clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UCLA Football: Bruins Nation's Virginia Post-Game Roundtable Discussion

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the 2014 season's opening game, a narrow 28-20 victory over a decidedly mediocre Virginia team that really worked hard to lose to UCLA, with the Bruins fortunately not drowning in their own mistakes.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

1. Our Bruins managed to escape Chancellorsville with a close 28-20 win over a Virginia team that went 2-10 last season - first impressions of the win?

Bellerophon: At the end of the day, it's a win. Karl Dorrell would have found a way to lose this game, that much I'm certain of, so I suppose we've made "progress" over the past decade. But it was a poor win - we were sloppy, our offense looked mediocre at best, and we struggled (mightily) to put away a very bad Virginia team. There are a lot of apologists out there talking up the Hoos, but ironically, they're all Bruins - even Virginia's own fans went into this season and this game expecting a five win season (with six being "vastly exceeding expectations") and to get blown out by UCLA. Last year, the Ducks came in to C-Ville and smashed Virginia - it's obvious that the Bruins are not on the same tier as a program as Oregon yet. Maybe we're getting there, maybe not, that remains to be seen.

gbruin: Honestly, that game was really disappointing. Certainly, getting the win was crucial for keeping our long term goals intact, but the team, particularly the offense and and the game planners on offense, have to do a significantly better job going forward. That level of play will get us killed by better teams. The rest of the team was good or very good yesterday, but we'll only go as far as our O line takes us. They didn't protect Hundley well and they didn't establish a consistent ground game yesterday, and smart defenses will eat up a one dimensional offense.

IslandBruin2: I thought it was a great win. We beat the point spread by scoring more than 21 points. Oh wait. We were supposed to win by 21. There were many disturbing items in this game. Most importantly to me, it looked like the coaching staff had not prepared the team in basic fundamentals for what turned out to be a close game against very mediocre competition. We knew that Jake Brendel would be iffy from the second week of preseason camp. And yet the O-line looked completely disorganized. If he gets hurt one or two days before the game, then I understand the need to shuffle with the possibility of some missteps. But that was not the case here. Either we have zero depth or we have a coaching staff which can't make adjustments. Either way, it doesn't bode well. And Hundley had happy feet in the first half, possibly because of the O-line. But he did not look better than he did last season. Aren't coaches supposed to be teachers, and have their students progress?

AHMB: My expectations for this season are high. I did not expect to start the season off laying an egg. Honestly, we should have lost that game. Virginia outplayed us and for the most part out coached us, but at the end of the game the Virginia staff really gifted us a win. We were lucky to survive week one.

chrissorr: I'm glad we live to fight another day, but I'm going to be on pins and needles all season now.  I expected a blow-out, but what really was upsetting was that we appear to have the same old issues on offense--O-line issues, penalties, dropsies, baffling play-calling, the list goes on and on.

IE Angel: I feel optimistic about some things moving forward. Brett Hundley looked like he took a big step forward in his pocket presence, the pass rush looks like it will be fine without Anthony Barr, Cassius Marsh, Keenan Graham and Jordan Zumwalt, the punting game looks like it won't be a problem. On the flipside, there is a ton to be concerned about as many have noted over the last few days. The offensive line actually looked worse than it did the past two seasons, the skill position players looked like they plateaued from 2013 to 2014 and the penalties are still as big an issue as they have been the last two seasons.

JoeBruin15: This game was a huge disappointment. I don't want to listen to excuses. I don't want to hear our coaches joking after a game like this. I'm still wondering how we went from having experience and depth on the Offensive line to having a young O Line. I don't understand how our coaches can't seem to get the penalties reigned in. Fixing these things would indicate that that we've become an elite team, but, if these problems haven't been fixed by now, I'm not sure our coaching staff will ever be able to fix them.

2.  Why do you think our Bruins came out so flat?

Bellerophon: I think it's a combination of a lot of things, mostly on the coaching staff.  Yes, it's easy to blame the players for a "lack of execution" but that's a cop-out answer - they're kids and they're not getting paid.  Ultimately, responsibility for being prepared rests on the shoulders of the very highly paid adults coaching the team.  The offensive game plan was pathetic, the OL looked to be a complete mess (with the coaches relying on the "youth" excuse after spending all summer telling us how "experienced" this OL was finally), and it's clear that the coaching staff failed to get this team up for the game.

gbruin: First game jitters were part of it, but I think it really showed just how affected these kids were by all the preseason hype. They can say all the things about how they don't worry about rankings and projections, but the penalties and especially the drops show some degree of inattention to the simple things. I think some of that has to come from the pressure of the expectations and trying to make every play huge. Hopefully with this game out of the way, and the realization of what will happen when they aren't at their best, they'll focus back on the details and fundamentals and build from there.

AHMB: Unfortunately, coming out flat has been a common theme under Coach Mora. I don't know what it is, but our players consistently start slow. Couple that with an early start time, and things get ugly. Over the past two years, we've have Lou Spanos devise some very good second half schemes that have helped us overcome the slow starts. He's in the NFL now, and it looks like we'll be relying on Coach Ulbrich to do the same.

chrissorr: I agree that we've had a history of starting slow going into the third season now. There was also possibly the perfect storm of first game jitters, early start, better than expected team, and too much hype to live up to. In the best case scenario,this was a one-off, but I'm not counting on that.

IE Angel: I don't know that I have a good answer to this question. Part coaching and game plan, part first game jitters, part buying into the hype, part injury to Jacob Brendel, part being on the road, part Virginia being improved on defense and overall talent level. There isn't one reason to pin on the poor start by the offense, plenty of blame to go around.

JoeBruin15: I think the offensive game plan was terrible and I don't think Mazzne had a clue when it came to anticipating what UVa was going to do defensively. He was clearly at a loss for words when he was asked what he didn't anticipate from the Virginia defense. It is possible that the start time along with travel fatigue could have played a part in the team coming out flat like it did. While these could have been contributing factors, it's still on the coaching staff for not having made sure the team got the rest they needed and had their heads in the game.

3.  So, in the end, we still got the win - what are the positives you see from this game?

Bellerophon: Ishmael Adams is probably the most exciting defensive back we've had since Alterraun Verner (man, I miss seeing ATV in Blue and Gold!) - the kid is a big play threat in both the punt return game and in coverage - I'm excited to see where he goes. Owa showed how much of a beast he can be and he had a great first game back after missing last season due to injury. Of course, Myles Jack is always a positive - another very good game from him. Oh, and the punting was surprisingly solid, so that's one less thing to worry about.

gbruin: The run defense was really good. Eric Kendricks is just so quietly and consistently great, even though Myles will steal all the headlines from him again this year. The whole linebacker crew had a good day yesterday, especially Kenny Young playing in his first game as a true freshman. We had some good pressure with just a standard a four man rush and Owa is awesome. I agree with B on Ishmael Adams. If not for that fluke helmet penalty, we get another 7 points from special teams. And for as bad as the offense was, Paul Perkins had a really good game. I also don't get all the criticism of Brett Hundley yesterday. Considering the porous OL, the absence of a running game, and the horrible play calling, he looked really really good. And the OL will get better when Jake Brendel returns, so there's that.

IslandBruin2: Odigjizuwa was solid, as were the linebackers. And I didn't see Doughnut on the sidelines. That always makes a game better.

AHMB: Our defense was very good for the most part. We missed a few key tackles, and we lost a lot of one on one jump balls. Those things are fixable.

chrissorr: I like the defense. Jack, Kendricks and Owa were all outstanding. We have a good one in Ish on the D and especially on returns.  Not sure why Mora is still experimenting with a returner who is not Ish.

IE Angel: Most of mine are taken already. The freshman on defense performed admirably (Zach Whitley, Jaleel Wadood, Matt Dickerson, Kenny Young and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner). Brett Hundley looked better in the pocket than he did in 2013 despite the poor play by the line.

JoeBruin15: The defense looked very good. The pass rush was there all game even though the team didn't record a sack. They were forcing the Virginia QBs to throw the ball earlier than they wanted to.

4.  And the negatives?

Bellerophon: Mazzone's inept offensive playcalling, our OL's inability to block anyone, the number of sacks Hundley took (if he gets injured, make no mistake - we are fucked), the fact that Manfro continues to get reps in this offense (based on his play yesterday and his past lackluster play - I'm dumbfounded why he's not a special teams only guy), and the lack of focus and preparedness by the players and coaches.

gbruin: Mostly offense. The OL played very poorly as a unit with guys missing stunts and delayed blitzes. It wasn't so much an individual failure as a failure of the unit. Actually, that's a bit more fixable, but it's still my biggest concern. Once again, there were too many preventable penalties (offsides, false starts, 12 men on D) and it's really depressing that this is still occurring. Ka'imi's missed FG was actually a decent kick - no hook to it this year, and angles are more easily corrected - but it sure would be nice to have a money FG kicker like Forbath and Medlock were from distance. The offensive game plan was the worst of it. Runs up the middle and making Brett a pocket passer seem the antithesis of a Mazzone offense, and it put us continually in 2nd and 3rd and long situations which just set up the big pass rush. I just don't understand what he's seeing out there.

IslandBruin2: lack of rhythm throughout the game on offense. How in the world do you get two consecutive false start penalties? 10 yards back without a snap? Really? That is clearly a lack of focus and preparation.

AHMB: One of my biggest worries coming into the season was lack of playmakers on the outside.  We have a lot of solid receivers, but I don't know if we have a real home run hitter.  Virginia repeatedly blitzed and played our receivers one on one with success. If our receivers can't win those one on one matchups, we'll be seeing that gameplan all year long.

chrissorr: I've developed Fairbairn, Manfro and O-line fatigue after three years.

IE Angel: Penalties, offensive line and their ability to deal with 5-man pressure with 5 or 6 men to protect, the interior offensive line in general (Alex Redmond played poorly at LG and that is worrisome considering how well he played in 2013), dropped passes, play-calling in key situations (that 4th and 1 QB draw was just atrocious). Pretty much the same concerns from 2012 and 2013.

JoeBruin15: The lack of adjustment on the part of the offense to count what the defense was doing. An offensive mastermind should be capable of adjusting to what the defense throws at you. Our offensive playcalling did not seem to take this into account. The continued lack of discipline leading to so many penalties was also extremely disappointing.

5. What does Mora and this staff need to address before our home opener against cupcake Memphis this Saturday?

Bellerophon: They need to get one of those Juggs machines and seriously fire off about a million balls to every receiver and tight end. The drops have to stop - it's inexcusable. The offense needs to find a way to scheme to get Hundley some protection. And for God's sake, stop forcing Hundley to sit in the pocket for the sake of sitting in the pocket - let the kid roll out and if there's nothing there, let him use his God given talent to pick up yards on the ground - this is a guy who broke a 70+ yard rushing TD on his first college play ever after all.

gbruin: Well, that "cupcake" Memphis scored 63 points yesterday. Yesterday showed there are no cupcakes. We are capable of beating anyone. But we are not entitled or guaranteed or certain to beat anyone. The team needs to forget hype and headlines and expectations and go out and simply dominate the opponent on the next play. And then on the next. And again on the next. If they do that, the scoreboard will take care of itself, and so will all those preseason predictions. Worry about the next 2 or 3 steps, and not about some vague destination 3 months away.

AHMB:  I agree with gbruin. We need to come out and play to win. In The Drive, Brett Hundley said something to the effect of "Expectations won't win a single game." It's true, and the team needs to believe it.

chrisssorr: Memphis is an opportunity to right the ship. I'm not sure I can get too excited about that game. Waiting for Texas. Getting Brendel back is big, but if we're talking about corrections, you have to wonder about the upside under Mazzone.

IE Angel: Either get Jacob Brendel and Simon Goines healthy or get a huge boost in performance from the rest of the offensive line. I expect the drops to not be as big an issue in game two because for the most part, drops haven't been a big problem for these guys in the past.

JoeBruin15: They need to be prepare the offense for defenses which choose to rush 5 or more guys because UVA has just provided a blueprint for stopping our offense.

6. The extra point - fire away:

Bellerophon: It took me a long time to understand why Bill Walton would send his kid to Arizona to play basketball, but I finally get it - if one of my kids turned out to be an elite high school QB and was offered a scholarship to play at UCLA, as much as I would love having another Bruin in the family, I'd have serious reservations about letting him play for Mazzone, so I wouldn't be surprised if Rosen re-opens his recruitment if our offensive output remains mediocre in what is supposed to be a Heisman worthy campaign for Hundley. Absent some dramatic shift in his offensive play-calling and significant improvement over the season, I think Mora should look at other offensive coordinator options. Despite what the trolls and sunshine-pumpers would have you believe, this isn't a recent problem based on just the Virginia game - if you go back through the BN archive, there's been serious reservations raised about both Mazzones and what, if anything, they bring to the program. For me, this season is his last shot to show he's worthy of being a top-level OC at an elite program - Chip Kelly, he is not.

gbruin: I said this game should be a stark wake up call, and in a way, it's fortunate we got it early and still got it with a win. How we respond will tell us a lot about this team and whether our biggest hopes stay alive, or whether we start looking at major changes in the structure of this program now (looking at you, OC).

IslandBruin2: With all the cupcake games at the start of the season in conference, it is hard to get much of a read on the rest of the teams in the conference. Washington definitely looks weaker- when a team gets ready to possibly drop football, you should be able to win by more than one point. Colorado also looks way weaker, after a nasty loss to Colorado State. So our schedule might be easier than it originally appeared. But we won't get to Levi's in December by hoping that other teams are weaker and hoping that we can continue to rack up defensive TD's. I was thoroughly disappointed in Levi's when I saw the inaugural event there (Quakes-Sounders MLS game). In particular, there is only one decent beer location on the entire first level for regular fans (i.e. not the high rollers in the suites). But that doesn't mean that I don't want to return. Based on yesterday, seeing UCLA at Levi's looks iffy (I didn't say "dead"). We need to step it up, starting with Memphis.

AHMB: I suspect that we'll drop in the rankings, which is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with a little adversity, and this team has a long season in front of them. If nothing else, they now know that they can lose to anybody. Even to a team that won two games last season.

chrissorr: Hard to think about CFB Playoffs right now, but the first thing that popped into my head in the first quarter of the Virginia game was: there will be close games, and Fairbairn may impact them negatively either directly with a bad kick or indirectly by influencing the decision to go for it or not. Besides that, I'm concerned that the O-line can't be righted and same goes for the offensive play-calling. That said, the dropsies, penalties and other nuisances will mitigate, and the stars, including Brett, will step up. I don't have faith in Mazzone, but I'm thanking my lucky stars for the defense.

IE Angel: I still don't see a way UCLA doesn't start 3-0 at the least. Memphis is actually a worse team than Virginia, certainly less talented. Texas (team can't look ahead, but I can) lost their starting QB to a concussion already and is already lacking in depth. Won't be ready to make a real evaluation of this team until after the Arizona State game on the road or the Oregon game at home. Even if UCLA drops a little in the AP poll, the only rankings that matter don't come out until October 28th. If UCLA is 8-0 at that point, they'll be in the top 5 nationally. No one will remember a sloppy week 1 win.

JoeBruin15: If you are able to come out as flat as we did and still win, you're lucky. And, sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good. This week, we are a 23.5 point favorite and we need to win this week's game convincingly. Both Texas and ASU concern me and those games should give us a better idea of what this team really looks like. If we lose one or both of those games, it could be a very long season.

That's it for this week folks.  Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the Virginia game as we begin gearing up for this weekend's battle against an even weaker Memphis team at the Rose Bowl.