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UCLA Football: Bruin Nation's Colorado Post-Game Roundtable Discussion

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the 2014 season's eighth game, a narrow overtime victory over a Colorado Buffaloes team that has looked decidedly mediocre all season long - another underachieving effort by Jim Mora's "Bruin Revolution" team.

Justin Edmonds

1.  The Bruins looked strong coming out of the gate, but let their foot off the gas and let Colorado get back into the game - why does it seem like UCLA can never kill off a game?

gbruin: Great question. I have no idea, but it has to be an attitude thing. When our opponents get behind, I assume they get more urgency and desperation. They up their effort and intensity, and it seems we don't match that. You'd think the Utah game and these other close calls would call out and fix whatever it is that lets this happen, but so far, nothing.

Tydides: We commit too many penalties and our playcalling is vanilla play-it-safe NFL conservative crap. Penalties can kill any given drive and we have tons of them. Then if we do magically find ourselves in the redzone we're more than happy to take the 3 instead of going for it on 4th and 1 and keep opponents in striking distance. How elite of us.

Achilles: Because we make too many mistakes to sustain any momentum. If you take away the Hundley fumble and all the stupid penalties -- we win going away. It's like we're playing two opponents: Colorado and ourselves.

AHMB:  We're a very good downhill team.  When the offense is clicking, Mazzone can get in a very good playcalling rhythm and our offense looks unstoppable, and our defense tends to feed off high energy plays.  But when things tense up, Mazzone seems to have a hard time getting the offense to even gain a first down, and our defense ends up on the field way too often and seems a step too slow.

IslandBruin2: When the 49ers had their postseason runs under Bill Walsh, he insisted on having two assets, to be able to put away games- a pass rush, and a ball control back to pick up 1st downs. Montana to Rice got the glory, but it was these two elements that enabled the 49ers to stay ahead, once they got ahead. Does UCLA have a pass rush? We are 112th in the country in sacks. Does UCLA have a ball control back? We are 74th in the country in 3rd down conversion rates. So along with every other issue which has already been identified, we don't have two things to maintain a lead- a pass rush or the ability to convert 3rd downs.

2.  UCLA needed to go deep into overtime, relying on Hundley's legs to score the winning TD when the offense broke down, to overcome a pretty weak and young Colorado team - is the verdict in on whether this team has failed to meet expectations or is there still a chance to salvage this season?

gbruin: There is certainly a chance to salvage things - if we win out we still have a good chance of winning the South, and that gives us a shot to win the Conference and play on New Year's Day. If we do that, I'll call the season a success. The problem with all of that is that I'm not seeing the things that would give me some legit reason to believe it will happen. If I had to bet now, I'd bet against it.

Tydides: Win the conference and the season is salvaged. Don't and it's a failure. It's out of our hands either way, and even if things break the way we need them to, we haven't played like a team yet that can seize the opportunity anyway.

Achilles: If we win out that's 11 wins on the year. Can't call that a failure, in my opinion. If we win out, we'll have one bad loss to a superior team (Oregon) and won loss to a good, well-coached Utah team. It won't be what we wanted, but it wouldn't be a failure.

AHMB:  This season isn't lost yet.  It may not be what we were hoping, but winning out would be a huge accomplishment.  The problem is actually doing it, and I don't see that happening given the the evidence displayed n the first 8 games of the season.

IslandBruin2: Until we are mathematically out of the hunt, we have a chance to salvage the season. But salvaging won't mean a trip to the Rose Bowl.  Even winning out there is no way that we make the final four. So salvaging will mean a trip to another top bowl game- most likely Fiesta or Cotton. That looks pretty good at the moment. But the salvage operation needs to start right now on Saturday.

3.  It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win - what positives do you see from this game?

gbruin: Well, the line didn't give up any sacks and is generally playing better since Utah, not that that was a great hurdle to clear. Eric Kendricks is the best linebacker in the conference. And there is a benefit to being tested and coming through in overtime, though you'd like that test to occur in a tougher setting than Colorado. One other thing, I was standing next to the walkway from the field to the locker room at the end of the game, and there were maybe 5 players who looked happy. I think everyone on this team knew they could have/should have played a better game, and that's encouraging.

Tydides: I like to try to get opponent themed beers from BevMo before every game and I got a couple sweet bottles of Great Divide Old Ruffian and Yeti for pretty cheap. Oh, you meant about the game. Um, I guess none of our assistants tried to quit before halftime? Hm, maybe that's actually a negative. I guess we're still on track for a Dorrell Style 10 win season. That'll be just enough to placate the idiot sunshine pumpers.

Achilles: We ran the ball really well in the first half. Not so much in the second half, because the keyed on the run. Then Hundley made them pay with a few scrambles.

AHMB:  We got off to a fast start, which hasn't always been the case under Mora.  Other than that, it was just a win.  That's always a good thing, but there isn't much positive you can take from blowing a 17-0 first quarter lead.

IslandBruin2: The early start gave me more time to recover from the overwhelming sense of frustration, and to enjoy the rest of my Saturday.

4. What about the flip side of that - what problems did this stumbling, narrow victory reveal?  How does UCLA fix those problems?

gbruin: What are our problems? Just see every previous roundtable discussion, or IE's Eye Tests, or post game threads. The biggest problem is we still have all the same problems. How to fix them? Get leadership (i.e. coaches) who absolutely positively will not tolerate the same problems week in and week out, season in and season out.

Tydides: Like gbruin said, we've covered all this ground already and if anything, it's getting worse. Maybe the worst thing is that we're seeing the ugly side of Jim Mora now that he's faced with actually living up to his hype and failing at it. Desperation is a stinky cologne on Jim, I have to say. Mora can try winning out to "fix" this particular problem. Maybe then we won't have to deal with his sour puss after every game when his team turns in yet another uninspiring performance.

Achilles: We still commit way too many stupid penalties. It's redundant to keep pointing it out, but we had a totally unnecessary roughing the passer. A number of pass interference/defensive holding penalties. If it was an aberation I wouldn't mention it, but it's a two and a half season pattern.

AHMB:  Quite a list here.  There were far too many penalties.  Some of them may have been ticky tack, but when a team gets a reputation, refs aren't going to give many breaks.  The offensive line got destroyed after the first quarter.  They may not have been any sacks, but Colorado got constant push.  Hundley did not play well at all.  He hit only 61% of his passes for 5 yards per attempt.  Colorado played the flats aggressively, and we just couldn't get anything downfield.  Defensively, I think we wore down after being on the field for too long.  They played well in overtime, but that fourth quarter was abysmal.

5.  We're now deep into what was supposed to be the break-out year for UCLA football - the year the #BruinRevolution really took off - instead, the Bruins have looked no better than mediocre - do you still have faith that Jim Mora is going to get UCLA into the Rose Bowl again?

gbruin: I'd argue that we're better than mediocre, but we're still far short of where we could be, which is the giant red flag for me. My concern right now is more with coordinators and position coaches. I think Mora can be a reasonable CEO for the program, but part of that will be making the tough call to get some better VPs and middle managers. The team would be better with TCU's offensive coordinator. We need a more experienced and flexible defensive coordinator - whether Ulbrich can develop into that, who knows, but I don't really want to wait to see. I understand Klemm is a great recruiter but the O Line isn't developing well enough and it's killing us. Conversely, the RBs have improved as a unit this year and I think we can attribute that to Coach Polamalu. Those coaches can make a difference, and we need a better group to get the maximum out of our talented roster.

Tydides: No, and I can't say that I ever did. He would have had to have a signature victory against someone other than sanction riddled SUC for me to buy that notion rather than falling flat on his face every time he faced an elite team. I think it's clear that his assistants aren't cutting it, and probably for the sake of his own security he's going to have to let heads roll, but he hired these guys in the first place so why would I have confidence that he knows who to get THIS time? Maybe if he gets back to the title game and FINALLY beats Oregon will I have a reason to believe Mora is the elite coach we're paying him to be. Until then, the trendline is flat at best.

Achilles: I'm not sure. I know it's better if he is the right coach because it's not like I have any confidence our AD would somehow go out and make a great hire should it become clear a change needs to be made. If I squint, I can make the case that we lost a lot from last year's team: XSF, Barr, Marsh, Zumwalt to name four obvious players. But we also lost Lou Spanos and that hurt, too. We also lost both our starting offensive tackes in Simon Goines and Torian White and have had to patch together an offensive line without them. Excuses? Maybe. But you put Goines and White on this team for ever snap and have Bunche and guard for every game -- it's just a different offensive line.

AHMB:  Yeah.  I'm not giving up on Mora yet.  The fact is, we've been a much better team under him than we were in the years preceding his hiring.  He isn't without faults, and we discuss those thoroughly on this site, but overall I think the program is headed in the right direction.  This season has definitely been a step back, however, and its troubling to watch the team have the same flaws week in and week out without any real correction.  To me, that's on the coaching staff, and it all starts with Mora.

IslandBruin2: I don't have faith in Mora. But that doesn't mean I want a change, as long as Doughnut is around to be involved in another coaching search. The most discouraging aspect to me with Mora is that we weren't able to pounce when we had the chance- particularly with the probation and coaching mess at $C. Our schedule will be easier next year as Oregon and Washington rotate out. But we played most of our strong competition at home this year. And we had Hundley at QB. So if not now, when?

6. The extra point - fire away:

gbruin: The weather in Boulder on Saturday was incredible. 80 deg, light breeze, crystal blue skies. Thanks to uclaluv for making the trip out here. All the rest of BN better road trip out here in 2016 and make my exile feel like home once every two years.

Tydides: I'd be nothing short of pissed if I went to Boulder and got that performance in return. How about Mora finally starts living up to his billing before I start talking about road trips I'm going to take to watch this team? There's already no reason to ever watch a basketball game in person (or on TV), home or away. Let's hope football isn't going down the same path.

Achilles: I watched in a bar. Wasn't crowded. Anyway, I'm pretty concerned about our last four games. I think all four of our opponents are pretty good: Arizona, Washington, Southern Cal, Stanford. No one is great, but they're all good enough. We could win four or lose four. Most likely we'll split, end up 8-4, win a bowl game for a ho-hum 9-4 record. It will be good enough for the true believers, not good enough for many others. And Mora will get an extension. And won't change either of the coordinators.

AHMB:  The best college coaches in the country are not just good recruiters, they're good at player development.  If you've ever seen video of Nick Saban or Bob Stoops or Gary Patterson coaching, you know how detailed they are in their teaching.  When you see the same mistakes on film, you have to wonder whether the staff is teaching enough fundamentals.  We've got a lot of talent on our team, but that alone won't get us to the Rose Bowl.

IslandBruin2: It is pretty clear that there will be only one Pac-12 team in the national picture this year, and for the moment that looks like Oregon. So it is win out to Levi's, and go to the Alamo Bowl if we lose, or to the Cotton or Fiesta if we win. If we don't make it to Levi's, we will probably be looking at another Dorrellian/Neuheisian bowl game- like Las Vegas or SF Bowl (fka Emerald and Fight Hunger). That is super discouraging. As I said above, the season can be salvaged. But it won't be by playing another December bowl game.

That's it for this week folks. Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the just barely Colorado win as we figure out where UCLA football goes from here as the team gets ready for an showdown with the Arizona Mildcats this Saturday night.