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UCLA Football: Bruin Nation's Stanford Collapse Post-Game Roundtable Discussion

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The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the 2014 season's twelfth and final regular season game, a complete collapse against the Stanford Cardinal, with the Bruins choking in the final game that stood between UCLA and a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.

So close, yet still so far from greatness.
So close, yet still so far from greatness.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

1.  The Bruins came out looking very strong, getting a stop on Stanford's opening drive, and then followed up by marching down the field with some great passing work by Hundley to take an early 7-0 lead against the Cardinal.  How did that great start turn into a complete collapse?

gbruin: Ask the coaches. Oh, wait. Never mind. Honestly, Stanford started winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. When it became clear in the second quarter that it was becoming a consistent issue, we had no answers for it.  We just kept going with the same losing formula while Stanford didn't have to change a thing.

AHMB:  Stanford executed their perfect gameplan perfectly.  They controlled the ball, kept our offense on the sidelines, and made plays when they needed to be made.

IslandBruin2: I think the start of the game was too easy. The coaches had not prepared the team for a 60 minute game, with the squad apparently basking in the glow of the Southern Cal win and looking forward to Oregon. Once they figured out they were in a dogfight, it was too late.

Achilles: The strong start was a mirage. Stanford kept killing themselves with penalties early on and we did capitalize. But when they settled down, it became an ass kicking. My kid noted that Stanford's offensive line just looked huge compared to us and they played huge. You could sense they would be a problem. We were able to get to Cody Kessler pretty easily but I don't think we had one sack versus Stanford. We had them in third and long or third and medium lots of times Friday and they kept converting. Hogan had all day to throw.

Bellerophon: The answer is pretty simple - for all the talk of "culture change" and a "Bruin revolution" this team and this program remains mentally soft.  During the Jim Mora era, when this team has needed to step up the most - when the big games have come up - UCLA has consistently folded under the pressure.  With literally everything to play for, this team folded.

2.  With the Bruins unable to win the Pac-12 South, would you consider this 9 win season a success?  Why or why not?

gbruin: Nope. We were capable of a lot more. We didn't achieve that. It's just that simple.

AHMB:  The season isn't over, but we lost three games against better coached teams.  I don't see how that could be a success.

IslandBruin2: No way. When I was in school, it was Rose Bowl or nothing, with only one conference team going to a bowl game. So the goal was conference championship every year, and nothing else really mattered (other than beating $C). We need to get back to that mindset. Going to one of 35 bowl games as a reward for finishing at .500 or better does not make a season successful. If we go to the Alamo Bowl, the Holiday Bowl, the Foster Farms Bowl, the Sun Bowl, the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, or the Cactus Bowl, that is just one more year that we are not going to the Rose Bowl.

Achilles: No. It's disappointing. I was prepared to rationalize beating Stanford but losing to Oregon and would have considered an 11 win season successful even with two losses to the Ducks, but not now.

Bellerophon:  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  This went from being the "show me" or "swole" season to being the "what if" season - which has become all too common for UCLA football.

3.   With everything to play for (the Pac-12 South division crown, a spot in the conference title game, and potentially a chance to sneak into the College Football Playoff), the Bruins just collapsed flat on their faces - who is to blame?  The coaching staff?  Or the players?

gbruin: True, the players didn't execute well, but the coaching staff bears the majority of the responsibility. The tone of the program comes from its leadership and the program wilted under pressure and expectations. As far as Friday, Stanford out game planned us and our coaches had no response. We didn't adjust to the offensive blocking schemes. We didn't adjust coverages when we couldn't get a pass rush. Take the fake FG as an example of coaches v players. Good idea by the coaches but an utter failure in outcome. Do you blame Neu for the short throw with yet another Furd D lineman in our backfield, or Iese for being double covered when he was the only receiver? Or do you say it was a terrible design with too little opportunity to succeed and that there may have been about a 50 better ways to fake a FG or just go for it with the offense?

AHMB:  I don't think the players were prepared to play Stanford, and that lands squarely on the coaching staff.  Stanford didn't come out any differently than they always do, but we looked very soft.

Achilles: I don't know. The players didn't play well and the coaches didn't coach well. I don't know why. I guess I would blame everyone.

Bellerophon:  I'm going with gbruin on this one - the players didn't execute (outside of that opening TD drive) but the game plan was just terrible.  The failure to make in-game adjustments, to find a way to beat a mediocre Stanford team, that all falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff.

4.  The best case scenario for UCLA is to finish the year 10-3 with a win in whatever third- or fourth-tier bowl we end up in (potentially the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, or Foster Farms Bowl) - considering UCLA finished last year at 10-3 with a Sun Bowl win, is the lack of progress a problem for Jim Mora?

gbruin: Here's where I differ with most. I see that there was some progress this year. Some examples: compared to 2013, there were fewer penalties by the end of the year, better pass protection by the end of the year, and a better run game consistently all season. The problem is that there wasn't enough meaningful progress - either compared to the prior year or compared to the level needed to reach Oregon and beat all the teams we should like Utah and Stanford this year. That suggests that we are reaching a plateau and so I worry how much more progress this coaching staff has in it, and I think that Mora needs to make some big changes to ensure continued growth.

AHMB:  I agree with gbruin.  There were definitely games where we didn't look good, but there were moments when we looked better than we have in a very long time.  The program may not be where we want it to be yet, but it's in a much better place than it was three years ago.

IslandBruin2: The lack of progress is not a problem for Jim Mora, as long as Doughnut and Block tolerate running in place. It is a problem for fans who expect to see progress over time as a coach installs his system with his players.

Achilles: It's a problem in the sense that he can't afford another disappointing season like this next year. But, if the team wins the conference next year, beats SC and Stanford along the way and makes the final four playoff, then this season might eventually be seen as an aberration. So, I guess it's for now a short term problem that he -- and we -- should hope doesn't become a pattern.

Bellerophon:  For every step forward this program took, it also took at least one backward.  Is UCLA in a better position that where we were when Jim Mora was hired?  Yes.  Is he going to get us to where we need to be (consistently challenging for the conference title, with an occasional challenge for the College Football Playoff)?  That remains to be seen.

5.  How long does Jim Mora have in Westwood before he has to deliver a Pac-12 conference title?  It's still too early to call for his ouster, but at what point is it reasonable to begin looking for another option?

gbruin: I think you have to take it on a year to year basis because things like injuries or SPTRs or other intangibles are too hard to predict. I would use the Eye Test to determine the trajectory of the program and base decisions on those trends before I'd set a hard sell on a Pac-12 Title or bust. If we keep seeing tangible improvement each year, I say you keep riding. If things plateau or crater, you get off. I can't put a hard deadline on when to make that call.

AHMB:  Again, I agree with gbruin.  You have to look at the trajectory of the program and evaluate annually.  At this point, I still believe that we're headed in the right direction.

IslandBruin2: I will make a rash prediction that Oregon and Washington will continue to be better in future years than Oregon State and Washington State. For the next two years, we skip Oregon and Washington. If we don't win in the next two years, then we are back to the tougher schedule, and the odds of success as a then non-defending champ go way down. So I say two years or bust, because of the schedule.

Bellerophon: The problem with taking everything on a year-to-year basis is that it often overlooks the big picture of how a program has either trended up or down over time.  It also plays into the common Bruin fan mentality of "next year is the year" - this mythical magical "next year" doesn't seem much closer after this season of disappointment.  I would agree with IslandBruin2 - I think Mora has two years to deliver a conference title to Westwood.  After his fifth season, if we're still struggling to challenge Oregon, I think it will be time to find the head coach will take us that next step.

6. The extra point - fire away:

gbruin: Another year of high hopes and excitement, a season of emotional ups and downs, and an unsatisfying and disappointing finish. Ahhh, U.C.L.A. Bruin Football. I wish I could quit you.

IslandBruin2: After last week's game and the Women's Soccer defeat in the NCAA quarterfinals, the day after Thanksgiving is always going to be Black Friday to me, and it will have nothing to do with special sales offers.

Achilles: I was really shocked we were beaten so badly. I was absolutely positive that the next step in the program's progress was beating Stanford, who they haven't beaten in forever. I figured Stanford had lost to teams we had beaten, that we played so well the week before, we were at home, senior day, Troy Aikman Day ... I just figured we'd beat Stanford then probably get beat by Oregon in a much closer game then win like the Fiesta Bowl for an 11 win season that would have had everything other than a conference title and win over the Ducks. So, honestly, I have no explanation for what I saw on Friday. The worst performance of the year in the biggest game.

Bellerophon: Jim Mora is a nice guy, unlike the douche bag rape apologist in charge of the basketball program.  It would be great for Jim to succeed here - I think that would make everyone very happy.  But, if this season is any indication, there are now serious questions about whether he is the right guy to take the next step and get us into the elite.  Did he re-establish UCLA as a West Coast football power? Yes.  We're relevant.  But, it's time for us to go from simply be relevant to being elite and the jury is still out if he is the guy to get us there.

Well, that's it for the season folks.  We'll have one last talk after we play in whatever third-tier bowl we end up being slotted in. For now, fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the complete surrender against Stanford at the Rose Bowl.

GO BRUINS