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Spaulding Report: Will UCLA Football be Ready for Stanford This Time?

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UCLA has not showed up ready to compete against Stanford in its last two meetings. There are some definite patterns that have emerged. Will the coaches prepare a better game plan for Stanford this year? Or will this be another disappointing loss to a less talented team?

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In preparing for this week's game against Stanford, I did my own looking back. Two years ago I headed north only to watch strange play calling (remember taking Malcolm Jones out of the game after a great start) and images of Brett Hundley scrambling to make plays. Last year, after a fun filled romp over Southern Cal, the fans and the team returned the next week with no energy. I would argue that the offensive coordinator did the same. I'll be heading back to Palo Alto for this week's game, and in my own version of insanity, hoping the offensive game plan puts our players in a position to succeed this time.

It is interesting to look back to the 2014 (parts 1 and 2) and 2013 Stanford games via IE Angel's Eye Tests. There certainly are lessons to be learned, but one wonders if they have been learned or will be learned. One paragraph from 2013 really stands out to me after what we have been seeing this year with the offensive play calling:

On the only scoring drive for UCLA (the TD drive in the 3rd/4th quarter), the offense operated on 3 intermediate routes, a swing route to a RB and a designed check down to Payton for 7-yards. No other drives used the intermediate routes or the swing game in unison. That is why no other drive was successful. Not going back to this success cost UCLA a chance at tying up this game at the end and kept UCLA from ever being effective on offense throughout the game.

You can also see a pattern we've grown used to by our offense under Mazzone in these games, good starts, then a return to what UCLA predictably does. Creative play calling can not just be on one drive or on a couple of downs, especially when it is followed by what everyone, including my mother, knows UCLA will be calling for most of the game. Defenses can survive being caught off guard for one drive when they are prepared for every other drive.

So the questions remain. Will UCLA's offense be totally predictable through most of the game? Will Mazzone call plays that allow our young quarterback to succeed and be protected? What adjustments will UCLA make to stop Stanford from dominating on the line? Will UCLA run an innovative offensive game plan or will we just try to run up the middle against a big, strong, disciplined defense? Will we try to out power a very powerful offensive line, or will we, as Jack Brendel suggests, find ways to use our strengths: speed and talent? Will the coaches make in game adjustments if things aren't working? Will they continue to run what is working?

I've chosen to take some select comments from IE's previous Stanford Eye Tests - just to remember how it went.

From 2013:

The offense produced basically nothing outside of the one very crisp touchdown drive in the third quarter. The defense played well again and has outperformed the offense by quite a bit on the season.

Malcolm Jones - Three carries for 29 yards to start the game (a tough 4-yard gain, an explosive 17-yard run where he cuts hard and gets upfield on the edge and a 7-yard run ending in him trucking the hell out of a Stanford DB on the sideline). At this point everyone is thinking about how Noel Mazzone and Coach Broussard finally got the idea of how physical Malcolm runs and the different dimension he adds to the running game, especially against bigger defensive units like Stanford...Malcolm gets taken out for Paul Perkins and does not touch the ball again until the third quarter (and then never again after the first drive).

Brett scrambling is not the same as dumping off to Perkins or Manfro if the quick curl isn't there. On the only scoring drive for UCLA (the TD drive in the 3rd/4th quarter), the offense operated on 3 intermediate routes, a swing route to a RB and a designed check down to Payton for 7-yards. No other drives used the intermediate routes or the swing game in unison. That is why no other drive was successful. Not going back to this success cost UCLA a chance at tying up this game at the end and kept UCLA from ever being effective on offense throughout the game.

Brett scrambling is not the same as dumping off to Perkins or Manfro if the quick curl isn't there. On the only scoring drive for UCLA (the TD drive in the 3rd/4th quarter), the offense operated on 3 intermediate routes, a swing route to a RB and a designed check down to Payton for 7-yards. No other drives used the intermediate routes or the swing game in unison. That is why no other drive was successful. Not going back to this success cost UCLA a chance at tying up this game at the end and kept UCLA from ever being effective on offense throughout the game...In this game there were a grand total of 6 passes at this range [intermediate]...A fluky interception and a bad route, both of which would have been completions. Other than that Brett hit on 100% of these passes for 72 yards. Why is this not a bigger part of the offensive scheme?

A fluky interception and a bad route, both of which would have been completions. Other than that Brett hit on 100% of these passes for 72 yards. Why is this not a bigger part of the offensive scheme?

From 2014:

If you take into account the brilliant first drive and how the offense never looked that way again in this game, it is a sobering 1st half. Starting with 5 plays going for 64 yards (an unsustainable 12.8 yards per play) got everyone's confidence up...56 yards in their next 18 plays. That's 3.1 yards per play. Even against a top 5 defense, there is no excuse for an offense to be that unproductive.

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...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.

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.

The 29-yard run by Christian McCaffrey was more a result of excellent blocking by Stanford than anything the UCLA defense did wrong.

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.

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.

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.

Coach Mora addressed the Stanford game today after practice. First, of course, he confirmed the story that BRO broke yesterday, that Mossi Johnson will be out the remainder of the season with a knee injury (ACL, PCL and MCL!). I am not one for excuses, but the talent that this team has lost is something that really is extraordinary. Mora was asked about this and did his best to say they were just stepping up and confident with the talent they have on the field.

Preparing for Stanford: According to Coach Mora and Jake Brendel, the scout teams are doing their part to prepare our Bruins, although Mora says, "it is difficult to simulate size". Brendel says the depth of the team has really allowed for better scout teams this year, allowing talented scholarship players to work with the scout teams.

On preparing for Stanford's always effective run game and on running back Christian McCaffrey:

They have always had since Jim Harbaugh got there, this tremendous combination of really tremendous offensive line and tight ends, sometimes their tight ends were offensive lineman, and then running backs who grind it out, make clutch catches and that's what you see this year with McCaffrey. You have to be disciplined because he has great change of direction.

Mora says he thinks UCLA's run defense improved in the last game, and is continuing to improve in practice. They are finally fitting the defensive pieces of the puzzle together, in terms of which personnel to put where, and the players are settling in to their new positions. Mora is also very complimentary of line backer Isaako Savaainaea, who "has a real eagerness to play. He's a good tackler, makes plays and gets to the balls."

Thanks to Ed Lewis for the video of Coach Mora.

Brendel also talks about what Stanford's defense brings:

Their defensive line coach is one of the best in the nation and they always bring a solid group.That's what they've been bringing since I've been playing them.

Jake also says he fits in better on UCLA o-line than he would on Stanford's:

That sort of offense, I wouldn't want to be in it, because I'm not humongous. I'm better in space. That fits more the hybrid offense than the pro-style offense.

Thanks to BRO for the video of Jake Brendel.

Here's to a great week of practice and to a successful trip up north for this Bruin's football team.

Go Bruins!