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The "Eye Test": More Of The Same In Week Two

Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 42-35 victory over the Memphis Tigers in the Bruins' 2014 home opener to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Describe the UCLA Bruins football program.

Seriously, I am asking every UCLA football fan to do that right now if you are reading this.

It shouldn't be that hard to do.

Florida State: Traditional powerhouse, defensive juggernaught, overwhelming talent everywhere.

Oregon: Speed, speed, speed. The flashiest football program in the country. Perennially underrated defenses due to the tempo of their offense.

Alabama: The New York Yankees of college football. Money, talent everywhere that makes average QBs look like stars, in-state dominance, change their schemes to suit the most talented personnel they can recruit.

I could do this for most teams good or bad, but I can't immediately think of an accurate way to describe the UCLA Bruins that I've been following for the majority of my life.

Am I crazy for seeing that as a huge problem?

The first thought that came in my head is that UCLA currently reminds me of an NFL team that is constantly between the 7-9 and 9-7 range. Not bad enough to warrant concern without seeming hyper-critical and blow things up. But also not good enough to actually be a serious contender for anything beyond a wild-card berth in the 12 team NFL playoffs or maybe a division title in a bad division like the Green Bay Packers last season going 8-7-1 and winning the NFC North.

My ideal scenario would be for this question to be easily answered at the end of this season. There is still time to make this happen.

Let's get to the grades.

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

Not going to get a ton of praise after giving up 469 yards of offense, 28 points (don't count the pick-6 against them),

In contrast to last week against Virginia, where UCLA was outstanding on a yards per play basis (4.6 yards per play on 84 snaps, which is a dominant number), UCLA was dreadful on a yards per play basis against Memphis.

Memphis actually ran almost the same number of plays that Virginia did (81 for Memphis, 84 for Virginia) but gained almost 80 more yards (469 for Memphis, 386 for Virginia).

That is 5.8 yards per play, which would have ranked in the 90's last year as opposed to the top 5 average that last week's performance would have yielded.

I was happy with the pass rush last weekend because there was consistent pressure with only 3-man or 4-man rushes. I counted 11 on 45 pass attempts, which is unquestionably great. The sacks weren't there, but the rushers were winning battles, affecting throws and moving the pocket.

This weekend was not the same.

After two games, UCLA has 1 sack on nearly 90 opponent pass attempts.

That is bad. No way to pivot away from that number.

Let's take a closer look at the pass rush. The Bruins only rushed more than 4-men twice on pass attempts that I counted in last week's game. They did more in this game, with much less effectiveness.

Instances with more than 4-man rush on pass plays:
  1. 3rd and 10, brought Ishmael Adams and Myles Jack off the right side Memphis called a screen to that space, got 9 yards.
  2. 1st and 10, brought 6 to start Memphis' 2nd drive. They took a shot against Adams on a wheel route and got 28 yards. Adams just got beat off the line.
  3. 1st and 10, brought 5 straight up, designed rollout with max protection and the ball gets out for a first down with no one near the QB.
  4. 2nd and 4. Brought 6. Didn't really affect the pass but it was incomplete. Mostly because it was an ugly play well covered downfield.
  5. 2nd a 8, brought about 6. Memphis runs a slant on Adams inside. They get 10 and a first down.
  6. 3rd and 5, brought 5. QB tries to do a Hundley tuck and run for the first. Kenny Clark tracks him down for what would have been a sack if the QB were not 6'7" and able to fall forward for a short gain instead of it being a short loss. No actual pressure though, just a good play call against a draw.
  7. Eric Kendricks sent up the middle, pocket collapses on both sides. UCLA gets sack number one in the fourth quarter of the 2nd game of 2014.

Pressures on pass plays:
  1. Aaron Wallace off the edge on a 2nd and 10, missed the sack but forced Paxton Lynch out of the pocket. Eddie Vanderdoes forced a penalty on this one with an explosive rush off the line, got hands to the face.
  2. Aaron Wallace off the edge on a designed rollout. Is unblocked initially but with a fullback between him and the QB, does a good job reacting and getting in Lynch's face and making him scramble for a 1-yard gain around the corner instead of throwing the ball.
  3. Owamagbe Odighizuwa off the edge on a 2nd and 8. Lynch steps right into it and delivers to a wide open RB out of the backfield for 18 yards.
  4. Kenny Clark from inside on a 2nd and 10. Stands the RG up, sheds him inside and forces Lynch out of the pocket. He outruns Clark to the edge and picks up 6 yards though.
  5. Deon Hollins on a rollout. Pretty much the same as the earlier Aaron Wallace pressure. First time a defender actually put a hit on Lynch on a pass attempt.
  6. Deon Hollins and Ellis McCarthy rush a throw on a 3rd and 10 in the 4th quarter. Hollins dipped under the LT and McCarthy beat a double team to create push inside.
  7. Either Kenny Orjioke or Deon Hollins off the edge. Looked explosive whoever it was, forced a 3rd and long.
  8. Eric Kendricks, Matt Dickerson and Ellis McCarthy converge on Lynch. I think Kendricks deserved the half sack that Dickerson got, but that is nitpicking.
The defense didn't play well. No way around it. Last week was an A, this week is a D+ (1.3)

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

540 total yards of offense, 42 points, 396 passing yards for Brett Hundley.

Raw totals are night and day from Week 1 and much more similar to the good offensive numbers that UCLA put up in 2012 and 2013 against inferior non-conference opponents.

The promising numbers are from the passing side of things. The total yardage is great, but getting Hundley up around 9 yards per attempt and at 12 yards per completion is a good sign for the offense as a whole. He has the arm talent to press the ball downfield, UCLA just needs to take advantage of the 10-20 yard type of routes far more often. Hundley is exceptional at that range, but the Bruins don't attack it much under Noel Mazzone.

That Kenneth Walker TD pass was a thing of beauty all around. Hundley threw it about 60 yards on a line down the middle of the field. Walker got separation with a nice head fake.

The rushing attack still leaves a ton to be desired, to be honest. Paul Perkins has had two decent games to start the year, albeit against mediocre competition, but he is not a competent enough pass blocker to be playing 80% of the snaps at RB. He's also not dynamic enough of a player to be touching the ball 25 times in a game.

Nate Starks had a nice run, but then was a non-factor in the rest of the game. Based on what I saw in San Bernardino, he cannot be trusted to pass block for Hundley outside of a situational rep.

Jordon James has had one rushing attempt that was blocked well in the first two games. The odds of that just seem low. I've never been high on James as a runner, but he hasn't done anything wrong so far. No running back on this roster can create something from nothing.

I'll get into particulars later on, but the offense did well in this game. Looked pretty crisp in the passing game, pretty bland in the running game and dropped way too many passes again. Overall, that feels like a B+ (3.3)

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

Some general observations:
  • On UCLA's first 3rd down of the game, Memphis brought 5 men in pressure and the Bruins ran twin slants to convert. It was comforting to see that route factor into the offense early.
  • Note about UCLA's first punt. Mengel punts from the 39 on a 4th and 19, Memphis fair catches the ball at the 8-yard line. Clearly the 8. The ref spots it at the 10. It's an atrocious spot after rewatching it. How no coach noticed that is beyond me. Easy challenge win that wouldn't have been all that meaningful but the principle matters to me.
  • Jordon James absolutely leveled a Memphis linebacker on a Hundley scramble. Got Hundley the first down with that block. Not a great start to the year for Jordon, but that was an A+ play.
  • Malcolm Bunche does an awful job on a 2nd and 10 that goes incomplete to Massington. 4-man rush with a corner blitz off the left side. Bunche passes off the DE to Jordon James (who does a hell of a job pass blocking a DE by himself) to help inside on a defensive tackle slanting towards the guard-center gap. The blitzing corner is untouched and forces Hundley to throw it away under duress. There's no reason why Bunche shouldn't take the DE 1-on-1 and let James pick up that blitzing corner. It was 6-blockers against 5 rushers and an unblocked rusher gets hands on Hundley. Shit like that is something RS Senior Left Tackles don't do.
  • Logan Sweet and Tyler Scott are playing far too often for a team that wants to be considered a top 10 team. Walk-on WRs don't get meaningful playing time for top 10 teams without serious injury problems. They're both fine players, but there should be focus on getting Kenneth Walker, Nate Iese and Mossi Johnson snaps to develop. Those players could actually become productive players at UCLA. There is no need for those two to be playing in the first half of games.
  • The backup defensive line did not perform well in this game and got a lot of snaps. Eli Ankou, Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner got pushed around a bit. Memphis' first touchdown was pretty much because those guys were in the whole drive getting moved out of gaps.
  • First Memphis scoring drive, 3rd and 5 play. For some reason, the scheme has Fabian Moreau playing off the ball 10 yards on a 3rd and 5. Memphis runs a slant and gets the first easily. Note to Noel Mazzone and company: THIS IS HOW SLANTS CAN BENEFIT YOUR OFFENSE.
  • Next play on that drive. Memphis runs a pick play to get separation on Moreau in press coverage. QB throws a horrible pass, but the pick play works well enough that the get a 1st down.
  • Their first TD. Eric Kendricks gets fooled on a zone read. Chases outside, QB keeps and goes right up the middle with no ILB on the 2nd level.
  • Outstanding job by Priest Willis on a pick play to make a tackle on 3rd and 5. He slips over the WR going out and gets to the slant as soon as it is caught. Forces a 4th down. Willis played really well on tape. He's looked better than Fabian Moreau outside so far this season, in far fewer snaps obviously.
  • Jordan Payton pretty clearly ran the wrong route on a 1st and 10 after Nate Starks' big run to start a drive. Hundley threw a back shoulder ball that would have been open, Payton kept running downfield. He got 20 yards on the next play, but still a mental mistake.
  • 3rd TD for UCLA was an intermediate ball outside to Thomas Duarte. Same play that Joseph Fauria scored about 4 TDs on in 2012. Nice to see that play dusted off and used again.
  • The 52-yard completion to Duarte was the same route but a different play. Still, intermediate throws are a strong suit for Hundley. With Duarte maturing a bit, hopefully this will be an emphasis moving forward.
  • Kenny Orjioke is the most at fault on Memphis' 3rd TD. Bit up on a play he wasn't blitzing. RB gets behind him and there's one guy for 3 linemen to block.
  • Offensive line's worst play was on a 1st and 10 on the first drive of the 2nd half. All three interior lineman (Brendel, Redmond, Quessenberry) get beat and end up on the ground. Perkins gets hit for a loss of 1 yard after making two guys miss immediately after taking the handoff.
  • Owa's TFL in the 4th quarter was terrifying. He makes me feel more confident about my prediction of him being a 1st round pick this year every game.
  • Bunche gets blown by inside once again in the 4th quarter, causing a TFL on Perkins. He did not have a good game.
  • Priest Willis and Eric Kendricks on back-to-back plays on the final drive in the 4th quarter. Great job by both.
As always in this section, we take the penalties on a play-by-play basis.
  1. Substitution infraction on the UCLA defense. Turns a 2nd and 6 inside the redzone into a 2nd and 1. Not ideal. Had something to do with the backup defensive line coming out and the starters coming back in. Memphis scored their 2nd touchdown on this drive.
  2. False start by Malcolm Bunche to open a drive. Just does a little squat up. Again, not ideal even though UCLA does score on the drive.
  3. Holding by Isaako Savaiinaea on the kickoff following Memphis' 3rd TD. Just a obvious hold right in front of a referee.
  4. Holding on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half by Ryan Hofmeister. Didn't see it, can't comment.
  5. Devin Fuller gets called for a foolish holding on a pass by Hundley that was completed to Tyler Scott. Fuller jumps on the DBs shoulder and pulls him to the ground. It was just needless.
  6. Logan Sweet gets called for a hold on a pass to the outside. He shouldn't be in the game with the score tied in the 4th quarter. But what do I know, I'm not the one handing out (or not handing out) scholarships to these players.
  7. The hands to the face call on Kenny Orjioke cost everybody at home and in the Rose Bowl about 10 minutes. Clearly a forward pass, so it wasn't a turnover and, even if it was, the penalty makes any turnover irrelevant. Why was it reviewed at all?  It was a deserved penalty too. Foolish.
  8. Pass interference on Priest Willis. I didn't like this call. He made a play on the ball and turned his head. Nearly an interception. Is what it is though, the rules favor the offense. Can't change it.
There were ups and downs here in this game. Not nearly as bad as the Virginia game. I feel good going with a C- (1.7)

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

No real strong feelings on this one. The defense made a ton of mistakes in the first half, but not due to effort. The offense left a lot of points on the field, but the errors were concentration and/or lack of talent based.

A B (3.0) feels fair.

5.) Do our players execute?

Special teams talk first:

Missing extra points is terrible. No way to excuse that by Fairbairn.

Coverage teams were solid, return teams didn't have a great day. Adams should have stayed in the end-zone twice and didn't, also fumbled one that was luckily recovered by Cameron Judge.

I didn't think the punting was quite as bad as I remembered it seemed at the time. Mengel hit one punt poorly and got unlucky with the yardage per punt because UCLA punted from inside the 50 twice. He's pretty average, but considering he was basically picked up off the street in August, it is a plus having an average punter.

Some observations about the dropped passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles:
  1. The first Memphis sack is on Hundley and not the O-line. 2nd and 9, he had Thomas Duarte on an out route for about 5 yards and looked downfield instead of just trusting the read. It wasn't well blocked by any means, but Hundley should've pulled the trigger.
  2. Jordon James bobbles a perfectly thrown swing pass and eliminates any chance he has to make a move in space. Really pitiful attempt at a block on this play by Tyler Scott as well. Not sure why he passed off that defender.
  3. Anthony Jefferson misses a tackle on a screen pass on 2nd and 11 in space. Allows the WR to go get a 1st down right after a big TFL by Kendricks.
  4. Randall Goforth on a 1st and 10, RB runs into traffic and bounces to the edge. Goforth has him tracked down for maybe a 1-yard gain. He slips past and ends up getting 6.
  5. Priest Willis got fooled on a 30-yard completion by Memphis. Settled his feet after reading run and let the  WR get behind him. Recovered well enough to save a TD, still a bad play. One of very few for Willis so far in 2014.
  6. Big 3rd and 1 following the third Memphis TD. Jordon James gets a hand-off up the middle, but has no chance to even think of making a move or decision because Malcolm Bunche gets beaten inside instantly and the DE is on James as he gets the handoff.
  7. Jordan Payton drops an easy ball late in the first half. Memphis gets flagged for holding on the other side of the field, but UCLA gets at least 15 if Payton catches this and they'd decline the penalty.
  8. Devin Lucien drops an amazing pass by Hundley on a 2nd and 10 on the same drive.
  9. Devin Fuller makes it three on the final drive of the first half by dropping an easy touchdown on another outstanding throw by Hundley. Teams that win championships have players that catch these passes. Three juniors with a ton of experience. Inexcusable for them to be making these mistakes.
  10. Devin Lucien makes another appearance on a short curl. Goes right through his hands. Was the ball thrown hard? Yes. Should a player on scholarship for UCLA at WR make that catch 99% of the time? Yes.
  11. Second sack. 4-man rush with 6 men in to protect. The RT and RG double one DE, the C and LG double a DT, leaving Bunche and James to block the other two rushers 1-on-1. Who planned that blocking scheme? It was a stunt, sure. But just a twist by a DT over two gaps. Bunche's form leaves him so susceptible to plays like this. I'd keep taking advantage if I were a DC. He turns his whole body sideways after passing off rushers inside. Anyone with decent foot speed will be able to beat him to the corner on a stunt if he keeps doing that.
  12. Tyler Scott drops a pass on a skinny post on a 2nd and 4 for what would have been a TD. Championship teams have players that catch passes like this. They probably don't have walk-on WRs that catch those passes, but why would a walk-on even be in a close game? Questions a plenty. I count it as a drop though, hits both hands.
  13. Devin Lucien gets number three for himself on the evening. Tough to decide which was the worst drop.
  14. Iffy snap by Brendel catches Hundley off guard and ends up fumbled until Hundley falls on it for a sack. It wasn't a bad snap, but it was wide to the left. Fault on both players.
  15. Ishmael Adams misses a TFL that would have set up a 2nd and 15. Instead, Memphis gains a yard and ends up with a 3rd and 1 a play later.
  16. Tahaan Goodman takes an awful angle at safety on the 40-yard TD by Memphis. Has no chance at stopping the play downfield. About three other players make mistakes on this play, but Goodman's is why it is a TD instead of a 10-yard run.
  17. The pick-six by Hundley was a bad play. From rewatching the game, I'd say it was the only truly bad play of the game by him. Happens to the best of players. Timing couldn't have been much worse though. It had been almost 150 attempts since his last one, so I think Brett deserves a little leeway there.
  18. Sack in the 4th quarter with the game tied. 4-man rush collapses the pocket on Hundley with 6-rushers. No one looked remotely close to open. Not a good play. Perkins get blown up by a DE that he is blocking 1-on-1 for some reason despite there being 4-rushers and 6 in protection.
That is a ton of mistakes that were really costly. Take a third of those away and this game isn't in doubt in the 4th quarter. I feel like the C- (1.7) from last week is appropriate here as well.

6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

Brett Hundley showed a ton of leadership in this game, just as he did last week in a much worse situation. He was cost about 80 yards and a touchdown because of drops. His play on the drive following the interception was masterful. Looked like an NFL QB for about 98% of this game.

Having Jacob Brendel back was a huge deal. He wasn't dominant or anything, but having a good center and having a RG that doesn't weigh 250 pounds made a huge difference in this game.

The defense is tougher to place this week. No one made any huge plays, no one was without serious errors.

Hundley would be an A, the defense would be like a D+. Let's call this a C+ (2.3) because the Heisman candidate played like one.

Final Grade Card for the Memphis Tigers

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? D+ (1.3)

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? C- (1.7)

4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? B (3.0)

5.) Do our players execute? C- (1.7)

6.) Do we have leaders on the field? C+ (2.3)

Memphis GPA: C (2.2 )

For reference, the GPA for last week's win over Virginia was a C+ (2.5) and that feels too high in retrospect.

The Bruins' next game is a road game (yeah, I'm not bothering with the "neutral site" label because it won't be) against the University of Texas. Normally, that'd be a marquee matchup on par with the Michigan State-Oregon game from this week. But, in 2014, UT is transitioning from whatever was going on at the end of the Mack Brown era into the new regime of Charlie Strong. The Longhorns just got obliterated by BYU for the 2nd year in a row, losing 41-7 at home. They obviously still have a great deal of talent because they are the University of Texas, but there is no reason why UCLA shouldn't be able to control the tempo on both sides of the ball, pull away in this game, and be playing the backups on offense and defense in the 4th quarter.

It gets tiring having to type something like that every week, but that is what this roster should be doing against teams with less talent and (at least in terms of compensation) a better coaching staff.

Until next time, Go Bruins!