- Ok. That happened. Initial thoughts?
orlandobruin: UCLA couldn’t tackle. UCLA couldn’t catch the ball. It really is that simple. Yes, Speight threw a few bad balls, but this team needs some serious time on the tackling dummies and the Juggs machine.
AnteatersandBruins: Yuck. Just yuck. Bad tackling, dropped balls, overthrown passes. Major decline in production on both sides of the ball.
Dimitri Dorlis: That baseball game on Friday sure was something. Oh yeah, I guess UCLA played too, though I’m not sure what sport they were going for. It certainly wasn’t football.
Joe Piechowski: Well, the women’s volleyball team was in action on Friday night, too, but the result of that may have been worse than the football game. UCLA lost that match 3-0 to UC Berkeley. Not only did they get swept but they got swept by a mediocre team. At least Utah is in the Top 25.
2. The offensive struggles went well beyond Wilton Speight’s average-at-best performance. What went wrong, and did anything go right?
orlandobruin: Losing Justin Murphy hurt. So did playing against the #1 rushing defense in the nation. The effectiveness of UCLA’s running game — read Joshua Kelley — the last few weeks really set up the passing game. Without it and down big, the Bruins were completely taken out of their rhythm.
AnteatersandBruins: The receivers looked like they did two years ago when they couldn’t catch a ball to save their lives. The whole timing of the offense looked off.
Dimitri Dorlis: The running game was average, but against Utah that’s a huge win and a good sign for the rest of the season. The receivers, however, refused to catch the football, and it prevented the offense from getting into any sort of rhythm. Speight was fine, not amazing, but not an eyesore either. It’s just clear at this point that the offense needs everyone playing well to look good.
Joe Piechowski: The team actually played ok to start the game. Then, the wheels came off, probably right around the time that Adarius Pickett muffed the punt.
From that point on, it appears that Chip Kelly and the Bruins opted to celebrate Halloween early by giving us Friday night’s horror show.
3. The defense had a good first quarter, and then spent the next three quarters utterly collapsing. What was the biggest issue?
orlandobruin: The Utah Utes. That’s how they roll. Funny, didn’t Southern Cal have a similar performance against Utah the previous week? Up 14-0 on the road and then multiple Utah touchdowns in a row to turn the game into a blowout. Sounds familiar. Utah is a tough, well-coached football team and will challenge for the Pac-12 Title. A tip of the cap goes to Coach Willingham.
AnteatersandBruins: Utah’s defense is top notch. I discussed the high caliber of their offense and defense last week as well as how the whole program is clicking in a scary way. When they beat Southern Cal so easy the previous week, I really got worried. Then, 41-10 happened.
Dimitri Dorlis: UCLA’s front seven got bullied in this game and that had a trickle-down effect for the rest of the defense. Utah’s Zack Moss is a clear NFL prospect, but the Bruins did a poor job of actually tackling him or even limiting the holes that were available for him to run through and then the secondary was forced to try and tackle a freight train 10 yards downfield. It just was not good.
Joe Piechowski: The biggest problem was fundamental tackling. Arm tackling or trying to tackle from the ground by grabbing a ballcarrier’s feet doesn’t cut it. UCLA’s defenders need to wrap their arms, sky their eyes and rotate their hips. It’s basic tackling. That was sore needed on Friday night.
4. It was obviously a big sports weekend, but the Rose Bowl more accurately resembled a wake rather than a home field advantage. What is the fix here?
orlandobruin: The Rose Bowl was cavernously empty during second half TV shots. Embarrassing and disappointing. So says the guy who lives 2,516 miles away and last saw the Bruins play in Vegas with Josh Rosen in those God-awful excuses for UCLA uniforms. Anyhow, the fix is better scheduling. Get rid of the damn Friday night games in Pasadena. It’s never going to work. The World Series didn’t help. The Bruins need a better product, first and foremost. Further, they need seven home games each year (remember those posts about intelligent scheduling all those years ago) with all played on Saturday either at 12:30, 3:30, or 7:30 pm. Night games are fine as long as they are on a Saturday.
AnteatersandBruins: Weekday games in L.A. are the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Traffic alone kept many fans away. When you couple that with the fact that the Dodgers were playing, you have a recipe for the lowest attendance all season. If the team had a better record, or showed more signs of life, I could see more attending. But, with the uncertainty and up and down play, it’s hard to justify three hours of traffic.
Dimitri Dorlis: Weekday games in L.A. are just a bad look regardless if it’s UCLA or Southern Cal, so that’s a big screw-up by the Pac-12, but UCLA’s attendance issues this year have existed well past this last game. Hell, before this game, the previous low point of the season was the home game against Washington, which was a ranked opponent. The fact is that UCLA’s athletic department got greedy with the ticket pricing, including the WAF-required donations, while simultaneously letting the Gameday experience decay. They have taken some steps in the right direction, but there’s no incentive at the moment for fans to pay top dollar to drag themselves out to Pasadena for a sub-par experience. Someone at Morgan Center should have recognized that and adjusted things accordingly.
Joe Piechowski: I got to my seats in Section 16 a few minutes before kickoff and, yeah, the East Side was empty again, but that’s how it’s been all season. What disappointed me was the fact that West Side seemed pretty empty too. I noted at the time, I think out loud even, that I was going to have to get really loud to make up for all the empty seats around me.
At this point, the Pac-12 should have enough data to know where weeknight games work and where they don’t and they should adjust things accordingly. If it turns out that attendance dips in every market for a weeknight game, then the Conference needs to go back to the networks and say that we aren’t playing weeknight games any longer. Period.
It may also be time that the Pac-12 start insisting that games be blacked out in home markets if teams haven’t sold a certain percentage of tickets, like the NFL.
But, ultimately, I think the Athletic Department realizes that the optics of an empty East Side are terrible. I expect that they will try implementing some kind of program to fix this, probably as soon as 2019. Of course, the best cure for empty seats is a successful program.
Oh, and Friday night’s attendance wasn’t just the lowest this season. It was the lowest attendance for a football game for the entire Dan Guerrero era. There were fewer fans there than there were during the least attended games of the Toledo, the Dorrell, the Neuheisel and the Mora eras. The last time attendance was lower was when the Bruins played Washington State on November 9, 1996 and the attendance was just 40,421. That’s a 22-year low. Ouch.
5. The Extra Point - Sound off!
orlandobruin: I did not expect to beat Utah, but I expected to be more competitive, especially on defense. Zach Moss is the real deal. This weekend’s game at Autzen Stadium vs. Oregon, who inexplicably were blown out by Arizona in Tuscon, should be interesting. The Ducks will be back home with something to prove.
AnteatersandBruins: The funny thing is that if you listen to the “experts” on TV and the radio, no one is panicking nearly as much as the average fan. We look at Friday’s game and think the program is imploding, but you’ll actually hear college football pundits say that we’re on our way and that patience is needed. I know I’m not going anywhere, but, at some point, I’d like to be rewarded with a winning program and a top tier bowl.
Dimitri Dorlis: During my summer preview series, I mentioned that UCLA had a shot against Oregon if Justin Herbert was not in the game. Herbert was in concussion protocol to start this week, but it looks like he should be good to go for Saturday. If he doesn’t play, UCLA has a definite shot, though Oregon is a much better team at home than they are on the road.
Joe Piechowski: I’m very disappointed that we’re now eight games into the season and the program is where it’s at. Yeah, I wanted to Chip to do something similar to what Urban Meyer did at Ohio State, but it became apparent pretty quickly that wasn’t happening. So, it seemed like everyone sort of agreed that the benchmark was going to be progress over the course of the season. Unfortunately, at this point, we aren’t even seeing that.
What’s worse is that the recruiting class doesn’t appear to be in great shape either. A lot can happen between now and National Signing Day, but I think a disappointing recruiting class will go a long way towards starting to warm up the hot seat.
I still think Chip Kelly will be given a minimum of three years to get things moving, but, right now, progress is glacial and it needs to start moving with the tempo of one of Kelly’s Oregon offenses.