1. Our Bruins managed to go to Dallas to a "neutral" site and escape with a come-from-behind win over a depleted, thin Texas Longhorns team under back-up QB Jerry Neuheisel - first impressions of the win?
Bellerophon: It's a great feel-good game. We played a big-name program in an away-game-in-everything-but-name and we came away with a win on a beautiful fourth quarter touchdown throw by Jerry Neuheisel - it was the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. But as "feel-good" as it was, it shouldn't mask the fact that we were pretty lucky to come away with a win against one of the worst, most-depleted Texas Longhorns squads we've seen in a long time. Yes, it's a great feel good story - but let's not forget that Rick Neuheisel went to Austin with Kevin Prince as his QB, literally no passing game, an even thinner offensive line than what we currently have, and took on a Texas team at least as good as this year's, if not substantially better, and came away with a huge win. So, it's great to get the win - but let's not lose perspective over what this game was in the bigger picture.
IE Angel: I was in the Jerry Dome for this game in the UCLA section and it was honestly the most exciting ending to a sporting event that I've ever been a part of as a fan. Roller coaster of emotion actually applies for once.
Achilles: I'll say this about Mora's teams: They don't quit. They make mistakes, no doubt. But, they play hard and seem to believe in each other. There is something to be said for that. Let's put it like this: They haven't played well all season, but they've played with poise all season.
AHMB: There was something so pure about that game. It was college football at it's finest. I couldn't sit down watching the game, and I literally jumped up and down when Neuheisel threw that touchdown pass to Payton.
JoeBruin15: There isn't a whole lot to add here. Jerry did exactly what Rick tried to teach his quarterbacks when he was our head coach. He managed the game and put his team in a position to win it. There isn't much more you can ask for from your backup than that.
2. With Jerry Neuheisel coming in as the back-up QB, what does that say about how ready Asiantii Woulard is to take over as QB next year? Or will the job pass on to Jerry? Or does this mean we could be relying on Josh Rosen, a true freshman, at QB next year?
Bellerophon: It's pretty concerning that Woulard isn't in a position to be the primary back-up. He redshirted last season and while Neuheisel has been in the program longer and is obviously a very intelligent young man - both on and off the field - Woulard's physical skill set and ceiling is substantially higher than Jerry's. What we saw on Saturday was Jerry at his finest - he'll never be an elite QB (and that's okay). Woulard was supposed to be (4 stars by Scout, #34 QB in the nation by Scout) and yet he's unable to take the back-up job from Jerry (2 stars by Scout, not nationally ranked by Scout). It highlights the lack of development we're seeing at that position - sure Taylor Mazzone may be a great recruiter (like Adrian Klemm) - but does he know how to actually coach the position and develop talent? So far, the answer appears to be no. What if Hundley had left at the end of last season? Would we be relying on Jerry Neuheisel as our starting QB? Or would we have had Woulard learn on-the-job? Josh Rosen looks like the real deal - but relying on a true freshman as your starting QB is never an ideal place to be. If I had to put money on it - I'd bet Rosen ends up winning the starting job for next season (especially since he's enrolling early and will be at spring camp), with Neuheisel as the back-up. I'd be willing to bet Woulard never plays QB for UCLA - either he'll move to WR or he'll transfer.
IE Angel: As much as I admire what Neuheisel accomplished on Saturday, he cannot start football games for UCLA in the future. Up until that last throw, his yards per attempt and per completion were horrific. I wanted to see Woulard because I didn't want UCLA to lose to Texas throwing exclusively swing passes, check downs and screen passes. It's a huge red flag for the level of coaching being done that a player as talented as Woulard (and he is unquestionably physically talented, perhaps more so than Hundley in terms of arm strength) isn't a better option than Jerry.
Achilles: It's hard for me to know. It really just means that Neuheisel is farther along in terms of knowing the offense and being ready with very few practice snaps. If Hundley had gone pro, it's possible that Woulard would have earned the starting job. Or it could just mean that Neuheisel was backup while Woulard was redshirting, so he's the backup based on more experience. That said, Rosen will probably be the starter next year; he looks great on tape.
AHMB: Neuheisel's second quarter was abysmal, but the offense put up nearly 300 yards in the second half. Judging based solely on the numbers, it looks pretty damn good. The problem lies in the details. The offense was basically an inside zone/screen scheme that Texas couldn't figure out. I'm not sure if it was ran because Neuheisel wasn't capable of running the entire offense, or because he was too nervous to run the entire offense. Talent wise, there is no question that Woulard should be able to beat out Neuheisel. But he also played receiver for most of his high school career and is a work in progress. I hope this game puts a charge in the staff, and him, to get more reps because there is a decent chance that he'll be needed this season.
JoeBruin15: I think there will be a battle to be the starter. Make no mistake. Competition is a good thing. I'm not sure Rosen will be ready to start as a true freshman but that's what redshirt seasons are for. I think the team will benefit most by redshirting Rosen next season even if he enrolls in Winter Quarter. Let him fight for the job and if he's truly the best guy, play him. Otherwise, let the other guys on the roster fight for the spot next season.
3. So, in the end, we still got the win - what are the positives you see from this game?
Bellerophon: Paul Perkins really stepped up his game and took the #1 RB spot and made it his own. I was disappointed with Jordon James (and fumbling in a key situation certainly didn't help his cause) but on the flip side, I hope that means we see more of Nathan Starks, who looked really good in the action he got. Special teams play was outstanding and there's that block by "the Judge" was just amazing. The offensive line settled down, which was good, and Wadood really had a nice game.
IE Angel: I have to shout out the special teams players because I ride harder for those players than anyone else writing about UCLA football. Cameron Judge, Roosevelt Davis, Jayon Brown, Ryan Hofmeister, Priest Willis, Ahmad Harris and of course Ishmael Adams made a massive impact in this game. Kai'mi Fairbairn was money in warm ups from 47 and then drilled one in the game when UCLA really needed a boost after the Hundley injury. Also, the fact that Brett Hundley is okay is the biggest positive of all.
Achilles: The running back rotation seems to be solidifying with Perkins #1, James (who had a nice game) #2 and Starks #3. We also spread the ball around nicely to a lot of different receivers last night. Wadood looks like a baller on defense. Our punt return team is a weapon in a way that it hasn't been in a long time. Fairbairn has settled down and seems pretty automatic from 35 yards and in. Would be nice if he had more range, but he's okay up close.
AHMB: Quite a lot, actually. The offensive line clicked in the second half and started to look like a capable unit. Texas has a lot of talent in their front four, and we ran the ball consistently in the second half, particularly Perkins, who looks like a solid lead back. The defense was also very active, and Wadood looks like a potential star.
JoeBruin15: The hit by Judge was amazing. I screamed when I saw it and I rewound the Tivo a few times to watch it again. Perkins was solid. But most importantly, the team seemed to start playing up to expectations in the second half. I don't know if it was everyone pulling together because Brett was hurt or what. Regardless, during the 2nd half, we looked a lot more like the elite football team we are supposed to be even if our elite QB was hurt.
4. And the negatives?
Bellerophon: Aside from Woulard not being ready (see above), the boneheaded penalties are continuing to put us in positions that are really hurting this team. I can live with penalties due to defensive aggression - sometimes those things happen. What I cannot live with is penalties due to inept coaching - there is no reason, ever, in Division I-A football, that the offensive line shouldn't know where to line up. Adrian Klemm is one of the highest paid assistants in the country - and yet his OL looks to be in total shambles, giving up more sacks than anyone other team over the past few seasons. When the star QB gets hurt trying to pick up a first down on a third-and-long that never should have been if not for a boneheaded penalty by the OL, it's seriously time for a long look in the mirror if you're the one coaching the OL.
IE Angel: Injuries. That was a terrifying game for the UCLA 2014 football season. Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson are held out, Fabian Moreau is massively limited in the 2nd half. Brett Hundley hyper-extends his elbow, Malcolm Bunche messes up his leg, our punter (who was already a backup in reality) Matt Mengel gets banged up. If none of those turn out to be serious, the Bruins dodged a huge blow through non-conference play by remaining at nearly 100% health.
Achilles: Stupid penalties. Mossi Johnson's penalty was amazingly lame. Bunche's facemask was uncalled for. Guys lining up in the wrong formation. Vanillla, bend but don't break defensive play calling. It hasn't cost us a win yet, but we haven't played anyone yet, either. We have to get more aggressive on defense.
AHMB: Hundley getting hurt is our worst nightmare. I know the early reports seem to be that he'll be back in short time, but I'm not confident in our backups long term.
JoeBruin15: Penalties. Even though there are only four listed on the final stats. There were two more that were offset. One of those cost us a huge gain of about 50 yards and what did we do to earn it? Illegal formation. The inability of our offense to line up in a straight line. If I were Coach Klemm, I'd make the guys that were in on the play line up straight once for every yard we could have gained if it weren't for the penalty or make them run a lap for every yard we didn't gain because of the penalty. That will teach them that penalties need to be avoided.
5. What needs to get fixed before the Bruins head out to Tempe to take on a tough Arizona State team that won the Pac-12 South last year?
Bellerophon: Our defense needs to get more aggressive. Sitting back and waiting for the game to come to you is not going to win a lot of games - we need to blitz and get pressure on the opposing QB. Arizona State will be starting a back-up - putting him under pressure is a sure-fire way to generate some turnovers. If the offensive line can maintain the rhythm it picked up in the second half of the Texas game, that'd be a big improvement. Finally, the penalties have got to stop.
IE Angel: The same things that needed to be addressed prior to this game. The penalties, the play calling on offense, blitz pickups on the offensive line, the ups and downs on defense (not a bad game, but there are holes).
Achilles: See above, my list of negatives. We have to clean up the penalties, protect the quarterback and play with more aggression on defense. We have the players. You can afford to blitz and take chances with Kendricks and Jack patrolling the middle of the field.
AHMB: First and foremost, we need to get healthy. We're pretty depleted at this point, and the bye week is coming at a good time. Aside from that, we need work along the offensive line and we need to generate a pass rush. I understand why the staff was willing to force Texas to make long drives, but we won't be as fortunate when we play the better offenses in the Pac-12.
JoeBruin15: It's the same stuff and it's everything everyone said above. I was particularly annoyed by one rushing play where Texas had a hole that was, well, the size of Texas for their back to run through. I said at the time that they could have driven a herd of cattle through it. I'm not sure what happened there, but we cannot afford stuff like that.
6. The extra point - fire away:
Bellerophon: I couldn't be happier for Jerry Neuheisel. The kid has worked hard every day he's been in the program, knowing he would never supplant Hundley, the anointed savior of UCLA football. If there's anyone who deserves this moment - it's him. One other thing I noticed is that Jaleel Wadood can lay down the hits - but he has a tendency to often lead with his head, which makes me worried he'll follow in the footsteps of Dietrich Riley and find his football career cut short. Someone on the coaching staff needs to help the kid work on his technique so he doesn't hurt himself laying guys out.
IE Angel: If anyone had doubts to how vital Hundley is to this team, watch the offense in the last 3 quarters of this game with emotion as removed as possible. It was horrendously bland. There might not be a more important player on any team in D1 football then Hundley.
Achilles: IE Angel is right. It's nothing we didn't know before the season: This team goes as far as Brett Hundley takes it. That said, our defense has good players who, for the most part, tackle well and play with sound fundamentals. Let's turn them loose. Look, we haven't played a really great game yet, obviously. But we've run the non-conference gauntlet of fair-to-middling teams, that included two long road trips. We obviously need to play better if we're going to have the season we all hope for and expect. But our flaws are fixable. We can make fewer penalties. We can call more aggressive plays. Jordan Payton and Paul Perkins have glimmers of being go to guys. It's not like our problem is like it was under the last two coaches when we mostly didn't have talent. If Hundley is OK, we have an NFL qb. We just need to play better.
AHMB: ASU is going to be our 3rd road game out of the first four games. There isn't another BCS program in the country that put their team through a gauntlet like Dan Guerrero scheduled by agreeing to a "neutral" site game in Texas. Does anyone else think the number of injuries we have is related to the schedule? Anyone think we're fresh going into the conference season? You can thank Guerrero for that.
JoeBruin15: Well, last week, I answered this question by saying I was in favor of them. Something else I'm in favor of is long field goals which go through the uprights. This week, Fairbairn was a perfect 2-for-2 on FG attempts and even hit one from 47 yards. He gets kudos for hitting both since we needed both to win the game and since our placekicking hasn't been the best.
That's it for this week folks. Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the Texas game as we begin gearing up for our conference opener against an Arizona State team that will be without its star quarterback. Advantage: UCLA.