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UCLA Football: Washington State Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s 27-21 loss to Washington State.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

1. Another week, another loss. Did the Bruins at least live up to your expectations in this game?

Robert Bastron: I’ll say, I had pretty low expectations once it was clear that Rosen wouldn’t play. Fafaul played much better than I thought he would play, and if they let him throw the ball more in the first half, he could have pulled off the win. So yes, they exceeded my expectations in fact, but I was expected a beat down.

AnteatersandBruins: I, too, was expecting another dumpster fire, so Fafaul actually played better than I thought he would (at least in the second half). I was not impressed with our receivers, once again, as I thought they might actually try a little harder knowing they were catching for a back up.

Nirya: This is totally damning with faint praise, but UCLA looked better than I thought they would. The defense was very good despite being having no help for much of the game, and the offense wasn’t as big of a garbage fire than I assumed it would be. It was still bad, mind you, but it could have been much worse.

Joe Piechowski: I'm with Robert here. Using the Crowd's Line widget in orlandobruin's Pregame Guesses, I had us losing 30-6. Fafaul was much better in the second half. But, our running game is still a dumpster fire.

2. Backup QB Mike Fafaul had a nightmarish first half, and then a very good second half. How would you say he did overall?

Robert Bastron: Fafaul obviously lacks the physical talent of Rosen, and isn’t a Pac-12 caliber quarterback. If you want to ask why such a guy is the backup quarterback, that’s one thing. But I thought Fafaul played as well as he could have, better than I was expecting. I’m not sure why they were calling for deep passes… That was when he got into the most trouble.

AnteatersandBruins: Overall, I’d give him a C+. He was a walk on before he got a scholarship (I believe) so there’s a reason why he’s not the #1 guy. We’ve all been saying how bad it could be if Rosen went down because we don’t have a solid back up.

Nirya: Mike Fafaul played to the best of his abilities, and that’s all you can really ask for from a former walk-on player. Really I just wanted to throw some positivity into the roundtable, and Fafaul’s play and attitude is something that should be lauded. Although I will say the fact that Fafaul did play here and not one of the true freshman says to me that the staff believes Rosen should be good to go relatively soon (especially since they tried to see if he could go before this game).

Joe Piechowski: He did an admirable job under the circumstances. If he had any protection or running game, UCLA proabably would have won the game and we'd all be singing his praises. I'm less concerned about the quarterback position than I am about the offensive line.

Heisman voter (and BN member) Lisa Horne has an excellent article explaining the problems UCLA has had and continues to have. Specifically, she dissects the problems that UCLA has had offensively for the entirety of the Dorrell-Neuheisel-Mora era.

Horne writes:

UCLA is still of the mindset that landing a marquee quarterback will win championships. It's like landing a 750-pound Marlin and then expecting to keep it by tying it to the boat with a needle and thread.

A stout offensive line is a cure-all for most offenses. A decent quarterback behind a great line will have time to go through his progressions and make the right throw.

Alabama wins championships without marquee quarterbacks. Alabama wins championships with superior offensive lines. And solid running between the tackles. And great coaching.

She concludes by writing:

If immediate changes are not made on the line to protect the big fish, Rosen should just sit out. Another injury could do permanent damage and jeopardize his potential NFL draft status and earnings.

Mora makes $3.25 million a year. Klemm makes $760,000. Rosen makes nil.

Only one of those Bruins is currently earning his keep.

To which I will add an interesting stat from ESPN's Kyle Bonagura.

In other words, Utah has the best pass rush in the conference. The conference's best pass rush against the conference's nation's worst offensive line is a recipe for a more serious injury.

Just once, I wish the beat writers would ask Mora why Adrian Klemm still has a job.

3. I feel we could talk about the deficiencies of the offense all day, but what in particular stood out as the most egregious mistake?

Robert Bastron: The line seems to actually be getting worse throughout the year. I didn’t keep track, but there were a number of times when there were one or two Wazzu defenders in the backfield before the running back even got the ball. The line straight up isn’t blocking people, and they get beat pretty easily when they do.

AnteatersandBruins: Our offensive line is flat out atrocious. I can’t believe Klemm has a job.

Nirya: I figured the line would get the most focus, so I’m going to talk about the wide receivers. Specifically, how does Jordan Lasley only see the field in the fourth quarter, where he coincidentally managed to take over the game offensively? And how does Theo Howard not even see the field? And how does Eric Yarber justify Kenny Walker continuing to receiver such a large amount of snaps?

Joe Piechowski: It's an ongoing mistake on the part of Jim Mora: Adrian Klemm still has a job.

4. Let’s move on to the defense, which held the normally-prolific Cougar offense to 27 points on 356 total yards (they were averaging 40 points on 501 total yards on the season). What was the highlight for you on this side of the ball?

Robert Bastron: This is just par for the course for our awesome defense. I thought Wazzu got bailed out on one or two bogus defensive holding calls, too. It looked like Bradley dialed up more pressure in the second half (though not a ton). He didn’t seem to think he had to pressure Falk a whole lot, but it looked like a response to more of an urgent sense that the defense would have to help out the O with field position, and potentially even scoring some points. I know it’s not his style, and I’ve learned to be okay with it (because it’s working), but when the offense needs help, I thought they could have done more to try to turn the ball over.

AnteatersandBruins: Just their overall "sticktoitiveness". They don’t let down or have bad games. No matter how bad the offense looks, they hold it together and do their job. Lesser men might give up.

Nirya: I put the raw stats in the question for a reason. Would you like to know what this offense did to Stanford the week prior? 42 points on 458 total yards in a road game. It is criminal just how little help this defense is getting on a weekly basis, because this is the best UCLA has looked on this side of the ball in decades (yeah, I feel comfortable enough to say that).

Joe Piechowski: Well, I wouldn't say decades, plural. Decade, sure. The 2006 defense was ranked 9th in rushing defense, 35th in total defense and 39th in scoring defense while this year's team is 50th in rushing defense, 28th in total defense and 39th in scoring defense. I do think that everyone has noticed the improvements the team has made defensively for two reasons. First, the team was so awful against the run last season. Second, there's a tendency to compare opposite sides of the ball when one side may be struggling like our offense is.

Getting back to the original question, the highlights on defense were the first three Washington State drives. The first ended in the ball being turned over on downs. On the second one, the Cougars drove down as deep as the UCLA 14-yard line before having to settle for the field goal. And, on the third, the defense held completely when Jayon Brown intercepted the ball for a touchback.

The end zone interception, or interceptions anywhere, haven't been that frequent this season or, at least, haven't come at the most opportune times. These three drives reminded me of some of the defenses in years past who would come up with the big plays at the right times. It's just something we've been missing of late.

5. Next week is a game against Utah at the Rose Bowl, in what might be a must-win to get any sort of momentum going into the bye week. How do you see that game going?

AnteatersandBruins: Ugh. I guess it depends on whether or not Rosen is back. It’s clear that our O-line is not going to get any better than they are until Mora lets Klemm go. Klemm and his "show-cause" order need to be a thing of the past.

Robert Bastron: I don’t think Utah is as good as their record indicates. Getting Rosen back would be huge, but you know what? Utah isn’t so great at scoring the ball, and their defense isn’t as good as ours. They rank a few spots behind UCLA in the conference in yards per play allowed on defense, and even behind us one spot in yards per play on offense. For the doom and gloomers already putting this one in the L column -- Not so fast! Get ready for something low scoring and ugly.

Nirya: Yeah, I actually think this is a winnable game (provided Josh Rosen can play). The Utes are probably not as good as last year, and they don’t appear to be very good on the road; in their two conference road games so far this year, they lost to Cal and barely beat Oregon State by 5. I don’t think Utah will find much success on offense, while the defense has had some issues in defending the pass. You would think that would play to UCLA’s strengths, but....

Joe Piechowski: The defense has shown that it can be counted on to keep the team in games. It will probably be close regardless of whether or not Rosen plays, but, ultimately, I don't see the offensive woes ending against Utah because Mora failed to take the decisive action necessary to right the ship by firing Klemm.

6. The Extra Point - Sound off!

AnteatersandBruins: Yesterday my five year old said, "maybe Coach Jim shouldn’t be the coach anymore. If the Bruins aren’t winning, they’re losing". Donut Dan needs to take advice from someone who is obviously smarter than he is.

Robert Bastron: While I hope that staff changes will be made after the season, I don’t believe Mora will do anything mid-season, and they’re not going to acquire new offensive line talent mid-season, either. That means, in order to make something out of the next five games the Bruins can only work with what they’ve got. So what’s the move? Are they going to go full Air Raid? Try to reinstall an up-tempo game plan? What can they do to salvage as best they can the rest of this season?

Nirya: I have to give Coach Mora credit - I didn’t think it was possible that he would be on the hot seat except for a complete disaster, but here we are! I don’t know if Jim Mora will be fired after this season, but I do know any goodwill he’s earned over the past four years is crumbling away, as the systemic problems with the program begin to come to the forefront.

Joe Piechowski: Yeah, the goodwill he built up has crumbled faster than you can say "goodwill". It's because the deeper problems are being seen by Bruin fans. This is a team that was picked to win the Pac-12 South and they will be lucky to break even. People are recognizing the downward trend and are not happy about it. Since last year's game against Washington State, the team has beaten only two Power Five schools and lost to seven, but one of them was Utah. So, you never know. I just don't see us winning this one with the current state of the offense.