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The "Eye Test" Part 2 of 2: The Cardinal Dominate The Bruins

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Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 10-0 loss in the 2nd half on the way to a 31-10 embarrassment against the Stanford Cardinal to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

This happened a lot in the 2nd half to Brett Hundley.
This happened a lot in the 2nd half to Brett Hundley.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it earlier this week, here is Part 1 of the Eye Test. I broke the two halves apart into one gigantic, ugly breakdown of UCLA's worst loss under Jim Mora. The actual grades at the end might not reflect that, but it was.

Losing 31-10 to Stanford is embarrassing even without the extremely high stakes that UCLA had on the line.

I don't want to reflect too much more because I have dished out as much emotion as I feel comfortable dishing out over a football game.

Let's get to the first half grades:

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

Big plays are what this defense has been exceptional at preventing all season and that was basically Stanford's offense in this game. 43-yard receptions, a 27-yard run, a 29-yard run and a 16-yard run. All those plays happened on Stanford's two scoring drives.

That's 4 plays for 115 yards. Not acceptable.

But on the other 21 plays in the 2nd half, the Cardinal gained just 72 yards (that's just 3.42 yards per play). That's phenomenal defense even against a bad offense that is just trying to run out the clock.

Just some quick notes below:

  • First series, my dream defensive line group was for most of the drive after the 27-yard run. They get pressure on Hogan, but miss the tackles for the sack after making him escape the pocket. Then Stanford just executes perfectly on their next running play. Then two stops on 1st and 2nd down near the goal line.
  • Then, for some reason, UCLA goes with a defensive group I don't recall ever seeing before. It looks like the Goal-Line defenses on Madden, but worse. 8-man front, but with the 3 players behind them all 4-yards deep in the endzone. Why would you ever want to have your 2nd level that deep in the endzone? I basically assumed Stanford would score once I saw this formation. I assume it was game-planned specifically for this situation, but it was not effective. Just leave your defense out there. They'd done a good job the whole 1st half against the run.

Pressures on pass plays:

  1. Ellis McCarthy forces Hogan to escape the pocket and throw a bad pass on a 3rd and 5 in the 3rd quarter. McCarthy had a nice game for the most part from what I watched. Inside move just tossing the Stanford RG to the side. He's so impressive sometimes it is just baffling that the production doesn't match up on paper.

This was a fairly strong performance interrupted by 4 bad plays. Not what I remembered watching live.

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

On designed runs in the 2nd half, the Bruins picked up 68 yards on 11 carries. A generally strong performance all game long against the Stanford front seven in the run game.

The passing game was another story because the offensive line imploded in pass protection in the 2nd half. By my count there were 9 plays where the QB was either sacked, hit or heavily pressured.

There were 30 passing plays in the 2nd half total, not counting the fake FG attempt. While Hundley was in the game there were 22 such plays and he was pressure 8 times. That's just over 36% of his pass attempts where he is heavily pressured, not just a guy with his hand up but a failed blocking assignment resulting in a free rusher.

If you are getting pressure on 36% of your pass attempts, you are doing a terrible job in protection. These weren't because Brett Hundley was holding on to the ball.

Some general notes:

  • The Paul Perkins not being on the field to start the 2nd half deal is overstated. The drive did not fail because Perkins wasn't in. Starks got blown up in the backfield because of a missed block, then
  • Atrocious play call on a 3rd and 6 after Stanford had scored to make it 28-10. No receiver at the sticks, all deeper routes. Stanford blitzes and there is no designed check down for Hundley. This has frustrated me all season (and a lot the last three seasons) with this offense. You can't solely rely on Brett Hundley's running magic on 3rd down, give him options underneath and recruit players capable of turning chec-kdown passes short of the sticks into 1st downs.
  • In addition to the play-call, the pass protection was atrocious on that play. 6 in protection against 5 rushers and Stanford gets there in 2.2 seconds by my stopwatch.
  • This offense keeps operating as though Devin Fuller can make explosive plays in space despite having three years worth of evidence to the contrary. He is a consistent and a solid player, but he goes down on 1st contact nearly every time he touches the ball. He has 428 yards this season on 57 catches for an extremely mediocre 7.5 yards per catch. But, that number is buoyed by a 93-yard catch that was gifted by a broken coverage. Take that away and it is 56 catches for 335 yards, an atrocious 5.98 yard per catch. I know that the WR screens operate as extended hand-offs and are a good play for this offense, I just think someone like Kenny Walker, Mossi Johnson, Ahmad Harris, or even Ishmael Adams should be getting those touches. I'd rather have 2, 1, 30 on three catches than 7, 7, 7 on three catches. But that's just my opinion.

You cannot expect to come from behind in a game if you can't keep your quarterback off of his back as an offensive line. Perkins and the running game should have been featured more heavily, in my opinion.

Good running, atrocious pass protection, zero points. Those don't balance out to a very strong grade down below.

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

General Observations:

  • Run fits on the 1st snap were outstanding across the board. 2-yard run on a power play to the left side where Aaron Wallace seals the edge and crashes down to make the tackle. Solid 1st down rep.
  • On the 2nd snap, it was not so great. Same play as before, just a power but to the right side of the offense this time. The play-side defenders do a solid job of sealing the edge and plugging gaps. The backside defenders fail here due to a lack of discipline. Both Anthony Jefferson and Wallace over commit in pursuit to the right side of the offense. Remound Wright is bottled up and cuts back, but Jefferson and Wallace are not in position to make a play because they are chasing the play instead of being gap responsible. Easy cut back for a 27-yard gain. Deflates the team and gives Stanford their biggest running play of the day through that point.
  • The 29-yard run by Christian McCaffrey was more a result of excellent blocking by Stanford than anything the UCLA defense did wrong. Owamagbe Odighizuwa gets sealed, but he's not in a position where that was avoidable. Stanford's TE gives him an outstanding chip on his way to block Jaleel Wadood at safety, which he manages to do. That is a monumentally difficult thing to ask and their TE does both perfectly. Eric Kendricks does a fine job of pursuing, just gets caught up in traffic, which will happen to an undersized LB on occassion. Kenny Young and Fabian Moreau are the two players closest to being at fault. Moreau is having to come try and take on a pulling guard in the open field and he does so, going low and chopping the lineman to create a pile-up. Standard DB work there against a guard. It has the unfortunate result of tripping up Young in his pursuit. Good angle, good job getting around the unintentional block but he is a step late getting to the runner.
  • Why is Ishmael Adams running out a kickoff from 9-yards deep in the endzone? No one is that explosive.
  • UCLA tries to take a shot on 1st down after the Cardinal went up 28-10. Good enough throw by Hundley to take advantage of a 1-on-1 situation with Jordan Payton. Payton is just physically beaten on the play, Stanford corner has better leverage, better position and more strength and wins the play. Makes it look like an overthrow by basically forcing Payton out of bounds, legally. If he doesn't take that shot, he has Thomas Duarte open over the middle if he can get the throw over the linebackers.
  • I would like to point out that Jerry Neuheisel was standing next to Mazzone with a headset the play before the fake FG attempt. One would think it would be a good idea to have a player who is going to throw a pass warm up before being thrown onto the field, but apparently that is not how the UCLA Bruins operate. Especially if that throw is going to be a deep ball with no other option to throw the ball. And if that quarterback does not possess high-level arm strength. But, what do I know?
  • UCLA has to waste their 2nd timeout in the 3rd quarter because they didn't have a play ready after Stanford was called for offsides on a 3rd and 13 play, which made it 3rd and 8. This is just awful clock management, which has become shockingly common this season.
  • I cannot emphasize how ridiculous this fake FG was. One option on the play that was solely dependent on Stanford making a mental error in a 18 point game and on Jerry Neuheisel throwing the ball 50 yards downfield. Did this work against the scout team? I can't imagine it did.
  • UCLA's defense got totally fooled on a 3rd and 4 where Stanford did a zone read with Kevin Hogan. Hadn't shown that look all game, use it there to pick up 8 yards. That is strategy totally counter to what had just happened with the fake FG.
  • Insane athleticism by Ishmael Adams on a 2nd and 8 play in the early 4th quarter. It's a power play to the right side and he crashes from the left side and gets to the running back before he crosses the line of scrimmage. Not many players have that kind of acceleration.
  • But then he gets burnt by Francis Owusu on the next play for a 43-yard gain on 3rd and 9. Trusted him in man coverage against a player far less talented than he is and UCLA got beat.
  • Poor job of blocking in space by Eldridge Massington on a 1st and 10 after Stanford went up 31-10. Tries to double on Payton's man, realizes he is wrong and then whiffs on the guy he forgot about. Perkins gets blown up for a loss.

As always, the penalties are taken on a play-by-play basis:

1. This is scratched off due to offsetting penalties, but Caleb Benenoch gets his one penalty per game for a hold on 3rd and 13.

There were seemingly no adjustments made on either side of the ball. Either that or Stanford just is a bafflingly complex team on both sides of the ball, which we all know is not the case. Being outcoached by David Shaw is a huge red flag. It is an even bigger red flag to have it happen 4 times in a row.

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

I did not notice a failure in the effort department, but the energy was lacking again in the 2nd half. Can't give any praise here. The grade will reflect that below.

5.) Do our players execute?

General Observations:

  • The first drive on offense was monumentally important in the story of this game. I am normally (and accurately, in my opinion) a believer in every play mattering just as much as any other play and every drive mattering just as much as every other drive. But down 21-10 against Stanford's defense while starting with the ball on offense was going to be a tone setting drive.
  • Scott Quessenberry gets beaten inside on a 1st and 10 play. Nathan Starks gets hit 3 yards deep by Henry Anderson and it kills the positive momentum from the 1st two plays. This is a 4 or 5 yard gain for sure if Quessenberry gets even a piece of Anderson.
  • Same thing happens on the next play, but it happens to be a pass where Hundley is able to get the ball out before he gets hit. Instant interior pressure is not conducive to a successful game plan. Rough opening series for Quessenberry.
  • Stanford blows up two drag routes on the 3rd and 6 to open the drive. Hundley has nowhere to go with the ball despite getting decent protection up front, checks down to Starks who is tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Stanford had zone coverage and their linebackers are too smart to not recognize what Mazzone is trying to do on this conversion.
  • Isaako Savaiinaea shows off some grown-man strength on a 1st and Goal tackle. Shrugs off a glorified OL at TE and throws him to the ground while maintaining gap integrity. Makes a sound tackle. Good sub for Aaron Wallace on this opening drive.
  • Savaiinaea does a nice job against a double team on the next snap. He gets driven back a bit (that will happen with 600 pounds leaning on you), but holds up enough that the pulling guard to the outside can't get to Anthony Jefferson in time to stop Jefferson from making the tackle.
  • Aaron Wallace got essentially assaulted on the 3rd and Goal where Stanford scored to go up 28-10. I understand that it is tough to call penalties for holding on those type of plays, but he gets held, then tackled and then has his helmet ripped off all by the same player. This is right at the point of attack also. Bad missed call, in my opinion.
  • Not crazy about the deep shot to Devin Fuller on a 1st and 10 in the 3rd quarter. Offense was in rhythm and then this play happens. Fuller gets zero separation, but Hundley shouldn't have thrown this ball anyway. Safety help was there over the top, corner was stride for stride with Fuller.You cannot score 18 points on one pass, just wait a half a second longer and take the dump-off to Paul Perkins out of the backfield. 4 yards at minimum on 1st down, keep the rhythm going and move forward. Or the wide open Devin Lucien in the flat to the right side.
  • Eddie Vanderdoes didn't have a particularly good game, but he still had flashes of greatness. Like when he tossed Andrus Peat aside on a 2nd and 4 like Peat was a backup player for a Division 2 team. Stuffs the play for no gain, but somehow doesn't get credit for this solo tackle.
  • Lazy route by Devin Fuller in the 4th quarter. Never runs at more than 50% speed. Hundley looks there while throwing with an injured hand but can't get the ball to an indifferent Fuller. Not something I have seen out of Fuller before, troubling.
  • Such a ballsy throw by Hundley on the 4th and 10 conversion. Hundley is clearly hurt, but manages to throw a seed to Duarte in the big moment. Beautiful ball placement.
  • Nerves got to Jerry Neuheisel visibly at the end of the game. Can't blame him a ton, but this was nearly a disaster. Three real bad passes in a row near the goal line.

Some observations about the dropped passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles:

  • Missed tackles by Kenny Young and, to a lesser extent, Aaron Wallace on a 1st and 10 on Stanford's opening drive of the 2nd half. Would have been a sack after a 27-yard run. Instead, Kevin Hogan gets to the corner and gains 16 yards. Back-to-back huge gains instead of a big gain followed by a sack. Makes a big difference in a drive.
  • Sack on a 3rd and 6 was a 5-man rush against 6 in protection. You cannot give up a sack here as an offensive line. I honestly don't think that Caleb Benenoch or Scott Quessenberry ever touched a Stanford player on this play. Henry Anderson runs around them (just 1 player against 2 blockers) and, while he doesn't get the credit for the sack, he totally implodes the escape lane for Hundley. If those two do even a mediocre job on this play, Hundley can scramble to the right and evade the 4-man rush from the other side. Alex Redmond and Jake Brendel also have terrible communication while switching off on the 2 players they are responsible for. Paul Perkins and Connor McDermott both do a good job on this play, but 2 out of 6 is not going to cut it.
  • Scott Quessenberry gets Hundley hurt on a sack on 2nd and 5. Just inexcusable to let Henry Anderson runs past him untouched. He gets there in 1.6 seconds and demolishes Hundley. I think Hundley was hurt on this play and not later in the game. His next pass was a sinker and ended up 3-5 yards short of the WR.
  • Caleb Benenoch nearly get Hundley blown up again on 3rd down, but saves Hundley by grabbing onto the defensive end as he runs past him to the inside. God-awful form by Caleb on this play.
  • Terrible job by Jake Brendel on the replayed 3rd down, lets a blitzing LB right through the A-gap without touching him. Free rush right in Hundley's face. Amazing athleticism by Brett Hundley turns this into a non-sack. The offensive line was so bad in protection for 3 plays in a row. Play is only canceled out because a Stanford corner lined up 3 yards offside.
  • Make it 4 plays in a row as Connor McDermott allows a player to go unblocked off the edge in a 5-man protection against a 5-man rush. Hat on a hat here, but not for UCLA's offensive line. Hundley manages to turn this into a 3-yard gain because he is phenomenal.
  • Caleb Benenoch gets Hundley hit once more on a 3rd and 10. Gets nearly steam-rolled by Anderson and shoved out of the way. Hundley steps into the throw and delivers a seed to Payton for the 1st down, but Anderson hits his throwing hand as he makes the hit on Hundley. That was pretty much ballgame for Brett. Shouldn't have even tried to throw the next few passes. Was visibly hurt.
  • Both Benenoch and McDermott get Hundley hit again on the ensuing play. Benenoch put on skates by his man and McDermott gives up the inside to his man. Not ideal for a player who was hurt on the previous play to get hit again.
  • McDermott beaten inside for a sack of Jerry Neuheisel at the end of the 4th quarter. Pretty basic move.
  • Drop by Fuller on a 3rd and 10 from Neuheisel. Big hit, but just a drop.
  • Terribly placed pass by JN that should have been intercepted, but was dropped by the Stanford defender. 4th down anyway, didn't matter either way.

6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

Really similar to the 1st half issue here. I think that what Brett Hundley did at the end of the game was admirable. The offensive line imploded in pass protection for whatever reason and Hundley stood in there taking huge shots and still throwing good passes for the most part, just one bad pass that I noticed. The rest were totally due to the injury and shouldn't be held against Brett.

Some players on the defense played extremely well, notably Ellis McCarthy, Eric Kendricks, Isaako Savaiinaea, Kenny Clark. But those big plays were just back breaking. This should have been a shut out in the 2nd half and the UCLA defense allowed too many big plays.

Second Half Grade Card for the Stanford Cardinal

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? C- (1.7)

2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? D- (0.7)

3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? D+ (1.3)

4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? C- (1.7)

5.) Do our players execute? D+ (1.3)

6.) Do we have leaders on the field? C- (1.7)

Stanford GPA: D+ (1.4)

And now, with the reminder that the 1st half was a D+ (1.6), let's combine these two halves into one truly atrocious combined GPA.

Combined Grade Card for the Stanford Cardinal

Stanford GPA: D (1.5)

For reference, the GPA in UCLA's previous win over Southern Cal was a season high A- (3.7). The Washington win, a B (3.1), along with the Arizona, a B (3.1), and the Arizona State win, a B+ (3.4), were the good side of UCLA. The Bruins two losses to Oregon, a D+ (1.3), and Utah, a C-/D+ (1.6) were the low points prior to this contest. The wins over Colorado C (2.2), UC Berkeley C+ (2.5), Texas C (2.2), Memphis C (2.2) and Virginia C+ (2.5) all saw UCLA look exceptionally mediocre.

Here is what I said at the end of this article last week.

"If UCLA continues playing at this level. There is no reason that UCLA shouldn't win out to go 11-2 with their first Pac-12 Championship in a very long time. Stanford is a tough test for the offense, but the defense should continue dominating their opponents in this one. That game and the rematch with Oregon will be the biggest tests that Jim Mora has ever had as a coach. He (and this entire football team) can still deliver on the preseason hype and make this a landmark season for UCLA football."

Boy, was I optimistic.

As always, Go Bruins!