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.
"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.
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:
- Owa on a 3rd and 7 to force a 1-yard panicked dump off
- Owa and Hollins on Adams' touchdown
- Owa on a 1st and 10 to force a near interception
- Hollins on a 2nd and 8 forced a dump off
- Owa on a 2nd and 15 with a dip and rip move forced a bad throw
- Owa, Hollins and Clark all beat their man and were closing in on Greyson Lambert on Kendricks interception
- Owa, Hollins and Clark forced a rushed throw on a 3rd and 6 that was converted because Adams lost his man over the middle
- Owa off the edge forcing a bad pass on a 2nd and 10 in the 3rd quarter
- Aaron Wallace and Owa on a 2nd and 10 to force a late throw over the middle that somehow got completed
- Clark on a stunt around the edge forcing a near INT by Jack
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- James sells it terribly and gets gobble up instantly causing Hundley to scramble for a couple yards.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
6.) Do we have leaders on the field?
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!