Here are some questions and answers for this week’s Bruins Nation Stanford Postgame Roundtable.
A special thank you to BruinAZ for serving as this week’s guest panelist on the Stanford postgame Roundtable. I know I can speak on behalf of the entire Bruins Nation team when I say we were all excited and honored to have BruinAZ participate with us.
1. What do you think about Mora’s "we’re developing" line from his presser?
BruinAZ: At face value, he has a point. You could argue that we are always developing players. We knew in the beginning of the year our QB position would be a work in progress throughout the year. Our offensive line is playing musical chairs again and the defense (particularly the front six/seven) flashing back to starting underclassman and playing out of position. But taken in the context of one of several reasons for our catastrophic failure, this was a backhand to the coaches. They are responsible for the (lack of) development and preparation of our players for this game.
Mexibruin: I think this will turn out to be his ‘punting is winning’ moment. I could be wrong, and there could be another real disappointing loss ahead which elicits a worse comment that becomes his legacy of shame. But, I think this loss has changed something in the fans. People are now openly calling for his dismissal. We haven’t heard that before. At least not in the quantity we are hearing it now. This could be the moment we look back upon and say this is when he lost the faith of the fans.
Beer&Math: I agree with Mexi. We all knew this was a big game for Mora, with many calling it the "inflection point" (HT to Math :P). Well, the results are in and it was ugly. To me, watching Mora’s presser reeked of frustration and desperation. Usually his quick-witted exchanges with the media are entertaining when there’s nothing on the line (like during the training camps or midweek comments), but on Thursday night they just came across as despondent. Looking at it from a purely semantic point of view, it is ridiculous. This is college football, of course, a team is developing. Even more tragic, UCLA started the season with one of the most mature team in the country (most number of starts, sorry BYU) so, even with injuries, it just makes Mora look bad. I’m sure BN will get good use out of this quote, just like his "penalties don’t matter" nonsense.
uclaluv: Does he mean, "The coaches are still developing"? Besides Rosen, and a couple of freshman, the rest of the team should be developed - and of course, still developing in the sense that we are all still developing until the end. As many have said, all college teams are still developing, so in a sense, "We are still developing" is a little like saying x = x. But if he means, "The coaches are still developing", that is not okay. Besides Scott White, they’ve all had enough time - at UCLA and/or elsewhere - to have developed more than they have. The offensive line looks like it is devolving rather than evolving. If they don’t listen to the players on the field, like Deon Hollins, there is no way they can develop. So maybe he means, we should still be developing, because it doesn’t look like they are. I do think the defense is still finding its way, and appropriately so. I never played football, but I know in basketball defense is about learning to communicate with each other, become familiar with what each other is doing, in a sense learn to act as one. I do think with big losses this will take time to develop. However, I am still concerned that a player like Hollins who sees something, may not be being heard.
Bruinette88: Yes, of course it’s true that the Bruins are "still developing," and by that, I mean above and beyond the continuing development that all football teams undergo during the season. UCLA lost three important defensive stars, and those midseason losses have had a ripple effect across the entire defense, with inexperienced players being required to take on bigger roles and starters being asked to take on different roles. Whether or not fans believe that Coach Mora and his staff should be able to replace those players instantly and achieve immediate success is irrelevant. The plain fact is that the revamped defense is still very much a work in progress.
Again, that’s an explanation, not an excuse, and it’s an explanation for the defensive problems in our last three games, not just the problems in the Stanford game. In that respect, what Mora said doesn’t deserve to be highlighted as an "aha moment." Moreover, acknowledgement of the problem isn’t the same as excusing the problem. An explanation isn’t necessarily an excuse.
Joe Piechowski: Frankly, I think it’s crap. You don’t get to change the narrative midseason like that. If you’re going to start out the season with one of the more experienced teams in the country, it shouldn’t matter how many injuries you have. If you have one of the most talented teams in the country based on the rank of your recruiting classes, you should be able to fill any holes created by injuries.
I’m also extremely concerned about how the offensive line is "developing." They have gone backwards since Adrian Klemm returned from his suspension.
2. From all the blame that can go around, I don’t fault UCLA QB Josh Rosen. Besides his first INT, I felt that he played really well. What did you see from our 18 year old true freshman against the Trees at the Farm?
BruinAZ: The questions about Josh Rosen were never about his physical skills. Leadership, reading defenses and decision making were the unknowns. After the first interception, he remained mature and poised when faced with adversity in a hostile environment for the first time. It will be interesting to see when he becomes comfortable barking at his offensive line for penalties and blown assignments. His decision making also seemed to improve particularly in the two minute drill at the end of the first half. Ironically, his confidence is still perceived by some as arrogance.
Mexibruin: I saw a guy that is trying really hard, and has shown glimpses of otherworldly talent. I can’t think of a single bone headed thing I can attribute to him. With the exception of the interception, of course.
Beer&Math: Unlike many post-game commenters, I saw Josh’s performance as one of the best on the Bruin’s squad. I’ll use this opportunity to also note Perkins’ and Kenny Clark’s heroic efforts--they never look like they are "out of it" when the rest of the team does. Anyways, back to Josh. After his first INT, he just looked poised out there making plays when the OL allowed him to, and even when they didn’t. He threw some really nice passes into tight and wide-open windows but the UCLA receivers just weren’t making any plays. Rosen’s presence still continues to amaze me. Might be due to my limited experience watching football (since 2006) but I haven’t seen many true freshman look that good. I think what’s concerning is out plateau of our WRs. I’ve been on the record for calling out WR Coach Yarber. Our receivers just don’t strike fear into opposing defenses with the exception of Duart and Payton since after that there is a huge drop off. So, what I’m saying is: Rosen’s looked fine, but he needs help to get the team to the heights we all expect.
uclaluv: I agree with everyone above. Josh had a good game, other than the interception. He is definitely making better decisions and learning the speed of college dbs. His throws are almost always accurate now. I’d say the next two steps for him are 1) see when the run is available to him and take advantage of it and 2) get together with Jerry Neuheisel and work out their own play calling system.
Bruinette88: There’s plenty of room for improvement with Rosen. I expect him to develop into an elite quarterback, but, as I think we all would acknowledge, he’s not there yet. Nevertheless, every member of the Bruins--coaches, players and staff--share responsibility for Thursday’s performance and loss.
Joe Piechowski: Rosen’s upside potential is amazing. We’ve seen flashes of it. I think we saw it on Thursday night too. My concern is that, with the current group of assistant coaches, how much will he continue to develop? I have no faith in the Mazzones to develop him into the elite quarterback he has the potential to become.
3. Finish the thought: "If Mora doesn’t make it to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game in the next two years, then …"
BruinAZ: My expectation at the beginning of this year was to win the Pac -12 conference so this year already constitutes a failure (see my season forecast below according to my success criteria we took a step backward). Not making it to the Pac-12 Conference championship game in the next two years means we have plateaued for 3 years under Coach Mora’s leadership. We would look to new leadership to take us to the next level.
Mexibruin: Then what? We are *&^%$# as far as leadership. DG has neither the testicular fortitude to make a change nor the real world acumen to hire the right replacement.
Beer&Math: Then we are stuck with Tedford 2.0 for a few more years. Continuing on the point of inflection thing, I’ve seen enough from Mora with his current assistants to conclude we’ve plateaued. At minimum, Mazzone and Son need to go. Throw in Klemm while we’re at it. If Mora can bring in a visionary OC...I believe the sky’s the limit since Mora is a good "CEO" type when he gets out of his own way (i.e. loyalty). But, if in two years we still have Mazzone then, go back and re-read what Mexi said...we’re…
uclaluv: AZ, Mexi, and B & M are correct in my opinion. So to finish the sentence … then we will drop from the national picture, recruiting momentum will go down, we could spiral down as well. Mora needs to blow up the coaching staff (especially Klemm, Mazzone x 2), as some have said in the comments. If he doesn’t, he will not win the conference championship (unless those coaches somehow see the light). Football will the join the legend of Guerrero’s UCLA teams that are good because they do things like reach the sweet-16 (but with a coach with good character). Moving into the elite means doing hard things. It is time for Mora to step up and do the difficult things that can make UCLA football elite, like replacing coaches that appear, year after year, to not being developing.
Bruinette88: "If Mora doesn’t make it to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game in the next two years, then…" Athletic Director Dan Guerrero will continue to merrily collect his annual performance bonus." In other words, as Dan Guerrero recently boasted, nothing will change.
Joe Piechowski: "If Mora doesn’t make it to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game in the next two years, then…" we will have gone five years without making it to the P12CCG and, with the talent level on this team, that is absolutely unacceptable. If that happens and Coach Mora doesn’t show a willingness to bring in better assistant coaches, then Mora should be looking for new employment.
Think about this for a second: The only serious mark of success Mora has had is that he has managed to beat Southern Cal the last three years. If he hadn’t won those three games, we might already be calling for his head. Sure, he’s won a lot of other games, but the team has lost all of the important ones except for the games against the Trogans. So, should Bruin fans be happy with just beating Southern Cal? I say no. Failing to compete for the Pac-12 Championship is enough to require a coaching change in my book.
4. I’ve had enough of the coaches Noel and Taylor Mazzone. I’ll give Tom Bradley a pass this season. If Mazzone is fired tomorrow, give some recommendations for offensive coordinator that you’d like to see Mora bring in.
BruinAZ: I believe like many others that we have the talent to support a multiple formation offense. The ideal candidate would have college and NFL experience with a solid history of developing quarterbacks. Long shots include current NFL offensive coordinators Dirk Koetter and Bill Lazor. They meet the requirements and will probably be available after this season. More realistically, Bill Legg at Marshall (OC, QB coach) may be ready to step up again (formerly WVU and VaTech) and TCU might spare us one of theirs (Sonny Cumbie/Doug Meacham). Maybe Coach Mora could talk to his buddy Dan Quinn and get Matt LeFleur (part of the Shanahan Stable), doesn’t he owe us one?
Mexibruin: I like Mike Norvell at ASU, Doug Meachem at TCU, but I would like to go outside the box. Since Bradley and Pola are the only coaches left on our team I can respect; I would ask either of them to recommend someone.
Beer&Math: I like the Doug Meachem suggestion by Mexi. Here are some others: Kendall Briles (I know, nepotism warning, but he’d be leaving the nest). Eric Morris of Texas Tech (also their WR coach--toofer!). Briles leads the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation with 64.2 points per game, while Morris leads the No. 2 scoring offense with 52.7 points per game. Last one, Darrell Dickey Co-HC and OC from Memphis.
uclaluv: I’ll pass on this one. But at this point, I’d love to have Steve Sarkisian calling plays! Well after he gets the help he needs.
Bruinette88: Quarterbacks coach: Brett Elliott. Offensive coordinator: Tyson Helton or Doug Ruse.
Joe Piechowski: At this point, I just know who I don’t want. I haven’t looked at potential replacements. But, now is the time to start discussing potential OC candidates.
5. I’ve had enough of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. The offensive line seemed to play much better in the beginning of the season when Klemm was suspended. Coincidence? Would you keep Klemm simply for his recruiting prowess?
BruinAZ: I think the degradation of our offensive line play has more to do with our overall offensive strategy (ASU) and strength of our opponent (Stanford). Read this as they are set up to fail. Our freshman quarterback has only 8 sacks this season (Hundley sacked 10 times in Utah). Coach Mora hired Coach Klemm for his ability to recruit. Let’s play to our strength. I would find another offensive line coach (perhaps Scott Huff, Boise State) and make Coach Klemm recruiting coordinator.
Mexibruin: Not a chance in hell. We kept Howland around ‘just for recruiting’ and that didn’t work out either. At this point he’s an incredible liability.
Beer&Math: No way. At this level, there are plenty of coaches out there who can do both successfully. Time for Klemm to go.
uclaluv: Absolutely not. First, winning is a better recruiter than anything else, including Klemm. Second, we have already been warned that Klemm may not be doing all things in the proper way, I think he may be a scandal waiting to happen. Third, as gbruin always says, o-lines win games. The tradeoff is not worth it.
Bruinette88: It’s time for Klemm to move on. I don’t see sufficient improvement in our offensive line play to justify keeping him.
Joe Piechowski: He’s unbelievably overpaid. Before this year, his best work was in recruiting. That changed when he committed whatever recruiting violation(s) he did. So, now, he isn’t doing a good job coaching the line and he isn’t doing the job recruiting either. Why are we paying him, again?
6. Look into your crystal ball and predict how the Bruins finish the season.
BruinAZ: I am forecasting a 4-2 finish (5-4, 8-4) 5th place in the Pac-12 and a visit to the Foster Farms Bowl. We will beat Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State and lose 2/3 to Cal, Utah and USC.
Mexibruin: As of right now, we lose three more games: We lose to Cal, beat Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State, then promptly lose to Utah and SC. That brings us to 7-5 and a bowl game not worth mentioning.
Beer&Math: I also predict 7-5 and a bid for a no-one-cares-bowl, though I have us beating UC Berkeley, Colorado, and Oregon State, then crumbling down the stretch and lose to Washington State, Utah, and *$outhern Cal.
uclaluv: I agree with Mexi, lose to Berkeley, Utah, $c. It’s possible we beat one of those teams, but not with the way we’re playing.
Bruinette88: Four wins, two losses, followed by a trip to one of the toilet bowls.
Joe Piechowski: I’m going to say we are likely to lose at least three more. We could go 2-4 down the stretch with losses to Berkeley, Washington State, Utah and Southern Cal or we could turn as many as three of those into wins and go 5-1. The problem in predicting this is that this team has no identity and that makes predicting things hard.
7. The Extra Point. Have at it.
BruinAZ: In my latest fan post, I talk about how we are on a 10 year cycle from abysmal to mediocrity and back again. Here is the last paragraph.
"Is Coach Mora the right person to lead to the next level? It is clear to most of us what needs to be done. Can he and will he make it happen? Time will tell. If not be prepared for another decade of mediocrity." We have to ask ourselves are we ready to slide back into the abyss.
Mexibruin: That first trip to the red zone, where we promptly got flagged twice, and started walking backwards was really reminiscent of that SC game under Neuheisel where we did the exact same thing. Not only that; but what was Mazzone thinking running it up the middle each time? We start at 1st and goal and an illegal formation penalty makes it 1st and 15. This is then followed by a Nate Starks two yard run. WTF? Now we’re at 2nd and 13 and a holding penalty makes it 2nd and 23. This is followed by another Nate Starks two yard run. WTF? So now we’re at 3rd and 21 and Mazzone dials up a Perkins three yard run? If this isn’t his defining moment at UCLA, I don’t know what is. If Mora wants to keep him around, that’s his business. But, he has the right to sink with him as well, as far as I’m concerned.
Beer&Math: We currently rank 110 out of 128 teams with 75 penalty yards per game. Against Stanford, we had 10 penalties for 93 yards. Ran out things to say about them, they are here to stay. In orlandobruin’s pregame guesses, he talked about the conservative versus conservative shoot-out between Mora and Shaw. And Mora won! This is just shows Mora is clueless against Stanford and he is proving every bit the mediocre coach we hoped he wouldn’t be when hired.
After the ASU game, I talked about the last TD given up by the Bruins where they were pushed around for large amount of chunks. I wondered if this was going to portend a collapse by the Bruins. Now, UCLA could still turn it around but I think this season ends in a whimper, not with a #Boom.
uclaluv: This is starting to remind me of Howland’s stubbornness. The offensive play calling is predictably stupid. Some of the talent on the field is puzzling (Soso in when we need a td and it is power time and/or good hands time?). The defense doesn’t seem to adjust to what is happening with a particular team. And, according to Deon Hollins’ mom, players who are leaders and who are on the field are being given the palm when they try to help. I also wonder, who, if anyone, is watching from the box. From what happens on the field, it appears no one is. There is a reason coordinators are in the boxes - so that they can see what we see and adjust.
Bruinette88: Penalties, penalties, penalties. When I drafted questions for the first postgame roundtable of the season, I asked this: "One of the major concerns I had heading into the season is the Bruins' lack of discipline, which resulted in UCLA being one of the most penalized teams in the nation in 2014." After the UNLV contest, I asked a similar question. Now, six games into the season, I find that we are simply repeating the unacceptable, undisciplined performances of 2014 that led to UCLA accumulating 8 penalties per game and 75.3 penalty yards per game. After six games, the Bruins are averaging 7.75 penalties per game and 74.7 penalty yards per game. This is a problem that won’t be solved by ignoring it or hoping that it goes away on its own. It needs to be among the things that Coach Mora and his players work really, really hard on improving.
Joe Piechowski: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This coaching staff is officially driving Bruin fans insane.
That’s it for the Stanford Postgame Roundtable. Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts and I welcome anyone else to share their own answers in the comments.
If you have any of your own questions, fire away in the comments as well.