Another Saturday, another half-hearted effort by the UCLA football team - this time they managed to barely squeak by a Memphis program that has just eight wins over Division I-A opponents in the past four seasons. Yes, eight wins over Division I-A opponents in four seasons - in short, they are not a good program, not by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, there will be people who will come up with ridiculous justifications for barely beating a joke program - maybe someone will make another Virginia-Oklahoma State comparison and place Memphis up there with Michigan State - after all, Oregon struggled for a while against the Spartans today, so it's totally okay that UCLA barely, just barely, beat a program in absolutely pitiful shape.
So, when someone tells you that Memphis has a "good offense" that won their last game 63-0, just remember that they beat up on Austin Peay, a Division I-AA team, that went 0-12 last year, losing 11 of those 12 by 24 or more points. So yeah, Memphis carving up Austin Peay is sort of like what happened when you tried to get in one of those pick-up games at Wooden Center against Russell Westbrook or Arron Afflalo or Darren Collison - it wasn't even fair (but hey - you could always tell your kids that Russell Westbrook literally jumped over you to dunk on you).
On paper, it should have been the same for UCLA today, with the Bruins coming in as 24 point favorites. At home, against a pitiful program with eight wins over Division I-A opponents in four years, everything was set up for UCLA to come out on fire, take a commanding lead, and give Woulard some meaningful game reps in the fourth quarter as the Bruins cruised to victory.
Instead, UCLA came out and were once again unable to put together a complete game. While last week's slim win was due to the defense being stout (with the help of some boneheaded errors by Virginia's inexperienced QB), today the Bruins got by because Brett Hundley and the UCLA offense were able to keep up in the shoot-out with Memphis - with the exception of the pick-six gift to Memphis, Brett put together a complete game in the air, making short, intermediate, and deep throws (and would have an even better stat line if his receivers could hold on to the ball, especially when they're in the end zone). But on the defensive side of the ball, it was the kind of joke game that made most Bruins wonder if Chuck "Bend and Break" Bullough had returned to the Rose Bowl to call the defense for the Bruins. To Ulbrich's credit (the very little there is after this sorry effort), the Bruins defense put it together in the fourth quarter when it counted the most. But when your defense is making Memphis look like Oregon, you need to take a real long, hard look in the mirror.
Maybe Jim Mora is trolling the entire college football universe - lulling everyone into a false sense that the Bruins are back to their old ways - playing inconsistent football, playing down to their opponents, missing tackles, and making previously unheard-of-QBs look like Heisman candidates - before we come out guns blazing when it counts against Arizona State in the conference opener.
In the end, it's a win - a butt-ugly win in a game where the Bruins should have throttled their opponent. While last week's close win over a bad Virginia program was explained away by some as an aberration (due to any number of kind-of-lame excuses, such as the time difference, the environment, the humidity, etc.), this victory - a second consecutive slim win over very poor opposition - is looking more and more like the beginning of a worrying trend. And with Texas getting absolutely crushed by BYU, 41-7, it doesn't look like next week's "neutral" site game in Dallas is going to be the litmus test many thought. We might not know whether these Bruins are for real until they head down to Tempe in nearly three weeks' time. If you're a hardcore sunshine pumper and you're looking for a silver lining - our punting game looked pretty solid, so there's that .
Let's just hope the coaches figure out how to get it going - we learned this weekend that Southern Cal isn't going to roll over and Oregon is the real deal - if we play like this against either of those teams, we'll get stomped. There's a lot of work these guys need to do.