they basically had a 40+ yard TD taken off the board due to a non-existent penalty and forced a fumble inside the redzone on the opening drive. 194 yards on 38 plays (not counting the 40+ yard play that got taken away) is not good defense.

26 carries for 127 yards (taking away the 1-yard loss and the "rushing attempt" on a sack like I always do), also not particularly good.

The 2nd half was a much different story.

The adjustments were clearly not made at halftime because Utah had their most impressive drive of the game coming out of the half.

Luckily, Kyle Whittingham is also super conservative because he elected to kick a 21-yard FG instead of try for a 4th and goal from the 4-yard line. Utah had run 12 times for 69 yards on the drive. That is nearly 6 yards a carry. UCLA had no answer at that time for the read option looks Utah was running with Wilson.

Worst case scenario is giving a true freshman and a running game Utah had bottled up in the 1st half the ball inside the 5-yard line right in front of your student section.

Instead, the cowardly 21-yard FG gave Utah their final score of the afternoon and made it 10-9.

UCLA played Utah's game on defense instead of dictating to Utah what they would be able to do. The zone read continues to beat on UCLA. I would love to see an advanced stat breakdown of UCLA's performance on zone read looks relative to other teams.

9 points on the road in a must win game by a defense is worth praising though. Taking the good with the bad gives UCLA a B (3.0) in this one. I will admit to feeling weird about this grade.

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

First Drive of the 1st Half: Thomas Duarte targeted downfield against small slot corners early. I liked this drive a lot. The end-around to Kenny Walker got 6 yards, but could have been a big play if not for a perfect read and diving tackle by the man covering Walker in motion.

2nd Drive of the 1st Half: Good pacing again on offense. Run, pass, run, pass, run to get to the 11-yard line. UCLA gets robbed a bit on a missed defensive holding on Eldridge Massington on what would have been a touchdown pass. Self-inflicted wound on a 4-yard loss on 2nd and 10. Not going to convert many 3rd and 14's. Not on Mazzone, should have been 14-0 UCLA.

3rd Drive of the 1st Half: Soso Jamabo subs in at RB for this drive. Gets two carries that have no chance from the get go due to blocking. Rosen has a miscommunication with Payton, gets lit up due to Redmond blowing an assignment, and has to try and pick up 21 yards due to a penalty by Benenoch. Then he misses a throw to Duarte on 3rd down. Rough drive all around.

4th Drive of the 1st Half: Perfectly dialed up deep ball to Walker should have been a TD, 9 yard run by Perkins, OL gets blown up on 3rd and 1. Nothing the play-calling can be faulted for.

5h Drive of the 1st Half: UCLA does arguably my least favorite thing in football. They call a timeout on defense with 40 seconds left when they force a 4th down. Saving the clock with two timeouts and an offense that has been hitting on big plays. Understandable. What does UCLA do when they get the ball back on the 25-yard line with 37 seconds left in the half? Run the ball and get Paul Perkins crushed.

Why bother if that is your game plan on offense? You need at least 40 yards in 37 seconds to get a FG chance for Fairbairn and running a stretch play doesn't seem like your best bet to get that yardage. And then, after losing three yards in 5 seconds, the Bruins just let the clock run out despite having two timeouts.

Why? What risk is there in having your QB who hasn't thrown a pick in 200 pass attempts try to pick up 40 yards with another timeout in your pocket and the clock stopping on 1st downs in college?

First Drive of the 2nd Half: Outside of slipping and falling on a route, Jordan Payton was a monster on this drive. 3 catches for 31 yards and a difficult catch on a 3rd down conversion. Effective running the ball, a timely keep on a zone read by Rosen and an individual effort on a touchdown run by Perkins. TD to make it 17-9, a nice answer to Utah's first drive. Got the defense that time to adjust on the sideline.

2nd Drive of the 2nd Half: Promising but negated by a couple mistakes up front by inexperienced offensive lineman and a penalty by Caleb Benenoch that took UCLA from 3rd and 7 to 2nd and 23.

3rd Drive of the 2nd Half: 3-and-out. Nice 1st down run, weird run on 2nd with a poor cut block at the point of attack. I'm not sure if it was because of the game-plan or because of Utah's alignment up front, but the Bruins seemed to cut block much more than I usually notice in this game. 3rd down play could have been a game-changing negative play but Paul Perkins saves UCLA by being in the right place at the right time.

4th Drive of the 2nd Half: Nice change of pace with the new WR screen motion wrinkle. Awful decision to run the bad version of the RB screen to Perkins (didn't work out as poorly as normal). Overall a decent drive that seemed to stall out one UCLA got on the Utah half of the field. The 2nd and 3rd down plays that were incompletions to end the drive were so slow developing when quick hitters had been working well. If I had to pick a spot to critique the play-calling, it would be this drive that ended in a missed FG.

5th Drive of the 2nd Half: UCLA attacked Utah on 2nd and 10 with a deeper out route to Duarte that Rosen just left short. I appreciate that mentality because it has not been evident too often, the sense of urgency in a game like this should always be present though. After getting a conversion on 3rd down to Jordan Payton, Perkins gets a 9-yard carry on 1st down and then Lacy and Ulu-Perry get blown up on consecutive plays for losses.

I thought Utah was unwise to let UCLA run the clock on 4th down on this drive. Utah had all 3 timeouts left and let 40 seconds tick off. You do not get to take those timeouts home with you.

Overall, UCLA's offense had an up and down day, but, in my opinion, this was actually a well thought out game plan by Noel Mazzone against a physical defense. Most of the causes of UCLA's struggles were execution based and not that of the game plan. Shockingly, going with a B+ (3.3) here in a game where UCLA scored just 17 points.

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

General Observations:

  • First Quarter
  • 14:08: the offensive line and Paul Perkins get understandably beat by a perfect blitz by Utah on 3rd and 6. Rosen had to step up into a heavy blow from a Utah defender and deliver to Kenny Walker for a big gain. Big deal in Rosen knowing how important this early down was and not bailing on the play.
  • 13:13: Not sure what UCLA is doing alignment wise on this play. Empty set, one LB. Fine. But Utah motions and then Kenny Young goes flying across the formation with the motion when it doesn't appear to be necessary. Deon Hollins clearly does a great job in being prepared for a zone read look, but he's the backside defender on the play. The play side is a mess and Travis Wilson gets 6 easy yards.
  • 11:45: This did not end up counting due to pass interference, but still a hell of a read and break on the ball by Randall Goforth here. Even if Young and Brown hadn't rerouted the Utah player, Goforth still gets the interception on this play. Scouted look.
  • 11:10: UCLA's defense has 5 in the box. Utah has 5 blockers, Travis Wilson legs and a running back. Utah gets 8 yards because that is how math works. Why UCLA had 6 players covering 4 against Travis Wilson's arm? I do not know. Not a strategy that is going to be conducive to success in the run game too often. Unless Kenny Young was supposed to bounce down into the box again and didn't, this early success running the ball was on the coaching staff.
  • 10:14: UCLA's defensive scheme is taken advantage of again by Utah. Single high safety, 5 men on the line of scrimmage. Kenny Young lined up probably 2 steps too close the middle of the field instead of head up with Joe Williams, who is to the right of Wilson. Clearly a man coverage look, Utah flares out Williams, Young is in no position to get into the flat to cover Williams (and that is a poor matchup anyway given Young's issues in man coverage) and Utah gets a big play for 16 yards.
  • 8:48: 3rd and 7 for Utah. UCLA's defensive scheme here makes no sense given Wilson's skill set. There is no linebacker in the middle of the field. 5-man rush, all Wilson has to do is step up and he gets 11 yards easily. Bizarre defensive call.
  • 8:25: Kenny Young with a TFL. Initially comes a little too far upfield, but does a nice job of realizing that quickly and adjusting to make the sound, physical tackle. Young often looks like an All-American when he is moving downhill on plays.
  • 4:01: UCLA WAS PREPARED FOR A WILDCAT LOOK ON DEFENSE!!! You have no idea how pleased this made me during the rewatch.
  • 2:50: I still do not understand UCLA's strategy for defending the read option. But Takkarist McKinley does a nice job of forcing Wilson to give the ball, which appeared to be his responsibility. The impressive thing here is Jaleel Wadood crashing down from safety to make an open field tackle on zone read on a 3rd and 1.
  • 1:13: Miscommunication between Josh Rosen and Jordan Payton. Rosen unloaded deep down the sideline and Payton ran a hitch route to the sticks on 2nd and 9. Rosen appeared to take responsibility.
  • 1:07: Alex Redmond totally blows a blocking assignment and gets Rosen killed. Completes the pass to Payton for a 1st down, but Redmond follows a slanting DL way too far while two unblocked Utes come through his gap. Soso Jamabo does a nice job picking up one, but the other has a clean shot on Rosen's ribs. I know that Redmond was taken out of this game at some point, don't know if it was due to injury or a performance related thing.
  • Second Quarter
  • 11:30: Jacob Tuioti-Mariner gets sucked in on a zone read and Wilson goes around the corner for 13 yards.
  • 7:03: Aaron Wallace plays a zone read perfectly. Somehow manages to force the handoff and also breaks off to make the tackle on Wilson after the handoff. If this type of play is what UCLA counts on to defend this style of play, I understand why teams have so much success running it. A lot to ask of any one player.
  • 4:12: Kenny Young plugs the wrong hole and runs right into a block. Utah gets 13 yards.
  • 3:10: Cameron Judge comes in for an injured Jayon Brown and Utah runs an inside zone read with Judge as the key for Wilson. He flows outside with the running back, Wilson keeps for 8 yards on 2nd and 9. Smart play call.
  • 2:28: Next play, 3rd and 1. Utah switches the play to Judge's side to run at him again. Judge floats too far upfield, gets kicked out by a pulling center. Gets 5 yards on 3rd and 1.
  • 2:00: Next play, Utah runs a nifty zone read using a WR in motion as the running back. Kenny Young bites on the jet sweep type motion and Wilson keeps for another 7 yard gain.
  • 1:25: Next play, Jayon Brown comes back in the game (probably not a smart medical decision, but so be it) and Utah runs the exact same play. This time Brown bites on the motion and Wilson picks up a first down.
  • Third Quarter
  • 15:00, Utah throws the same zone read look at UCLA. Kenny Young does a lackluster job plugging the hole, Takkarist McKinley doesn't do a particularly good job of forcing the play as the read man outside, Eli Ankou gets sealed far too easily. When those three things happen on the same play, you'll often get a result like 13 yards and a first down.
  • 13:45, Ishmael Adams is forced into playing a quasi-LB spot after his man in the slot motions into an H-back spot. He gets fooled on the play, as Utah runs right at him and he goes the wrong way, opening up a massive hole for a 10-yard gain on 3rd and 1. Also have no clue what Kenny Young is doing as the end man on the line of scrimmage on this play. Runs 3 yards upfield unblocked, making that massive hole even more massive. Seriously, anyone commenting on this article could have picked up the 1st down on this 3rd and 1 play. A literal truck could have gotten through without getting close to hitting any players.
  • 11:14, Jayon Brown gets confused by motion on a 2nd and 6 around the goal line. Gets caught in traffic as a result and Williams runs for 11 yards.
  • 10:42, Travis Wilson makes a very bad read at the 2-yard line and both Aaron Wallace and Marcus Rios are in position to make a play behind the line of scrimmage.
  • 9:55, Deon Hollins defends the zone read damn near perfectly and Matt Dickerson does an impressive job crashing across the line of scrimmage from the backside to make a tackle around the goal line.
  • 7:35, Josh Rosen correctly kept on a zone read to pick up a 1st down on a short yardage play and safely avoided contact instead of seeking it out. Beaming with pride there.
  • 5:48, the left side of the offensive line does an excellent job of holding their blocks for a long time. Props to Kenny Lacy, Kolton Miller and Jake Brendel for keeping the cut back lane open.
  • 4:46, McKinley is good for about 1 Wow play per game. This is that play. Shoots inside the right tackle at the snap, makes a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. His quickness off the line is impressive at times in a different way than Deon Hollins' explosion on the edge is. Also clearly was not a fumble, needless review.
  • 4:02, Nathan Meadors breaking up in his zone for a pass breakup to the edge on a 3rd down pass. Dude balled out in this game.
  • 1:14, McKinley and Deon Hollins do a flawless job setting the edge on this outside run by Utah. McKinley gets a TFL as a result. Very disciplined play here to start a drive with a negative play. Deon drives back a significantly bigger TE who gets a little frustrated after the play with a shove and Deon lets him hear about it afterwards, that kind of intensity (along with the Fitts finger wag earlier in the game) is exactly the kind that is needed in football at all levels.
  • Fourth Quarter
  • 12:48, Great pursuit and coverage by the punt team. Bottle up Boobie Hobbs for a 1-yard return (the 2nd longest of the year against UCLA to this point).
  • 10:00, Josh Rosen sees that Utah has a single high safety, knows this means man coverage. Audibles on 3rd and 4 to get that quick hitch to Jordan Payton that is such a staple of UCLA's offense, perfect throw, perfect call. Dude is money. Also, how are teams not expecting that? I'd gamble if I were a DB playing UCLA on 3rd down and medium.
  • 7:50, Randall Goforth with a fundamentally sound attack toward the line of scrimmage. There is something called a "banana route" that safeties are supposed to take as a method of angle tackling and this play shows a great example of that from Goforth, not a straight line run in pursuit because that wouldn't work. He starts 15 yards off the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field and makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage at the numbers. Closing speed and recognition.
  • 7:15, Perfect job of QB Spy by Aaron Wallace and he is rewarded with a sack for a 16-yard loss on 3rd and 10. Also, coverage downfield was on point.
  • 6:25, The punt return team almost with a devastating miscue. Have to know the situation there. Cannot field a bounce, bad field position is acceptable, a turnover is not.
  • :07, Punt coverage team on a game-ending play. Pretty close to perfect.
  • I thought this aspect was average on the defensive side, great on the special teams side and good on the offensive side. Going with a B- (2.7)

    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:

    1. Q1, 13:13 (Uncalled) Targeting on Tahaan Goodman. Clearly lunging and leading with his head late to try and hit a defenseless Utah offensive lineman. Luckily he misses entirely and just appears to be blindly lunging over the pile. Dude is just blindly reckless out there in the worst way. Hopefully he avoids getting himself or someone else seriously injured.
    2. Q1, 11:45. Pass interference on Kenny Young, (incorrectly called on Jayon Brown). This is the right call, but more a victim of unfortunate timing than anything wrong by Young or Brown. Utah flares their RB out of the backfield, Brown follows and has to run around the Utah WR breaking inside. After Brown rubs off that player, Young gets hands on the chest of the Utah WR to re-route (perfectly legal before the ball is thrown in college football), but the ball is released and Young has his hands on the WR's chest, pushes to reroute and is facing away from the ball. The WR falls down trying to adjust for the ball while getting pushed, flag comes out. Refs anywhere will call this. Bad timing, not a SPTR play.
    3. Q1, :11. Holding on Caleb Benenoch. Clear hold. Benenoch got beat around the corner on a pass rush by Kylie Fitts and grabbed on. Creates a 2nd and 21.
    4. Q2, 7:35: Holding on Marcus Rios on a 4th and 3. UCLA got a sack on this play to get off the field with great field position. Utah ended up kicking a FG instead. Costly. Officials might've missed a holding on Deon Hollins as he was sacking Wilson also, which would have been offsetting penalties and a re-do of 4th down. That's a sour grapes take though, since the hold mid-sack is rarely called if the result of the play is a sack anyway.
    5. Q2, 4:30: Facemask on Jayon Brown ruins a perfectly defended play on a speed option by Utah. Deon Hollins forces the pitch with textbook defense, Brown forces the run outside with perfect leverage and runs Williams out of bounds for no gain to force a 2nd and 10. But, for some reason (hint: lack of team discipline) he reaches up to push Williams out when he is willingly running out on his own accord and, in the process of doing that, grabs the facemask and gives Utah 15 free yards at the end of the half.
    6. Q3, 2:13: An illegal formation on Caleb Benenoch for lining up further off the ball than the WR on the line of scrimmage. This negated an 11 yard run by Jamabo that would've given UCLA a manageable 3rd and 7, especially with how Payton was working in this game on 3rd down.
    7. Q4, 1:56: The 2nd holding call on Marcus Rios. Final drive of the game for Utah. Rios bites up on a double move and grabbed hold. Smart play after getting beat. Would rather have a 10-yard penalty than a free WR running down the sideline.

    Offense:

    The offense had a good day in this respect. Most of their issues were self-inflicted in terms of execution or inexperience or, occasionally, just straight physical domination by Utah's defensive front. Only two penalties, both on Caleb Benenoch. No false starts, which was pleasant to avoid.

    Defense:

    Never giving up on drives is important as a defense and it is vital is your defense is going to subscribe to the "bend, don't break" methodology. UCLA may have had frustrating issues with stopping the run, even against a run-oriented quarterback who makes the football look like it weighs 5 pounds when he throws it like Travis Wilson does.

    But, they do not ever quit on drives. They got some breaks in this game, but the saying goes that luck is opportunity meeting preparation.

    Special Teams:

    • The biggest difference between the poor return by Nate Starks and the outstanding returns by Roosevelt Davis is the blocking of the return unit. Davis' first return has a massive gap for Davis to get through without a Utah coverage man within 5 yards of him until he gets to the 28-yard line.
    • Punt return team was mostly just fair catches, but the near miscue in the 4th quarter was inexcusable. I'm not sure why UCLA needed both Adarius Pickett and Devin Fuller back to fair catch the punt, but Pickett's presence clearly threw off Fuller who then tried to field a bounce and had it go between his legs.
    • Kickoffs by Fairbairn all touchbacks. Even NFL kickers miss around 40% of their shots from 50 yards (not much difference between 49 and 50 yards), Kai'mi is 2-4 from 49+ this year, which is so crazy considering how he had been prior to 2015. That was a tough kick that he missed, deserves a break.
    • Matt Mengel appeared to greatly appreciate the climate in Utah, had a great game punting. Coverage unit was tested and delivered in a big way. Dropped to 2nd in the country, but have still allowed just 6 yards of returns through 11 games.

    I feel good about a B+ (3.3) here for this hard fought win. A 2-letter grade jump from last week.

    5.) Do our players execute?

    General Observations:

    • First Quarter
    • 15:00, I expected to be critical of the coaching staff for putting Nate Starks back for kickoff returns again, but this 13-yard return wasn't the fault of anyone but the blocking. Two separate wedges of two men have one unblocked Utah player to take care of. Said player is allowed to run right in between the groups untouched and makes an open field tackle on Starks. Have to be better than that.
    • 14:55, Throw deep down the right sideline to Thomas Duarte for 33 yards. This throw is perfect. The only way it could have been better is if Rosen somehow magically made the ball compliment Duarte upon landing in his hands.
    • 13:20, Josh Rosen. Thomas Duarte. Threaded in between two defenders 30 yards downfield. Dropped perfectly into the bucket. Rosen is unfair. There are maybe 5 QBs on this planet that I would be confident in making this throw consistently. Rosen is probably in that group now.
    • 13:13, This was in the high altitude of Utah so take it with a grain of salt, but Kai'mi Fairbairn kicked this ball 10 yards out of the end zone. That is 65 yards from the UCLA-35 to the end zone, plus the 10 of the end zone, plus an additional 10. That's just a physically impressive feat worth noting.
    • 11:37, I see you battling outside, Nathan Meadors. Dude has a much, much bigger WR blocking him on a jet sweep and manages to shed the block and make an open field tackle on Britain Covey.
    • 10:50, Kenny Clark. Big man. Big play. Drives the center trying to reach him on a run to the left side two yards into the backfield before tossing him aside and making a tackle for loss. He is so good.
    • 7:45, Nate Iese finishing a lead block as an H-back with a pancake. Love seeing players finish blocks physically like this.
    • 7:25, Jordan Payton makes a hell of a catch down the sideline for 37 yards. Not the kind of ball that UCLA WRs typically catch. Nice to see.
    • 6:20, Alex Redmond gets a pancake of his own. Physical and aggressive initial pop off the line and (with a tiny bit of help from Conor McDermott) clears the way for a 5 yard run by Nate Starks.
    • 5:45, Perfect throw by Rosen, great route and release by Massington. Should have been a touchdown pass, but Eldridge Massington gets clearly grabbed by a Utah DB and is unable to get his left hand up to catch the ball. Worst no call of the day, in my opinion.
    • 4:43, Alex Redmond gets blown up on a 2nd and 10. Stretch play to the left, Kenny Lacy is trying to pull across the formation, but is blocked by Redmond. Perkins has nowhere to go and is tackled for a 4-yard loss.
    • 4:20 (roughly), Kenny Lacy gets manhandled in pass protection. Bad feet. An offensive lineman should never end up hopping on their outside leg while the defender goes inside. Gets Rosen hit hard while he is trying to throw the ball away out of the end zone. Ball floats up because Rosen can't follow through on the throw and is nearly intercepted.
    • Second Quarter
    • 14:18, Josh Rosen misses an open receiver in Thomas Duarte on a crossing route. Not a good enough throw.
    • 13:57, Utah tries to run a QB draw. Kenny Clark decides that he is not going to be blocked and blows the play up.
    • 10:58, Matt Dickerson is quick off the line to beat the RG of Utah. The RG of Utah proceeds to tackle Dickerson to stop him from getting to Wilson. Holding is called to negate a scramble by Wilson.
    • 9:58, Matt Dickerson is quick off the line again and gets around the LG on this play with a vicious rip down through the arms of the LG. He is a half step too late in getting to Wilson, as Wilson unloads a bomb downfield for Kenneth Scott. Scott straight Mosses Ishmael Adams for a 42 yard gain (might have been a TD if reviewed), but UCLA gets a godsend of a holding call that they in no way deserved. Bubba Poole lightly taps Dickerson on the shoulder as he passes him and is somehow flagged. That, along with the missed PI are truly atrocious calls that had major outcomes on the score of the game.
    • 7:10, Nate Meadors with the pass breakup in the end zone that he isn't credited for. Big play for the true freshman out of the Inland Empire. Had a nice game all around.
    • 6:28, Randall Goforth jumps another route for a near interception. If this ball were well thrown instead of being two yards behind the receiver, it is an interception. Instead, just an incomplete pass and a FG for Utah.
    • 6:15, Perfect blocking by the UCLA kickoff return team. Roosevelt Davis does a nice job getting through the tunnel sized hole provided and gets UCLA great starting field position. Atrocious spot by the Pac-12 refs also gives UCLA 4 extra yards. Which is nice for UCLA, but also awful for the credibility of the conference.
    • 6:11, Rosen misses a TD throw to Kenny Walker. Overthrew the deep ball down the middle by probably two yards. Not a huge fan of the effort by Walker to try and catch the ball (of which there was basically none beyond running insanely fast). Ball is at Walker's level at the 15-yard line while Walker is at the 17-yard line and Walker makes literally no attempt with his arms at the ball or to dive after the ball. This is a missed throw by Rosen but not by nearly as much as it seemed watching it.
    • 5:46, The entire offensive line gets drive back behind the line of scrimmage on a 3rd and 1 play. Goes for no gain and UCLA has to punt.
    • 3:45, Whole defense does a nice job forcing this run wide and Marcus Rios finishes off the play.
    • :56, Nate Meadors makes a hell of a play in man coverage down the sideline. Giving up a ton of size to Kenneth Scott and just runs a better route than Scott. Gets his head around and makes a play on the ball.
    • :37, Caleb Benenoch gets driven into the backfield, Jake Brendel cannot quite get to the linebacker at the second level and this pointless running play becomes a 3-yard loss and a needless big hit on Paul Perkins. Thank goodness the Bruins used a timeout for this play.
    • Third Quarter
    • 14:40, Same zone read play to the right side. Aaron Wallace does an okay job forcing the handoff, but Jayon Brown gets blocked much too well and easily. Wallace comes down to make the tackle, but a much too simple 7 yard play on 1st down.
    • 14:12, Takkarist McKinley does a much better job on the zone read. Wilson probably makes a poor decision to keep, but McKinley makes him string out the run to the sideline for a minimal gain.
    • 7:20, Kenny Lacy, Conor McDermott and Nate Iese do a nice job creating a hole for Perkins on a 9-yard gain.
    • 6:35, Conor McDermott executes a cut block very poorly, giving Kylie Fitts a free rush on Rosen, which rushes his throw. Jordan Payton slips running a quick slant and falls, setting Utah up for what should have been an interception return for a touchdown to take the lead. Better to be lucky than good sometimes.
    • 3:48, Jordan Payton annihilates the corner on the WR screen to Darren Andrews.
    • 3:35, Fred Ulu-Perry gets pushes 3 yards into the backfield to ruin a 1st down run by Jamabo.
    • Fourth Quarter
    • 12:36, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner does a nice job keeping his outside arm free on an attempted reach block and makes the tackle for a minimal game. Little fundamental things matter so much on defense.
    • 12:10, Jayon Brown and Matt Dickerson collapse the hole on this run perfectly. Dickerson has improved a ton in his sophomore year. Has been invaluable with the loss of Eddie Vanderdoes and Owamagbe Odighizuwa inside and will be key after Kenny Clark leaves to the NFL this season.
    • 11:30, Deon Hollins comes hard off the edge to force a rushed throw by Wilson. Nice move on the Utah player trying to block him on the right side.
    • 11:16, I am a big fan of the new wrinkle on the WR screen. The motion across makes the outside WR's block easier, which might be a tad unnecessary for someone like Jordan Payton, but will certainly help other WRs.
    • 9:30, Paul Perkins entire mentality on this 9-yard run. Has traffic in the hole on an inside zone, waits for the block to clear, plants his foot and goes, has to break an arm tackle around the line of scrimmage, does so easily, then powers for 8 more yards after contact. Such a patient and at the same time physical runner. Kind of reminds me of Marion Barber (might be a really obscure reference to people who don't follow pro football and/or the Big 10 too closely)
    • 8:57, UCLA gets bailed out by an arm bar by a Utah corner. Josh Rosen doesn't do a good enough job moving the single high safety with his eyes and body but still tries to thread the needle down the seam. Safety stays in the middle and reads Rosen's eyes, should have been an interception. But, even then it wouldn't have mattered because of the corner getting beat by Duarte and hooking his arm.
    • 8:50, Fred Ulu-Perry with a poor attempt on a pull block after UCLA gets around the redzone, lets the edge defender slip inside to get to Perkins for a 3-yard loss.
    • 5:35, Jordan Payton breaks UCLA's career receptions mark with a 3rd down conversion on a well run route. Unsurprising and props to Jordan.
    • 4:45, Kenny Lacy gets driven 2 yards into the backfield on a run by Perkins. Tough to get yards when you are met with a defensive lineman in your face immediately after touching the ball.
    • 4:05, Fred Ulu-Perry gets blown up at the snap again for a 3-yard loss on 3rd and 4. Nothing that Perkins could do.
    • 2:55, Marcus Rios sheds a block to make a key open field tackle on a WR screen. Ran 15 seconds off the clock by getting him down in bounds. In a late game situation, if a team got 5 yards in 30 seconds of game time, you are winning the drive.

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

    • Q1 9:13: Great job of contain by Kene Orjioke and Jayon Brown to get a half a sack each on this play. Orjioke blew up the TE on one of those designed roll-out throw to the flat plays (the only route that Nate Iese is ever running). Brown comes up in pursuit and they make the play.
    • Q1 7:53: Kene Orjioke beats a down block by the TE to hold position on the right side. Probably over pursues a little bit, making him lunge out for Joe Williams instead of being in position for a tackle. But, he gets his arm cleanly on the football to make a big play to keep Utah off the scoreboard. Good awareness by Goforth to get on the ball in traffic as well. Also, I have never seen someone less excited to force a fumble than Orjioke was. He just kind of stood around the pile and softly clapped to himself. No one celebrated with him on the field, he didn't try to celebrate with anyone. Just claps and then walks toward the sideline. Really odd.
    • Q2 8:53: Missed tackles by Ainuu Taua and Jayon Brown on the same play, a 6-yard scramble by Wilson. Taua has a sack in his lap on a stunt and doesn't settle his feet. Brown gets stiff armed in the open field, which, to be fair, is by a player much larger than him in Wilson.
    • Q2, 7:35: Deon Hollins defend a rollout on 4th and 3 perfectly. Why Utah is rolling to the short side of the field against a team as laterally quick as UCLA is a valid question. But, Hollins is in perfect position here and Jayon Bronw comes to help finish the play. Unfortunately, this did not count as Marcus Rios was flagged for holding.
    • Q3, 13:22: This is not one you'll see often. Kenny Clark whiffs on a tackle on a running back behind the line of scrimmage. Joe Williams jukes him after Clark came off the center to have a sure shot at a TFL.
    • Q3, 12:15: Kenny Young misses a tackle on Wilson on a 3rd and 4. Gave Utah a 1st down. Actually did a good job being in the right spot on a inside zone read where he was the key, but couldn't finish the play.
    • Q3, 2:46: Fred Ulu-Perry gets beat in a 1-on-1 situation for a sack on 1st and 10. He got his arms extended and they were slapped off by an experienced defender. Kolton Miller also got driven back into Rosen's lap on the play, which cut off any possible escape route for Rosen on the free rusher.
    • Q3, 1:35: Josh Rosen gets away with a near interception that was his fault and not the Turf Monster's like on the Payton play. Big risk throw that Rosen actually puts in a nearly perfect spot for Duarte over the middle. The LB dropping in coverage makes an athletic play to break it up, but, given the situation of the game, this was too risky a chance.
    • Q3, 1:30: After making a nearly perfect risky throw, Rosen makes a literally perfect risky throw to Kenny Walker that is dropped because Walker got alligator arms. Just have to make this play as a D1 WR. This was a seed and Rosen stepped up through pressure to deliver it.
    • Q4, 13:19: Luckiest play of the day, by far. Ball somehow slips out of Rosen's hands on the way back and flies into the air as a fumble (also somehow credited as a 6-yard rushing loss by Rosen, which...what?). Perkins happened to be there to catch it out of the air to avoid disaster.
    • Q4, 1:06: The football gods smiled down on UCLA again on this play (and in the game for the most part). Running back accidentally clips the ball with his elbow on a play fake. Ball pops out and Jayon Brown falls on it. I will take it because fumble luck is random and needs to be taken advantage of whenever it happens because it is out of your control for the most part. Never question football luck though. Too many other things happen over the course of 150+ plays for that to be the difference in a game.

    UCLA was not dominant in this game in terms of execution, and had several glaring issues that went unpunished by no involvement of the Bruins. But there was enough positive here to make up for most of it. B (3.0)

    6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

    Randall Goforth played an underrated game in this one. Haven't seen a ton of talk about his performance but he was making splash plays all game and was solid in coverage as well.

    On the offensive side, Jordan Payton is the clear choice for what he did in this game. 7 catches for 105 yards, a touchdown,exceptional blocking throughout, had several key 3rd down conversions. On a day where Josh Rosen wasn't at his sharpest, he got picked up by his biggest playmakers in Thomas Duarte and especially Jordan Payton.

    Nathan Meadors had a fantastic all-around game as well. The splash plays on defense in the passing game were clear, but his run support and the special teams coverage he provided was just as important.

    Paul Perkins had a rougher afternoon by his standards and got hit in the backfield a lot, but he put up a workmanlike game and gave UCLA their go ahead TD with an exceptional individual effort.

    I would go with an A- (3.7) here. Impressive day.

    Grade Card for the Utah Utes:

    1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? B (3.0)

    2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? B+ (3.3)

    3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? B- (2.7)

    4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense? B+ (3.3)

    5.) Do our players execute? B (3.0)

    6.) Do we have leaders on the field? A- (3.7)

    Utah GPA: B (3.17)

    For reference, the GPA for last week's loss to Washington State was a C (2.12). 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 other two lackluster efforts this year were in a win over Colorado, a disappointing C (2.25), and a loss to Arizona State, a C (2.17). Those stand in sharp contrast to victories over Oregon State B+ (3.62), 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+).

    One regular season game left against the crosstown rivals.

    Go get it done.

    Until next time, Go Bruins!