I re-read that article on Thursday night at around 1 AM after finishing some homework for my Human Behavior and Social Environment graduate school course.
I hadn't read that since October 24th, 2011. That was shortly after what should have been Rick Neuheisel's last game as head coach of UCLA.
UCLA had just gotten embarrassed in a national game against Arizona in Tuscon, 48-12
To refresh your memories (and open some well healed wounds), this was the situation. Down 42-7 going into the half. A fan dressed as a ref ran on the field and the emotions involved in getting your ass kicked up and down the field made this happen:
I expected this to happen on Thursday.
I was waiting for the well known dirty play of Stanford to push a frustrated UCLA player over the edge.
I am sadly proud that this did not happen.
That this program has come far enough in the time since I started contributing here where a massive brawl after an ass-kicking isn't on the table as an option any longer.
All of that being said, I could not bring myself to rewatch this contest on the DVR.
I got my fill of UCLA being embarrassed for this week.
This is going to be an Eye Test that runs counter to my traditional analytical style, reverting back to the more reasoned, but emotional style that I threw out there to start my writing on Bruins Nation.
It came from a time where I was incredibly frustrated with the football program I rode for along with my own.
The scary thing is, UCLA hasn't beaten Stanford since almost exactly 7 years ago.
7 years ago, I was in high school.
That scares the hell out of me for many reason.
Let's get to the grades.
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
The Bruins gave up 56 points to Stanford.
Really, the defense only gave up 42 of those points (can't fault them at all for the interception return for a touchdown or for giving up a touchdown when Stanford started inside of the 10-yard line after a 90+ yard kickoff return by Christian McCaffrey).
Even giving them that benefit of the doubt:
UCLA gave up 42 points to Stanford.
How many times do you think that Tom Bradley has given up 42 points in a game to a team that basically was just running old-school power football?
I would imagine Bradley has had to draw up schemes for that style of offense before while he was coaching in the Big 10 for the last couple decades.
Not something that is unique to the Pac-12.
How does this keep happen?
This is a comment pulled directly from the post-game comments from who we know is the relative of a member of this UCLA team, one who had quite a bit of insight into what was going on in the preparation for the game this this week
You are completely right about the defensive players being out of positioned. Deon discussed this with Bradley during Stanford prep week but was told he was not the coach. He even took it a step further to discuss his concerns with Mora and was told "Bradley has been doing this for 37yrs Deon he knows exactly what he is doing!" First off Deon is very passionate about football and his team. Secondly, he hates LOSING. Deon stated after watching film you could clearly see the proposed line up was out of position. Just because something has been done a particular way for an extended period of time doesn’t make it right. Evolution. Things change as time evolves. Sorry for the grammatical errors I’m currently on break and had to respond. The players as well as the parents are frustrated. Just as Deon said "principle" won’t allow UCLA to win. The schemes have to change, if not, it’s going to be a long heartwretching season. Thank you. You really get it. You knew right off the bat what the problem was.
Note: That text is blue because this community recommended it many times.
Seriously though, this happened. A team leader's thoughts about what was a clearly flawed game-plan, who went out of his way to address his concerns in an extremely respectful and mature manner multiple times with the coaching staff, was met with basically "We're older than you, we're right, don't worry about things above your non-existent pay grade".
That combined with the fact that (I hate to keep repeating this, but it is reality) UCLA gave up 42 points to Stanford, makes this grade an easy D- (0.7) for me.
The only reason this isn't an F is because the defense made Stanford punt a few times and occasionally they had to work for their points.
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
The offense actually moved the ball pretty well in this game.
Granted, Stanford's defense has some serious issues (which are much more legitimate than the injury issues that UCLA has faced, in my opinion) that could prohibit them from being a genuine playoff contender.
The problems more came from drops, penalties, a horrendous interception by Josh Rosen that Stanford returned for the first touchdown of the game.
Considering that the Bruins previously struggled to break 20 points or cross midfield in full games against the Cardinal, this was a net gain from the previous attempts by Noel Mazzone to beat Stanford's defense.
Are there still a plethora of issues to deal with? 100% yes.
The offensive line looked the worst they have looked all year, understandable to a degree because Stanford is the first unit they've faced that is as talented as UCLA's.
Josh Rosen had some moments where he looked 18 while playing against a defense with an identity and talent to match his offense. But he also had a lot of moments where he looked like a young Aaron Rodgers. We are all amazingly lucky that we get to watch this kid play quarterback for the next couple years and in the NFL. He's special in a way that I have rarely seen a QB look.
The running game was generally good, but had some issues as well. Paul Perkins just never ceases to exceed my expectations. That run he had in the first quarter was up there with any run I have seen by a UCLA running back including any by Maurice Jones-Drew and Jonathan Franklin.
A lot of yardage came in garbage time against Stanford's 2nd string defense, but putting up 500 yards of offense is good against any team.
Going with a B- (2.7), which seems crazy but feels right.
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
No. D (1.0).
How many times would you guess that Stanford has ever thrown the ball out of the Wildcat?
I'd say it is probably somewhere around 98% run. That reverse pass that Hogan ended up throwing was the only time anything that wasn't a jet sweep or a power run happened.
How the Bruins were unprepared for that on defense is befuddling.
The scheme that the Bruins were in on defense were equally befuddling. They're losing plays pre-snap. It is borderline impossible to recover from stuff like that.
Defensively, Stanford threw out a fairly vanilla scheme. Basic stuff. They don't blitz much because they don't need to. They have players that win 1-on-1 battles at the line of scrimmage. Besides Deon Hollins' speed rush around the corner, UCLA does not have players that have shown they can do that. That has to be some level of coaching that is missing. The talent is there on defense, the results have not been since Anthony Barr graduated.
Offensively, Stanford is Stanford. They run the ball. They do most of their damage in the passing game with their TEs, a tactic that had to be known going in. Myles Jack being gone put UCLA at a disadvantage in regards to the Stanford passing attack that needed to be accounted for before the game. Eddie Vanderdoes being gone put UCLA at a disadvantage in the running game that needed to be accounted for before the game.
Injuries aren't an excuse for looking woefully unprepared for a team you've played 4 times in three years.
Look how prepared Stanford looked. That is because they are a better coached team than UCLA.
David Shaw is an NFL-style coach and he and his staff are flat out better at that style than Mora and his staff are.
4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense?
Offense: Penalties on the offensive line drag this down a ton. Offensive line getting pushed around. Wide receivers dropping catchable passes late in a game that while their team is getting blown out is mental, not physical.
Defense: Just going to answer this question with a no.
Special Teams: Whatever has happened to our kickoff coverage team needs to be fixed. When Jeff Ulbrich was around, for all his inexperience as a defensive coordinator, the special teams at UCLA were on par with any in the country. Our special teams top-to-bottom were fantastic. They blocked kicks and punts, they were explosive returning kicks and punts, they covered the hell out of kicks and punts. They just flat out are not at this point. Undisciplined is a solid description. Missed tackles, missed assignments, out of their lanes, lackluster effort.
This is a D (1.0) for me
5.) Do our players execute?
This is probably the section that suffers most from not rewatching the game. I am not able to throw out those special instances to emphasize my points like I normally would, but this is a best effort type of deal from me.
For stretches, UCLA executed well in this game.
But there were so many things that went wrong.
The drops are mental errors more than physical, but are inexcusable either way. Touchdown type of plays that turn into nothing cannot happen in games like this.
The defense blowing coverages, mainly the linebackers.
The defense still being a disaster in run fits. Part of that looked like they were done at the start.
The offensive line still has problems against teams that equal their talent level.
Rosen threw a few terrible passes, he also threw some immaculate passes.
But, if I were asked to measure how much of this loss was on execution and how much was on preparation, the preparation was a much bigger issue.
C- (1.7) here.
6.) Do we have leaders on the field?
Paul Perkins is worth every superlative I could come up with about him.
Josh Rosen's willingness to keep stepping up despite getting pounded and playing in a game he had no chance of winning was damn near heroic. He got crushed in this game and kept throwing great.
Kenny Clark is playing for his NFL draft stock in a game like this. There is a mentality that some players get in when there are games with scores like this. Some players are just trying to get back to the locker room in one piece. Just trying to get through the game.
Kenneth Clark is the other kind of player, one that sees a chance to put up great performances against an offense that has their guard down a bit due to the score. He looked great in this one start to finish.
That is the only player on defense that stood out as a leader in this one on the field. Others played well, others played extraordinarily poorly, others played both sides.
Where is the leadership in the coaching staff on the field though?
All of the buildup about Tom Bradley's hire this offseason was for the experience a coach like him would provide in moments like this.
He fell flat on his face.
I will not accept any excuses that involve the words injury, Myles, Fabian, or Eddie. UCLA, on a pure talent level, was the better team on the field in this game.
Stanford's OL: one 5 star, two 4 stars, two 3 stars.
UCLA's DL/LBs that played significant snaps: nine(!) 4 stars, one 3 star.
UCLA's DBs: five 4 stars, one 3 star (Randall Goforth, a 4-year starter)
Stanford's skill position players: four 4 stars, five 3 stars
Including the loss of those three NFL-level talents, UCLA's defense is, at worse, on par with Stanford's offense.
How many of those Penn State defenses had 14 four star players play meaningful snaps in one game?
How many of those Penn State defenses would have given up 42 points to Stanford?
Noel Mazzone isn't above this critique either.
UCLA's OL: five 4 stars, two 3 stars (this counts for Kolton Miller and Fred Ulu-Perry playing a lot of snaps.
Stanford's DL/LBs: one 5 star, five 4 stars, two 3 stars
Stanford's DBs: seven 3 stars
UCLA's skill position players: two 5 stars, 6 four stars, 4 three stars
This was the game where "UCLA's offensive line had something to prove" and they proved that they were better than any other Adrian Klemm offensive line.
Is that enough to get UCLA where they need to go?
I do not think so.
UCLA gets a C (2.0) here.
Grade Card for the Stanford Cardinal:
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? D- (0.7)
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? B- (2.7)
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? D (1.0)
4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense? D (1.0)
5.) Do our players execute? C- (1.7)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field? C (2.0)
Stanford GPA: D+ (1.52)
For reference, the GPA for last week's loss to Arizona State was a C (2.17). All of these in sharp contrast to victories over Arizona, a B- (2.9), BYU, a B (3.27), UNLV, a B (3.26), and Virginia, a 3.45 (B+).
I cannot be sure, but I believe this is the lowest GPA that I have given out under Coach Mora and it is deserved.
In the comments of an article from the post-game, a question was posed about what UCLA's identity is as a football team.
I have beleaguered this point before in the Eye Test and many times in my day-to-day small talk about UCLA.
I still don't have an answer I am happy with, but I have shared a lot of the same thoughts as RavenousUte threw out.
UCLA is talented across the board, on par with any team in the nation. This is a team talented enough to win a national championship. The team right now, without Jack, Vanderdoes and Moreau. With a true freshman QB. This UCLA Bruins team has enough talent to beat anyone in the country and have it not be shocking.
Aside from that, there is nothing on either side of the ball you could use to describe UCLA succinctly.
We have all raised issues with the massive amounts of penalties and why they have not been culled at any point under Mora, despite him paying lip service to needing to get it taken care of.
No one is ever held genuinely accountable on this team for those mistakes.
Why would anyone stop or adjust behavior if you are not ever given a reason to believe you are at fault?
This is the Pac-12. You cannot just show up and win a conference championship because you are bigger, stronger and faster than the other team.
The difference in talent can't overcome everything else a team can do to narrow that gap with relatively similar talent.
Are you going to win most of your games if you are more talented? Yes.
Even now, this team is going to win 8 or 9 games in the regular season. I fully expect a hot streak through November and to be within shouting distance of the Pac-12 South leader at the end of the year.
I can comfortably say that this team will not win a Pac-12 Championship with this current mentality though.
It will not beat a fully realized Oregon team, it will not beat Stanford.
An identity gives your team something to work to as a collective goal.
"Winning the Pac-12" is an empty goal. That's every team in the Pac-12's goal. Every team works just as hard as UCLA does all year long to achieve that goal.
If I could ask Coach Mora any question right now, it would not be an X's and O's question. It wouldn't be about Noel Mazzone's future. Or Josh Rosen's development in the future. Or why a coach that spent his entire career coordinating against offenses like Stanford's somehow was woefully unprepared for Stanford's offense.
It would be: What is the identity of UCLA football?
The mission statement, what this program stands for on the football field as a football team. Is there one?
Because nobody that I have talked to knows. Nobody who has watched this team knows. And I want to know if that's a question this coaching staff is prepared to answer.