Quarterback Brett Hundley was one of five players who met with the media after practice today. Good news, none of the reporters sacked him.
Hundley, as always, was mature and poised and even keeled, and the interview doesn't really offer any great answers as to what went wrong on Saturday. There was actually relatively little talk about the Utah game, but then, what more really needs to be said? I think the problems on Saturday were pretty obvious, and the quarterback agreed that after watching the film that there weren't really any surprises.
We just shot ourself in the foot and that's sort of what we can take out of this game. We're such a great team when we stay positive on what we do, when we don't have negative plays and stuff like that. When we hurt ourselves is when we have self imposed things.
On all the sacks...
It's a combination of everything. I take a lot of accountability for that. I can help get the ball out of my hands faster and move around and stuff like that. The offensive line played a great game, but we just gotta be on better terms with all of that.
Well, at least that's a good team leader move by Brett. Of course the offensive line did NOT play a great game, and the play calling sure didn't give Brett and the offense in the best situations to succeed. I'm sure that the conversations in the meeting room didn't sound like that, but even though it can be frustrating to us fans who want explanations and some closure, it's a goofs thing that Hundley took the high road.
Hundley spoke a lot more about Oregon, recollecting their meeting last year and saying he was frustrated by the lack of offensive production in that game and how it slipped away in the second half. He said he did watch the Arizona - Oregon game from last weekend and that he may have seen some things there but ultimately the Bruins will have to play their own game. Brett spoke highly of Oregon's Heisman candidate QB Marcus Mariota who has found himself under fire in much the same way as Hundley has recently. Brett feels the Oregon defense has played really well this season and that it will be a great challenge going against them. He did note that this is a chance for the team to show the nation what UCLA football is really about:
It's a big game for us, but like I said, this game isn't any bigger than any other game previously. This is another game that obviously the whole nation will be watching and we can go out and show the country what U.C.L.A. is really about.
Kenny Clark was another player who spoke after practice. The video is behind firewall on BruinSportsReport but Ryan Kartje of the OC Register tweeted a few quotes including this one:
Clark on Oregon's offensive line: "They’ve been shaky a little bit, but they’re a great offense. They still can put up 50 at any time."
— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) October 6, 2014
Clark, along with D linemates Eddie Vanderdoes and Owamagbe Odighizuwa should be looking at the Oregon O line the way the Utes must have looked at ours. While the Bruins are #123, third from last in sacks given up, Oregon isn't that far ahead of us. The Ducks are at #110 and have given up 15 sacks in their first 5 games.
Eric Kendricks, Anthony Jefferson, and Jordan Payton also spoke after practice, but all that material is behind firewall. What is notable to me is that those five players are all leaders and/or captains on this team, so I wonder if this was an intentional move by the program or whether it was a decision of the players themselves to come speak on behalf of the team. Coach Mora didn't speak on Monday last week and that was after a 5 touchdown win, so I don't think we can read anything specific into his absence after practice today. I'd just as well he and the coaches spend their time identifying and correcting the problems that were exposed in Pasadena on Saturday. We'll see if the coordinators appear during the week as they typically have before. That could be interesting.
There were some quotes from Kendricks in the LA Times discussing some of the pitfalls of the gap defense system (where each defensive player is responsible for a particular spot along the line) that the Bruins are playing. If a player sees the play going one way and chases it, it leaves his assigned gap empty and creates a hole. If the ball gets to that hole, then look out. Sometimes, the speed and athleticism of the Bruins front seven hurts them, and Oregon is exactly the kind of team to exploit any mistakes.
"It's always extremely hard, especially when there are double teams up front and things like that. They're game planning for it, but staying in your gap isn't an easy thing, always. That's a key on this defense and that's what we need to maintain."
The task doesn't get much easier this week in Oregon. The Ducks have been ravaged by injuries on the offensive line and were taken to task by Arizona last week, but they also have one of the fastest quarterbacks in the nation, Marcus Mariota and are averaging 209 yards per game on the ground.
"Everyone thinks they do all this crazy stuff, but at the end of the day, they're a run-first team," Kendricks sad. "They run zone read, run stretches and like to get to the perimeter and get blocks downfield. It's going to be a challenge. I'm excited."
There was a spot of good news from Saturday however. Marcus Rios saw the most playing time he's had since his return from a near fatal fungal infection that sidelined him all of last season.
But there were also some positives, one of the biggest being the play of redshirt sophomore Marcus Rios. The defensive back spent most of the first month of the season on the bench, but played a significant amount of snaps at nickel against the Utes. He took the place of sophomore Priest Willis, and got the most playing time of his young career.
"I think that Marcus is really developing, and that's great to see considering all that he's been through," Coach Jim Mora said Sunday. "He played well, he's getting better, getting more confidence, and to have him develop the way he's been developing, along with the way Priest is developing, is something we need here down the stretch."
Unfortunately, the defensive secondary, which was supposed to be one of our real strengths this season, is currently ranked #107 in the country. Some of that falls on the defensive front which has produced three fewer sacks all season than Utah produced on Saturday night alone. Randall Goforth's injury changed the depth chart, but we have also seen a ton of personnel shuffling in and out of the secondary and in and out of different positions. Part of me wishes that DB Coach Demetrice Martin would just stick with two corners, two safeties, and a nickel and dime back and develop some consistency back there, but that's just one in a list of issues the coaches are facing right now.
The Bruins will be back on the field tomorrow morning for practice.