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The "Eye Test": UCLA Defense 21, Virginia 20, UCLA Offense 7

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Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 28-20 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in the Bruins' 2014 season opener to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

Joe Robbins

Before I settle down to write the Eye Test, I like to read through the one from the previous game UCLA Bruins have played. I decided to take a look at what the Eye Test read like after the 2013 season closed with UCLA running Bud Foster and Frank Beamer's stout Virginia Tech defense out of the state of Texas in the Sun Bowl.

Here it is:

"Anyway, the Eye Test is over until next season. Look forward to writing the next one up after a decisive beatdown of Virginia, either after an impressive debut by Asiantii Woulard or a step towards the Heisman for Brett Hundley. Should be a fun, but long, offseason.

Go Bruins!"

After the first sentence, the only accurate piece of information is that the offseason was fun and long.

UCLA improved to 1-0 by squeaking out a 28-20 victory over a Virginia Cavaliers team that returned players sitting on a 6-18 record in the last two seasons under Mike London. Brett Hundley would have had a tough time saying "step towards the Heisman" before he was under duress from the pass rush of UVA. Asiantii Woulard should have debuted in this game in the late 3rd quarter, as UCLA pulled the starters to protect the most important pieces of a team that showed up in Virginia ready to handle their business.

This opening section will generally be a more reflective section instead of analytical like the rest of the Eye Test, but there is nothing to reflect on that wasn't said better by either gbruin in The Morning After or by anyone of the reactions the community of Bruins Nation in the post game threads. I'm here to break things down honestly and with time to remove the negative emotions that were stirred up after the game.

Without further adieu,...

Let's get to the grades:

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

20 points allowed, 120 yards rushing allowed, 266 passing yards allowed. Not great raw numbers, but nothing too worry about.

This performance actually turns into a pretty solid one when you take into account that Virginia was held to 386 yards in 84 offensive snaps (for reference if UVA averaged that many plays per game, they'd have ranked #1 in the NCAA in 2013). That is a toooooooooon of snaps for a defense to get through.

Giving up 386 yards of offense on 84 snaps is just 4.6 yards per play.

4.6 yards per play is a top 10 defense.

There were also these to consider:


(thanks to Campus Insiders for the video)

3 defensive touchdowns in one game is something I can't remember seeing since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (best NFL defense of all-time, by the way) did it in Super Bowl XXXVII.

It just doesn't happen very often. Ishmael Adams, Randall Goforth and Eric Kendricks deserve a ton of praise, along with Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Deon Hollins, Priest Willis and the rest of the UCLA defense for their roles in creating points on a day that the Bruins offense could not provide any.

All this doesn't excuse the problems that the UCLA defense had in this contest. This was a Virginia offense that was pretty much awful in 2013 (17 points per game, 4.2 yards per play and 349 yards per game).

I did a little chart on how often UCLA blitzed on pass plays in this contest and was shocked even though I recognized in-game that it was mostly a 4-man rush.

Instances with more than 4-man rush on pass plays: 3rd and 6 blitzed Kendricks and UVA gained 27 yards on a dump off over the middle where Kendricks came from. 3rd and 5 blitzed Hollins and Wallace from the same side, Adams got beat on a quick slant to the vacated area over the middle and the converted the 3rd down.

Twice in 45 pass attempts with a couple of QB scrambles as well and both worked poorly in terms of production. That's insanely low.

Different look at how many pressures there were, since there weren't any sacks it is hard to see how much the pass rush actually impacted UVA's offense in the stat sheet. I'm a tough grader, so this is probably close to accurate

Pressures on pass plays:

  1. Owa on a 3rd and 7 to force a 1-yard panicked dump off
  2. Owa and Hollins on Adams' touchdown
  3. Owa on a 1st and 10 to force a near interception
  4. Hollins on a 2nd and 8 forced a dump off
  5. Owa on a 2nd and 15 with a dip and rip move forced a bad throw
  6. Owa, Hollins and Clark all beat their man and were closing in on Greyson Lambert on Kendricks interception
  7. Owa, Hollins and Clark forced a rushed throw on a 3rd and 6 that was converted because Adams lost his man over the middle
  8. Owa off the edge forcing a bad pass on a 2nd and 10 in the 3rd quarter
  9. Aaron Wallace and Owa on a 2nd and 10 to force a late throw over the middle that somehow got completed
  10. Clark on a stunt around the edge forcing a near INT by Jack
  11. Owa on a 3rd and 8 to force a bad throw down the sideline

Owa was damn near unstoppable in this game. Might have had a bigger impact on the game than Kendricks, but I'd lean towards EK because of the TD.

Defense was solid aside from the 3 TDs, with them it is tough to go lower than an A- (3.7)

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

Boy, did this game start out fun. Brett Hundley completion to Eldridge Massington for 48 yards deep down the sideline. Hundley delivering on a throw he struggled with over his career and also stepping up in the pocket while looking off the safety, Massington delivering an explosive play on his first collegiate snap, good pass protection up front.

It was all downhill from that point. UCLA managed 310 yards on their next 72 offensive plays (that's an anemic 4.3 yards per play, in case you were wondering).

I'll touch on the drops and everything else later, so this section will be short.

Hundley actually looked great rewatching the game. A couple plays where it seemed like he was dropping his eyes were really just designed draws that backfired terribly. He had no bad throws, hit on every sideline ball and looked much better with his footwork. Excited about seeing him perform next week because there is no way that the interior line is that bad and skill position guys drop that many passes again in the same game. If either had been there in this game, Hundley throws for around 350 yards.

The running game was appalling for the most part. I am not the biggest fan of Jordon James' level of performance as a running back, pretty well documented in my history on BN. Also an openly big skeptic about the level of playmaking ability of the running backs in general. I don't think the RBs were the problem today running the ball.
  1. James' first carry, Najee Toran and Caleb Benenoch get embarassed trying to double-team UVA's left DE on a combo block. Toran falls and can't get to the MLB, James is done before he gets the ball.
  2. Steven Manfro's first carry. Najee Toran gets swim moved at the snap, DT hits Manfro three yards deep about a half second after the handoff. No chance for any back to make something happen there because Benenoch also got swim moved inside at the snap.
  3. Designed QB draw for Hundley, Redmond gets put on skates right into Hundley's lap. Play is over before it has a chance to develop.
  4. First play of the 2nd half, inside handoff to James. Both Redmond and Bunche get beat inside and James is tackled as soon as he gets the ball.
  5. 3rd and 3 on the first series of the half. Benenoch, Toran, Quessenberry and Redmond don't block any defensive lineman. Literally not one of them touches a lineman. There are 4 UVA defenders in front of James when he gets the handoff. Embarrassing on film.
  6. 2nd and 6 after a nice 1st down run to start a drive. High snap by Quessenberry complicates thing immediately. Even more complicating is the fact that Toran and Quessenberry go opposite directions and let both a DT and MLB run through the middle of the line and tackle Perkins as soon as he got the ball.
The play-calling was a little less suspect upon a second viewing. But still nothing to eliminate concern about.

Worst play-call of the day, by far, was the 4th and 1 call in the 4th quarter. Again, this is a 4th and 1 situation with a QB who is 6'3", 230 pounds. Instead of running a QB sneak, like UCLA had already done successfully on the drive. The Bruins draw up a QB draw. Yes, a play where the QB has to start 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and run into the middle of the defense that had been blowing up the interior line all morning. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work out and UCLA gave UVA the ball back with great field position.

Considering the offense scored 7 points against a defense that has a ton of talent, but was terrible in 2013, I think that a D (1.0) is extremely generous.


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

This will not be a fun section. If you want to feel better about UCLA after this game, I'd scroll past this chunk of text and move to Section 4 of the Eye Test.
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Last warning
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Alright, this section of the Eye Test is why this game was so excruciating to re-watch. After being among the national leaders in sacks allowed, tackles for loss allowed, total penalties and total penalty yardage in 2012 and 2013, UCLA kicked off the 2014 season with 5 sacks allowed, 11 tackles for loss allowed, 12 penalties (with two others waived off on TDs) and 77 penalty yards (and one touchdown erased).

Steven Manfro's massive mental error could have cost UCLA 7 points if not for a friendly bounce. Only swing pass of the game that I remember. A redshirt junior can't make that mistake. Especially a player who relies on those type of plays for his production.

Eldridge Massington on the same set of downs had an equally bad mental mistake. 3rd and 12, he has a 15-yard comeback route. A play where you run about 2 yards past the marker and turn around expecting the ball to be there as you turn.The coverage is perfect for it, the pass is on the money. Massington runs about 5 yards past the marker and is too late turning around. If UCLA's WRs aren't going to be game-changing players, they cannot afford to be sloppy on the little things.

Jordan Payton failed to get out of bounds twice on the last drive of the first half. UCLA had one timeout and Payton cost them a chance at scoring.


As always in this section, we take the penalties on a play-by-play basis.

1. Holding by Alex Redmond on 3rd and 11. He gets beat inside and tackles his man. Terrible.

2. Personal foul on Priest Willis for putting his helmet back on after it fell off and continuing to play. It is a rule. It may be a stupid rule, but you cannot blame the refs for doing their job or Willis for doing his. The fact that this took away a punt return TD by Ishmael Adams that would have been a massive momentum boost is unfortunate.

What actually happens (you can see it at the bottom of the screen on replay) is Willis jamming his man and forcing one of the gunners inside. He gets his facemask incidentally pulled on, both he and the gunner run into a big cluster of other players about 10 yards downfield and the whole cluster falls down with Willis on the bottom. As he rolls off the ground his helmet comes free. Willis hurries back to his feet, puts the helmet back.

This all happens before Adams has even caught the punt.

Then, Willis catches back up to the gunner he knocked down about 20 yards across the field from Adams and the gunner pushes Willis in the facemask again. Ridiculous rule and it was pretty clearly caused as a result of Virginia players.

3. Alex Redmond gets his 2nd penalty of the 1st quarter. False start on a 3rd and 12. There were about 4 other plays they could have called false starts on Redmond. Was twitchy the whole game.

4. Holding on Devin Lucien to start a drive. Negates about a 10-yard run by Jordon James on a stretch play. Turns a 2nd and inches or a 1st down into a 1st and 14. Just sloppy by an experienced player. The being young excuse really doesn't fly.

5. Caleb Benenoch with a false start on a 3rd and 9 to make it 3rd and 14. UCLA got 10 yards on a screen the next play.

6. Illegal Substitution on a 3rd and 12. Turned into a 3rd and 7. Had 12 guys on the field, just a rotation mistake.

7. On that very same 3rd and 7, Eric Kendricks got a little overzealous trying to break on a pass underneath. Got there a half second early and got appropriately flagged for it. If he lets that catch happen, they tackle him 4 yards short.

8. A waved-off offsides on Virginia's first TD on Odighizuwa and another waved-off offsides on their 2nd TD on Hollins.

9. Benenoch with his 2nd false start getting caught leaning on a run play.

10. Brutal defensive holding call on Goforth. There was nothing there to warrant any kind of a flag, was away from the ball on a hitch.

11. A hold on a kickoff return by I believe Charles Dawson, but am not 100% sure on who did it.

12. False start by Benenoch for make a 2nd and 7 into a 2nd and 12.

13. Snap infraction by Scott Quessenberry on the next play to make a 2nd and 12 into a 2nd and 17. This was the final drive of the game with an 8-point lead.

General Observations:
  • Aaron Wallace did a poor job on one UVA screen pass on a 3rd and 9 that went for 13 yards (UVA's longest pass until close to the end of the 2nd quarter). Let a much smaller WR seal him off much too easily and then took a terrible angle to head off the RB.
  • The RB screen pass that UCLA runs is such a terrible play. It has been for three years. The times UCLA ran it in this game:
  1. James sells it terribly and gets gobble up instantly causing Hundley to scramble for a couple yards.
  2. It worked okay with Perkins on a 3rd and 14 because he actually made the defender believe he was going to block him for a split second.
  3. Manfro got leveled as soon as he caught the last one because Redmond didn't touch the only defender in front of Manfro.
  • Good example of the disparity between having a game-changing player at WR and good players at WR on 3 straight plays in the 1st quarter. 18-yard deep out to Payton, good route but doesn't catch it cleanly and gets knocked back 4 yards on his butt by a smaller DB. Then Devin Lucien gets a 10-yard cushion on 1st and 10, takes a step back, gets the pass right away, but gets tackled for a one-yard loss because he can't make the first man miss in space. Fuller runs a crossing route over the middle of the field, gets separation but Hundley throws an average ball instead of a perfect one. Fuller gets both hands secured on the ball, but gets it knocked out of his hand by the trailing safety.
  • Great poise by Hundley on a 3rd and 17 in the 1st quarter. Had pressure from both sides, kept his eyes downfield, stepped into a throw to Lucien and threw a good ball despite being sandwiched by two defenders. Got a 10 yard completion instead of being sacked.
  • Hundley made terrible reads on read-option plays in the first half of this game. 1st and 14, gives to James with half the field to work with against 1 defender (plus he also had Manfro running a swing to the same side with two blockers against two defenders. Hundley could possibly have scored on this play, at minimum he gets 6-10 yards. Instead, it is a 2-yard gain. Oddly enough, he made almost exclusively great reads on those plays in the 2nd half.
  • Defense got lucky on a blown coverage on a 2nd and 5. Kendricks ran to the flats when there was a TE going over the middle. Guy dropped it when he could have gone for about 20 yards.
  • Wallace made a Barr-like crash down the line on a run play. Physical tackle. Dude can play the run well.
  • Goforth, Jack and Clark all read a screen pass perfectly. You can see them all mentally read the play on film, they figure it out at the exact same time and break on the ball.
  • 3rd and long on UCLA's only scoring drive. Brett Hundley looked amazing completing a pass to Massington. Blitz from UVA, he moves his feet great while looking downfield. Massington actually comes back for the ball and delivers.
  • Ellis McCarthy on the biggest 3rd down of the game, eats a double team without moving when the ball is run right at him. Huge play that goes unchecked in the stat sheet.
There is some good here, but sooooo much bad. If not for the defense, this would be an F. It's a D+ (1.3) with them.

4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?

I could talk about the issues in this game for quite some time because they are plentiful. Something I don't have many issues with is the level of effort by the players on the field.

One thing I really appreciated that ended up not working out well was UCLA using their timeouts on defense at the end of the first half to try and get the ball back after Kendricks scored UCLA's 3rd defensive touchdown. Would've had good field position with around a minute left and Virginia on the ropes mentally.

I feel fine going A (4.0) on this.


5.) Do our players execute?

Bright side, outside of the missed FG the special teams was as good as last year. Coverage teams and return teams balled out. Matt Mengel was solid punting, just put a little too much on one punt that went in the endzone.

Defense seemed to do an above average job here throughout the game. New DC Jeff Ulbrich's gameplan didn't seem much different from Lou Spanos'. I'd say the UCLA defenses have been more Jim Mora's defenses than anyone else, but that is to be expected. Limit explosive plays, multiple packages with fairly steady rotations, sound fundamentally across the board.

Explosive plays from UVA:

20+ yards: 4

30+ yards: 1

40+ yards: 0

2 out of these 4 plays were fade routes to the sideline against man coverage with a single high safety. One was exceptionally well covered by Moreau. The other was a jump ball fade against a two-safety look where the safety was late helping over the top. No big coverage breakdowns, just big WRs taking advantage of their size.

Virginia had thrown one pass more than 10 yards downfield before they pulled their QB. With a minute left in the half, they took a shot against a single-high safety. It worked against Ishmael Adams in man coverage, then it worked again for a touchdown on the same drive against Fabian Moreau. They got Priest Willis on a jump ball in the endzone on their first drive of the 2nd half where Goforth was a little late helping over the top.

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

1. Drop by Logan Sweet, 2nd and 10 at the UCLA 27, opening drive. Sweet came in for Massington after the 48-yard reception. That's not a problem, but it is a problem that he stayed on the field the next play. One play rest after a big play, then right back in. That is how it works. It was the first play of the game, Massington surely wasn't that exhausted. Quick inside curl for about 6 yards, good throw, hits Sweet in the face.

2. 5-yard sack on Hundley, 1st and 10 after two quick completions. I have no clue what was supposed to happen on this play, looked like a run-pass option gone wrong. Alex Redmond pulls to the right from LG, the run-option wasn't there because the LB had such a clear view of what was going on with the ball. Hundley pulls for a quick pass, but the inside WR isn't looking for the ball The delay allows the unblocked LB to tackle him right away. Just a poorly designed play, not on the OL.

3. Drop by Devin Fuller, 2nd and 11. Run about a 12-yard inside crossing route over the middle from the slot. Has some separation from his man, Hundley just throws an okay ball as opposed to a perfect one, so the ball doesn't lead him to be able to pick up more yardage after the catch. Fuller flat-out has to make that catch though. All-Conference WRs make that catch. Teams that win conference championships and/or national championships and are ranked #7 overall have WRs that make that catch.

4. Sack on a 3rd and 20 after Redmond was called for a hold. Fairly basic stunt by UVA. 5-man rush, blitz the MLB to the right side of the line, stand-up DE on that side wraps to the inside. Najee Toran and Scott Quessenberry both block the DT, no one touches the DE. He's on Hundley before Brett can go from his first progression to his second.

5. Drop by Thomas Duarte on a 2nd and 12. Hitch route from the slot. Would have been about a 6 yard gain to make 3rd down manageable. Duarte lets the ball get to his body, slides through to the ground.

6. Sack on a 2nd and 13 after Manfro's mental error on 1st down. It was a coverage sack on a 4-man rush. Hundley pretty wisely avoided the check down to Perkins because there was a safety breaking on the route already. UVA is playing a Cover 2 shell pretty much the whole game. UCLA ran 4 routes with 5 yards of the line of scrimmage on this play and they were all blanketed. On either the WRs/RBs or the play-calling there.

7. Drop by Manfro, 2nd and 12. Wheel route out of the backfield. This play would have probably gone for around 20 if Manfro looks it in. Good ball, bad execution by Manfro.

8. What was essentially a sack on a 3rd and 12. 5-man rush with 6 blockers. MLB shows blitz and runs right past Quessenberry. James actually does a good job picking him up, but accidentally makes it impossible for Redmond to stay on his block. The real problem is Najee Toran doing a horrendous job on his man. Lunges sideways and barely even touches the DT. Hundley has no time to do anything but try to throw a dump off to Fuller while he's being tackled.

9. 2nd and 1 at the end of the half, both Jordon James and Najee Toran get put on skates into Hundley's lap and he throws it away. He actually had Fuller breaking open, but an understandable decision given the pressure and situation with the clock.

10. Sack on a 4th and 5 at the UVA 35-yard line. 5-man rush with 6 to pick it up. Bunche doesn't help with the DE for some reason, who has a 5-yard running start to get through James. DE hits Hundley as he's pump faking, ball pops out and UVA recovers. Not really a turnover because of the situation, but it does count.

11. Two missed tackles on a 4th and 2 that would have stopped the Cavaliers short of the 1st and given UCLA great field position. Adams and Jefferson missed. Goforth saved a touchdown with an open field tackle.

12. Doesn't count as a drop, but on a 3rd and 3 on UCLA's opening drive of the 2nd half Devin Lucien got knocked over on a good reroute by a safety. He has to be stronger than that though. Good read by Hundley, good play call to actually run a quick slant on a 3rd and short against a blitz. Lucien has to come through there.

13. The 4th and 1 play in the 4th quarter. UVA blitzes up the middle, brings 6 against 5 because Perkins motioned out. Quessenberry and Redmond double the DT in the gap between them for some reason. Two players are untouched on their way to meet Hundley and a third beats Toran fairly easily and quickly.

14. The missed exchange in the 4th quarter that happened to bounce right back into Perkins hands. Could have given UVA the ball inside their 20-yard line.

15. Drop by Thomas Duarte on a 2nd and 13. Was a beautiful pass, route and play for a first down. Hit Duarte right in the numbers.

General observations here:
  • Hundley looked stellar on the first snap. Close to a perfect play by a QB. Looks off the safety, steps up in the pocket, footwork flawless, hits Massington in stride. Just beautiful.
  • First 3rd down attempt. UVA showing 6-man blitz with no LBs over the middle against a 4 WR set. Duarte is in the slot, run a route towards the middle of the field. WHY IS THIS NOT AUTOMATICALLY A HOT ROUTE? Throw a quick slant, make a safety tackle 6'5" Duarte 1-on-1.
  • I don't see any reason to be critical of Ka'imi Fairbairn. He is what he is. Money inside of 40 yards, good on kickoffs. He missed a 44-yard FG on the first drive. It wasn't surprising, college kickers aren't good. Special teams coaches aren't kicking coaches. There isn't anyone on UCLA's staff that knows how to improve Fairbairn's accuracy from outside of 40 yards. That is true of the vast majority of coaching staffs at every level of football. Be mad about so many other things before Fairbairn.
  • Myles Jack got unlucky getting sucked up on UVA's first snap that went for a 17-yard run (their only 10+ yard run of the game). Needed to scrape over the top when the hole inside Eddie Vanderdoes plugged up by destroying the LG. He did realize it quickly, but the RB was already around the corner.
  • Kenny Clark was a monster on UVA's 2nd drive. Forced a false start because one play earlier he had immediately driven the LG back 3 yards at the snap to blow up a 1st down run. Then the LG got taken out of the game. The next LG gets pushed down the line so Clark got another tackle on a running play.
  • NFL throw that is one that not many QBs can make look easy. 15-20 yard deep out from the far hash to the sideline. Hundley to Jordan Payton in the 2nd quarter. Money ball by Brett.
  • Malcolm Bunche looked smooth on back-to-back stretch plays for Paul Perkins.
  • Eric Kendricks covering a wheel route out of the backfield. Excellent coverage to give the RB about 1-yard of the field to work with down the sideline. Looked much improved in coverage in this game compared to last season.
  • Great job by Taylor Lagace on special teams. Looked very worthy of his captain role.
  • Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark made it basically impossible for UVA to run in between the tackles. The interior line could not move those two off the line. Also, Eli Ankou and Ellis McCarthy in the rotation doing the same thing.
Again, the defense saves this from being a borderline failing performance, C- (1.7)

6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

Have to start with the star of the game. Eric Kendricks was honored with being named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week. Tough to start anywhere but there. Anyone who has watched UCLA these last few years knows that Kendricks was his usual self in this game, just a little more flashy with the interception return for a TD and a forced fumble that Goforth ran back for a TD.

After putting up 16 in week 1, EK needs 120 tackles the rest of the season to become UCLA's all-time leading tackler. I think he gets there with a little room to spare.

Owa was outstanding. That game was on par with any game Anthony Barr had at UCLA. I mean that honestly. If you have a chance, go watch the defensive plays from this game. Deon Hollins, Randall Goforth, Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark all performed well in less visibly impressive ways.

Hundley managing not to ever look flustered despite the debacle the offense was putting together is certainly a mark of leadership as well. Overall, I'll go B+ (3.3) here because of the void on offense outside of Hundley.

There are leaders on this team, but there needs to be one on the offensive line and at the skill positions. Jacob Brendel, please be back next week.


Final Grade Card for the Virginia Cavaliers

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? A- (3.3)

2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? D (1.0)

3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? D+ (1.3)

4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? A (4.0)

5.) Do our players execute? C- (1.7)

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

Virginia GPA: C+ (2.5)

That feels pretty fair to me. Winning a road game against a power conference team, even one of the weakest teams from the weakest conference, is not ever easy. But this type of performance is not something UCLA should have had to deal with in Week 1. This game should have been over at halftime based on the difference in talent. The only bright side I see is that every top 10 team that played an FBS opponent strugged except Baylor against SMU. Florida State could have lost to Oklahoma State, Ohio State probably should have lost to Navy, South Carolina did lose to Texas A&M, Auburn struggled deep into the 2nd half against Arkansas, Alabama played close with West Virginia. While the Cavaliers are likely worse than any of those teams, save Arkansas, they had a lot of talent and were at home.

Next week, the Bruins open up their home slate against the Memphis Tigers coming off of a huge blowout of whatever FCS school they paid to scrimmage against.

Until next time, Go Bruins!