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UCLA Football: Southern Cal Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s 34-27 victory over the Southern Cal Trojans.

USC v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  1. Honestly, I’m at a loss for how to approach this roundtable. So, let’s start with initial thoughts?

orlandobruin: What a glorious afternoon Saturday was! Beating Southern Cal never gets old. I am pretty sure this was record-wise the worst UCLA Bruins team to beat Southern Cal since I became a Bruin which makes this win even sweeter. Frankly, it washes off a lot of the stink of the season. What would be even better would be to keep the momentum going into the last week of the season, and beat ’Furd next week.

Markybcool: No matter the year, not matter the record, no matter the players, and no matter the coach’s standing with either team, it matters which team takes home the Victory Bell. After three years of watching the Southern Cal Trojans take the Victory Bell, the Victory Bell is back where it belongs. Thank-you Mr. Kelley and Coach Kelly!

AnteatersandBruins: We needed this. The whole beginning of the season was really tough to get through and those of us that were able to hang with the program earned this. Well, I guess the team earned it too…. There were so many clutch moments and bright spots where things just clicked. The future is bright, my friends!

Dimitri Dorlis: LOL! The Trojans danced. It’s like their entire program distilled into one incredibly short-sighted moment.

Joe Piechowski: This game was the kind of progress we’ve been waiting to see all season long.

2. How about we approach it unit by unit. Let’s talk about the offense first, Joshua Kelley, offensive line, and all.

orlandobruin: I said in Pregame Guesses that I hoped Coach Kelly would exploit the match-up advantage between UCLA’s O line and Southern Cal’s D line and, sure enough, he exploited it and then some. Who would have thought that Joshua Kelley would carry the ball forty times? Forty times! In the age of rotating backfields and third down specialists. The era of Earl Campbell, this is not. And, as a result of Mr. Kelley’s performance for the ages, this generation of UCLA students and fans now has its John Barnes, its Karl Morgan, and its 13-9.

Markybcool: Kelley is a perfect example of why the star system is not always accurate. Coming out of Eastside High School in Lancaster, he was a two-star back, the 232nd-ranked running back nationally and the 266th-ranked player in California. This dude has balled all year and that is also a credit to the offensive line. Michael Alves, Jake Burton, Andre James, Boss Tagaloa, and Christaphany Murray deserve a ton of credit for their work. I would be remiss if I did not mention the play of the quarterback who just became the UCLA’s all-time favorite 5th year senior quarterback, Wilton Speight. Speight made some plays when he needed, especially the beautiful deep ball that he threw to Howard in the end zone. That was one of the best balls thrown all year long. NOBODY was going to catch that ball except Howard. Speight didn’t do anything overly spectacular except that Howard throw and also the beautiful way he handed the ball off to Joshua Kelley all 40 times. Lastly, there’s Coach Kelly. Kelly understood how to beat Southern Cal in this game and he did it. The play calling was fantastic except the end of half debacle, but, other than that, it was pretty damn good!

AnteatersandBruins: The offensive line came together as a unit better than they had all year. I’ve been saying all season that putting Boss Tagaloa at center was a good move and it’s really showing. Speight had a good command of the offense and the receivers were on point. What can even be said about Josh Kelley, except, holy crap, what a game! Everything came together in a way that makes me excited for next year. I was sitting behind two Trojan fans in the second half and Kelley’s performance alone was making them call for Helton’s head. They actually said they’d welcome Kiffin back because the game was so bad. Glorious.

Dimitri Dorlis: Beyond Kelley and the offensive line, just the design of the offense in this game was on another level. UCLA took advantage of Southern Cal having all kinds of issues with their run defense by presenting a lot of three tight end sets and using unbalanced lines and motion to put the Trojan defenders in poor positions to make a play. Just take Kelley’s go-ahead touchdown run where an unbalanced set and motion at the snap by Theo Howard set up a situation where all the offensive line had to do was match up hat on a hat on the left side, which made things really easy for Kelley.

Joe Piechowski: Back when Justin Frye was first hired, I wrote about how his resume seemed like exactly what we needed from an offensive line coach. I’m ecstatic about the growth and development we’ve seen from the offensive line, which was one of the worst units on the team during the Jim Mora era.

3. Let’s switch to the defense, which wasn’t amazing, but did what it had to to win. What stood out to you the most?

orlandobruin: Chip Kelly’s gameplan to rush the ball and grind the clock also had the positive effect of keeping the UCLA defense off the field. UCLA’s defense has played better in the first half all season, usually wearing down in the second half. Not Saturday. The UCLA defense played its best when the game was on the line and, although it was not “great,” it was enough. Individually, it was nice to see Krys Barnes register a team-leading 11 tackles and make up for (in spades) a poor performance last week in Tempe.

Markybcool: The defense was pretty bad as UCLA gave up almost 500 yards. Hey, the Bruins won and that is all that matters, but this team needs to figure out a way to get pressure on the quarterback before the 2019 season. However, with all of that being said, the key to any defense is how many points you give up. Well, the Bruins only gave up three points in the second half and I have to give them credit for that.

AnteatersandBruins: Southern Cal gifted us turnovers/bad passes where we were able to capitalize, but the defense’s performance was as good as it will be next year. There were still some bombs downfield and missed tackles that resulted in first downs that shouldn’t have been. But, with the offense clicking, they finally got rest when needed and the attack was more balanced.

Dimitri Dorlis: This was basically a best case scenario for the defense at this stage of the year. They only allowed 20 points in this game and only three of those came in the second half. It was also a bend-don’t-break defense in every sense of the word; the Trojans made it to the red zone twice, but only came away with six points. There were some breakdowns, which were going to happen considering the wealth of talent Southern Cal has. So, this was a pretty good effort from them.

Joe Piechowski: I appreciated the sack from Lokeni Toailoa because we haven’t seen much of a pass rush all year. I think the Bruin defense remains a work in progress, but they delivered their best when their best was needed and helped secure the win. So, they definitely get credit for that.

4. Umm…..special teams remained special for parts of this game. Any thoughts?

orlandobruin: JJ Molson made two field goals, right? The second one was from 48 yards and put UCLA up seven points with 2:36 remaining, right? Let’s focus on the positives! Seriously though, we need a dedicated special teams coach.

Markybcool: Agree with Orlando, Molson’s kicks were nice, but that blocked punt was a disaster. I am not sure why Holmes totally let his inside guy go free and nobody touched Langley either. So, this unit has some work to do for 2019 as well.

AnteatersandBruins: Good God, this unit needs work. Molson is almost the only good thing on it.

Dimitri Dorlis: If there is one truly negative takeaway from this year, it’s that the coaching staff really needs to take special teams more seriously next year because it came close to costing them another game.

Joe Piechowski: The blocked punt was inexcusable. The fake punt by Southern Cal should have been stopped. Chip Kelly admitted that they knew it was coming, but couldn’t stop it. It’s time to fix the special teams and, if that requires a dedicated special teams coach, I’m all for it.

5. One more game, against a team that has beaten the Bruins 10 straight games. Any predictions for that game?

orlandobruin: I do not want to end the still-warm glow of basking in UCLA victory over Southern Cal by predicting a loss against Stanford. So, I won’t, but I am not going to predict a win either, at least not yet. I will say this: Stanford at the Rose Bowl is a very winnable game and the Cardinal are more vulnerable than they have been for some time. I hope that the fans come out to cheer UCLA onto victory.

Markybcool: I know the term “signature win” has been used to describe the Southern Cal victory and, while it is obviously a huge win for the Bruins on so many fronts, if Kelly wants a true signature win, he figures out a way to beat Stanford this weekend.

AnteatersandBruins: We win. Done. That monkey will be off our back by 4:00 pm Saturday.

Dimitri Dorlis: The last time a Stanford team this vulnerable came to the Rose Bowl, they beat the pants off a UCLA team playing for the Pac-12 South. So, I’m not going to predict UCLA will win this game, but it sure would be really nice for it to happen.

Joe Piechowski: “All gains are incremental. Some increments aren’t gains.” That’s a fancy way of saying that progress isn’t always a straight line. But, in this case, UCLA needs a win to convince a lot of people that they are actually making progress as the season comes to a close.

6. The Extra Point - Sound off!

orlandobruin: 57,116 in attendance for the LA City Championship? No matter the records of the respective squads, that number is very, very disappointing. Combine that with the students’ epic fail by not camping out to guard the Bruin, resulting in it being vandalized, again, and I wonder if this generation of students even give a flying leap about UCLA athletics or school pride. And . . . get . . . off . . . my . . . LAWN!!!

Markybcool: Ending the season with two consecutive wins would be a great way to end a pretty bad year. I predicted a 6-6 year and, while the level of teams we competed against made that mark impossible with this young Bruins team, let’s finish strong Bruins!!!!

AnteatersandBruins: While orlandobruin waits for his AARP card in the mail, I’ll agree that attendance was definitely an issue, but Southern Cal fans didn’t show up nearly like they usually do. We’re on a major upswing and, now, we have a year of “F You’s” on our side. I’ll take that Victory Bell and gladly see it the right color again. We’ll win next week and be all juiced for 2019.

Dimitri Dorlis: Southern Cal is probably going to get bulldozed by Notre Dame on Saturday, which would mean they’ll miss a bowl game this year. Theoretically, they’ll fire Clay Helton afterwards, but dumber things have happened at that school. More importantly, I have no faith that they will make a good hire, but rather will get a non-ideal option (PLEASE go with Jack Del Rio). So, for the Bruins to get this win and show that they’re on the upswing by comparison is a big deal.

Joe Piechowski: When will The Den start taking Beat SC Week seriously enough that they will start organizing a defense of the Bruin Bear to keep it from getting vandalized? I know we don’t like the folks at Figueroa Tech all that much, but, at least, they manage to organize each year to protect Tommy Trojan. Why can’t UCLA’s students do they same thing? All current students need to start having some pride in the Four Letters and protect the Bruin Bear.

Go Bruins!!!