The Bruins are handed another tough, road loss against a team with an explosive offense and suffocating defense. UCLA football is now 5-2 (2-2 in the Pac-12).
1. Initial thoughts about this game?
bruinclassof10: We did well in the 1st half, then Oregon's offense happened. Our defense held their own and the Pac-12 commentators kept commenting on how young our offense is. The future is bright, talent-wise.
gbruin: Weird. The first half was about about what I expected. The second was far worse than expected, particularly for our offense. I can't understand why it has gone into the tank like it has. Play calling, execution, loss of confidence? I don't understand it, but it's pretty surprising and disappointing.
Achilles: We got a good look at an elite team. Remember, we didn't face Oregon last year. And the result was very similar to the results we had against the Ducks two years ago with RN as coach. We played better than the final score indicated, but have a ways to go.
Odysseus: We're just not on the same level as Oregon. Put that down to a number of factors, but we're not there yet. The defense looked good until they wore down due to the offense's inability to sustain drives in the second half. I'm not pleased that two opportunities to compete with Stanford and Oregon were wasted. Mora is talking a good talk though, saying that's he's not satisfied with moral victories. He's hitting the right tone, but execution is what counts. This team can still meet expectations by winning the Pac-12 South. I will say the penalties situation was better and hopefully the coaches will make this a sustained point of emphasis that get corrected. The snaps looked better too. Also, I want to compliment Coach Klemm and the offensive line for being ready to play. Clearly, they struggled at times, but performed admirably given the circumstances, which have been well documented. Continuing to get the little things corrected helps. If there's anything that was emblematic of the game it was Oregon's fake punt. That was huge momentum-wise, but it says a lot about Oregon's confidence in its defense and its players.
Bellerophon: Oregon is pretty good, but they're not so far ahead of UCLA that we can't catch up and compete for the conference title this year, and certainly not next year. The defense played outstanding, and if the offense didn't look completely inept in Eugene, this was a game that could have been won, despite how lopsided the final score was. Keep in mind, it was 14-14 at half and 21-14 going into the fourth quarter. The coaching has to improve because this game really illustrated how bad Mora and Mazzone got outsmarted.
2. Why do you think that our offense has sputtered?
bruinclassof10: Hundley hasn't been playing like his usual self in the past 3 games. The strange playcalling isn't giving him much help either.
gbruin: Hundley looks very uncomfortable in the pocket and isn't really going through progressions right now. I don't think the line play has been that much worse to account for all of that. The system has gotten surprisingly predictable which is a contributor, and we have too many 3rd and longs to consistently sustain drives. Many of our runs out of the shotgun involve the running back taking his first 4 or 5 steps laterally in front of the QB and across our backfield 4 yards behind the LOS before turning upfield, so any penetration by the D line kills the play for a loss, and it's really bogging down drives.
Achilles: Poor play calling, good but not great talent. Really, the play calling was too conservative for my taste. The first slant we called resulted in a TD.
Odysseus: A combination of factors. The playcalling has been concerning and Hundley hasn't looked right. He's been put in third and long, which is always tough, but he's also made questionable decisions, sometimes looking like he's trying to force throws or do too much, and sometimes making bad reads. Even when the time and pocket have been there, he's been getting happy feet in the pocket. The lack of a running game, the failure to establish a deep threat and the disappearance of the intermediate passing game are concerning as well.
Bellerophon: The playcalling has been atrocious and I'm not sure if it's simply because Mazzone's system is predictable and he's hit his ceiling (just like he did at Arizona State) or because Hundley is regressing (under Mazzone's kid's "awesome" QB coaching), or a combination of both. It's tough to blame the receivers since the ball isn't actually getting to them, nor the offensive line, nor Perkins. The RB rotation has been garbage (what moron is calling runs inside the tackles for Manfro?!) and it's not surprising that conference opponents have our offense figured out: it's the same system and plays that Mazzone used at Arizona State for a few years there, so no real surprises.
3. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix our offensive woes?
bruinclassof10: Diversify playcalling and keep giving the ball to the hot hand, whether it be Malcolm Jones or Paul Perkins.
gbruin: If I understood the problem better I might. I would like to see us going down the middle more to the Y or receivers on deeper crossing routes. Having said that, the receivers need to do a better job of getting separation, and Hundley needs to stop locking onto one receiver from the snap. I also agree to feed the hot hand in the backfield.
Achilles: I'd play more north/south, instead of east/west. More calls downfield, more runs between the tackles, less side to side stuff. Also, I'm legit concerned about Hundley. He hasn't been the same since Utah. I was never in the "he played with a concussion" camp, but I'm now wondering what happened that game because BH is a different guy since then.
Odysseus: The playcalling has been a bit curious. The running game needs to work for the offense to work, but the passing game has to present a downfield and intermediate threat. It needs to be less predictable, but needs better execution in terms of receivers getting open and Hundley making the correct read and delivering the ball as well.
Bellerophon: Mazzone is calling either a read option run (and Hundley isn't exactly doing awesome making the read lately) or a swing pass to Fuller in the flat on practically every other play. It's extremely predictable and given the nature of the two plays, very easy to blow up for a 4 or 5 yard loss. If we're not throwing the short swing pass, then Hundley is throwing (inaccurately) the deep ball. Why are we not throwing anything for 7-8 yards or over the middle? Remember when we finally did that against the Ducks? Yeah, Duarte scored. And then we never saw that play again.
4. Through 7 games, what are your thoughts on the freshman class?
bruinclassof10: Very talented, the future is bright.
gbruin: I don't want to lose focus of now becuase we still have so much upside and potential. But when you look at our freshmen, their quality, and especially the experience they are getting now, look out ahead. Myles Jack is a freak of nature and will be better than Anthony Barr.
Achilles: Most productive true freshmen class in recent memory. It's one of the few things I feel buys Mora time beyond this year. It sounds like an excuse, but we are very young in our two deep. This staff deserves one more season to harness that talent no matter how this team finishes out the the year.
Odysseus: Obviously, this is a bright spot and the future does look bright, but none of us want to be like the Cubs' fanbase, perennially waiting for next year.
Bellerophon: This is the best, most talented, most productive group of freshmen we've had in Westwood in a very long time. These kids are pretty awesome.
5. The extra point
bruinclassof10: Back to back losses do not feel good.
gbruin: I didn't necessarily expect two wins in these last two games, but I expected us to be more competitive for 60 minutes than we were, and that tells me we still have a long way to go in terms of maturity and confidence and making the right coaching decisions to put our players in a position to succeed. It's time to fix those issues now, finish strong, and get another shot at one of those two teams in the Pac-12 Championship.
Achilles: I'll look on the brightside: We have a very nice defense and with a few exceptions, it's a young defense, at least most of the better players are coming back next season. If they offense gives us anything, we should win our remaining games. BTW - If we beat Colorado, we're bowl eligible.
Odysseus: Yes, expectations wise, we knew this was a tough two-game stretch, but the way those losses went were painful. But the expectations point only holds true if Mora, the rest of the coaching staff and the players can pull it together and make it back to the Pac-12 Championship.
Bellerophon: Given how the conference has shaken out so far, if the Bruins don't win-out, win the South Division, and return to Eugene or Palo Alto for their third Pac-12 title game in a row, that will be both a major disappointment for me as a fan, but also a major black mark against Mora in his second year in charge. The talent to win the South is there: the question is whether Mora can keep us from continuing to be #Mazzoned out of wins.
Feel free to share your own thoughts on this game and other aspects of this season. Bring on the Buffs!