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

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the 2014 season's second game, a close 42-35 victory over a Memphis program with just eight Division I-A victories over the past four years, in a game where UCLA's defense did everything it could to keep an inferior Memphis team in the game.

Harry How

1. Our Bruins managed to escape the Rose Bowl with a close 42-35 win over a Memphis team that went 3-9 last season and has just eight Division I-A wins over the past four seasons - first impressions of the win?

Bellerophon: It was great to see the offense open it up and put up points - we got 42 despite dropping an open TD in the end zone (Devin Fuller to close out the first half) and a number of other offensive miscues.  I'm not sure if that's a sign that Mazzone is finally figuring it out or if it was the result of Memphis having a very poor defense (compared to the level of competition we're used to).  The defense was weak and conservative - it was very much the conservative rush-four-only NFL mentality, which just doesn't work in the college game (unless you're a Florida State or Alabama with elite guys across the board - in which case, they're basically a NFL JV squad).  Another week, another less-than-satisfying win.  You just get the sense that an elite team (or even just a solid one, like say Southern Cal - who just jumped us in the polls) would have put Memphis down easily and walked away with a 24+ point win.

Achilles: The team doesn't look as good as I thought they'd look on offense or defense, quite frankly. That could be a function of me overrating the team as much as them playing below expectations. It's almost as if we have last year's team, just without XSF and Anthony Barr. Because our offensive line has definitely not replaced X and our pass rush is non-existent without Barr. Still, better to win than to lose.

chrissorr: I hope I don't find myself saying every week: we live to fight another day. Texas was blown out by BYU, so I'm not sure that's going to be an indicator. It's just another must win to stay alive.

AHMB:  We're not playing at a very high level right now, and we're not far away from Arizona St. Unless the team has an about face, we'll start the conference season chasing the leaders.

gbruin: The offense looked great, though they were still a bit inconsistent. The defense looked disinterested and mediocre until the end when they showed some urgency. I think it all shows one of the big problems with this team - the inability thus far to play a complete game on its own terms and to its own potential. We can only speculate as to the reason for this.

uclaluv:  It was fun to see the offense open it up. I loved seeing the long balls and Duarte and Walker getting into the swing of things. I wish Walker was in more. The run game looked a bit better and I like how they used the power lineup. But, the dropped passes were frustrating, especially when Brett was really on. The O gave him lots of time which was great. But what happened to the defense. They couldn't stop a thing until the second half. It looked like the secondary was being told to give large cushions which reminded me of the Neuheisel days. The only reason for such large cushions would be to pad the seats we were on during the interminable commercial breaks.

JoeBruin15: This was another frustrating game. The offense looked better, but I'm not sure if that was a product of them playing better or a really bad Memphis defense. It's probably a little of both. The defense looked really flat.

2.  This time the Bruins were the complete opposite of what they showed at Virginia - the offense came out guns blazing, but the defense couldn't stop anything, allowing Memphis to stay in the game all the way to the very end.  Do you think this coaching staff will find a way to put together a complete game on both sides of the ball at the same time?

Bellerophon: I don't know. From the top to the bottom, this coaching staff says all the right things and they're very likable people. Then again, so was Rick Neuheisel. They need to figure out how to be solid on both sides of the ball quickly because the tough games are coming up fast - after all, Virginia (2-10 last year) and Memphis (3-9 last year) were supposed to be the tune-up games. It's only going to get tougher from here.

Achilles: I don't know either. I'm not sure if it's the coaching or if I'm overrating the talent. I'm actually pretty disappointed in the secondary and have been two weeks in a row. But, maybe they just aren't that good. I'm just not sure if we have good talent that hasn't been playing wel or if I/we have overrated the talent.

chrissorr: When you're returning the same team, albeit minus Barr, X and others, and you have three good recruiting classes behind you, I don't understand how you appear to be worse this year. I agree with comments above. Mora is an upstanding citizen. Perhaps he turns out to be the transitional coach to put the program in a position to get an elite coach (except that DG might still be here), and then we reach the promised land. We know Mazzone -- not impressed. Is Ulbrich in over his head? Does he need more time, or is he saving it for Texas?

AHMB: I think the three defensive scores and an inept early offense masks the fact that Virginia exposed some things on our defense. Similarly, I think a few blown assignments on Memphis' part exaggerated our offensive production on Saturday. What I've seen thus far is a suspect offensive line that can't produce a running game and is vulnerable to the blitz, and a defense that consistently over pursues misdirection and play action and can't defend physical receivers.

gbruin: I'm worried, because we've been having this discussion to some degree for the better part of three years. If things were trending toward better (fewer penalties, better preparation, overall more consistent performance), I'd be more comfortable just giving it time. The problem is that we are on our third year with our best overall roster, but we're even more confused about this staff and the direction of the team than ever. I like Mora and I appreciate what he's done so far, and I want him to succeed. But I want U.C.L.A. to succeed more.

uclaluv: I really don't know how to answer. It almost depends on my mood at the time. Right now, I do think things will come together. But I have real concerns about Mazzone being able to keep the offense flowing against better defenses. I don't think Brett will have it this easy in any future games. And still he was sacked 4 times. I do have faith that the D will get it together. But enough to beat Oregon? Sorry, I don't think so.

JoeBruin15: I think everyone hits the nails on the head above. I'm not sure at this point if this coaching staff can turn things around simply because many of the problems we're seeing are problems that were there last season and two seasons ago. Penalties have been an extremely consistent issue and there has been no solution. The offensive playcalling has been a consistent issue and there has been no solution. The offensive line problems have been a consistent issue and there has been no solution. If they have not been able to solve these problems by the start of their third season, there is no reason to believe they can do it now. It's not like they have a magic switch they can flip to suddenly change any of the issues.

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

Bellerophon: Paul Perkins ran the ball well, the offense opened it up, Duarte proved he was the real deal in the passing game, and we even got a glimpse of Nate Starks (who chose to wear Jet Ski's #23). Hundley put together a solid game (except for that pick-six) and Brendel returning did a lot to help out the offensive line. As for the defense, there weren't very many (if any) positives to take away.

Achilles: Agree with the props to Perkins. I thought Hundley played well, too. He was more aggressive running the ball and did a much better job finding open receivers. I should add that we aren't turning the ball over much, that one PI returned for a touchdown excepted. I don't think our RBs have fumbled in either game, which is good.

chrissorr: Payton is the MVP so far. I also like Jack, Hundley, and Duarte.

AHMB: Hundley looks to have rebounded from his shaky start. And Kenny Clark is an animal.

gbruin: That bomb to Kenny Walker was the best deep ball Hundley has thrown at U.C.L.A., which was one of his weaknesses, so I hope we see more of that going forward. We saw how valuable Jake Brendel is to not just the OL but the entire offense. Payton is becoming the clutch go to guy on the outside. Paul Perkins is really playing well. Priest Willis is coming along at corner.

uclaluv: Again, the long balls. It's been a while since we've seen a few of them. Duarte and Walker.  Also, Starks seems to have potential. The incredibly long time Brett had to throw.

JoeBruin15: The offensive seemed better. Even though, the Memphis defense wasn't very good, this game should prove to be a confidence builder for the offense after the dismal performance against Virginia. While there weren't many positives on defense, Kenny Clark is a beast. He was making plays that a nose tackle shouldn't be making and that's a testament to Clark's play, not an indictment of the rest of the defense, even if the defense was porous most of the game.

4.  And the negatives?

Bellerophon: The defense played conservative coverage, rush-four, all night long and they made a complete unknown playing for a scrub program look like a Heisman candidate. That's the kind of defensive effort we saw during the dark days of Chuck Bullough's tenure as defensive coordinator under Neuheisel. It was a very poor effort by the defense. On the offensive side of the ball, except for Perkins, no one was able to run effectively and the drops continue to plague our receivers. I'm not sure what the hell Yarber is doing at practice because it baffles me that our guys still don't have the basic fundamentals - such as catch with your hands, not your arms or body - down yet.

Achilles: Weird wide receiver rotation, unimpressive play in the defensive secondary, Fairbairn missed an extra point for crying out loud.

chrissorr: Defensive backs are worse than advertised. What happened to sure-fire NFLer Fabian Moreau? And not one blitz? Offensive line might not be good enough this year.

AHMB: Our offensive line is still suspect, and our defense can't stay home.

gbruin: That defensive performance was just...apathetic. After a great first game, Eric Kendricks was below average and Jack didn't really do a lot until late. The D Line which looked so good was surprisingly ineffective for much of the game. I'm worried about Fairbairn's confidence now. The long miss week one was a good kick, just a slightly bad angle. Missing a PAT is just bad. And after reeling off 11 yards on first college carry, Nate Starks got one more attempt the whole game. Why?

uclaluv: Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. Especially the uncalled for ones on the o-line. The huge holes in the defense. The tackling. Missed extra point. And why aren't Walker and Starks in there more. Who ever is making personnel decisions on offense needs to be relieved of those duties.

JoeBruin15: The penalties are indicative of an overall lack of discipline, which is up to the coaching staff to instill. The baffling personnel decisions remind me of when Mazzne was asked last season why Malcolm Jones didn't get more touches after he seemed to be playing well and he had no answer. Sure, the offense played better and more points diverts attention away from the problems, but when problems remained unresolved after two full seasons, one has to start to question why and, ultimately, that responsibility lies with No-O himself. The same thing must be said for the kicking game. It's time to end the Fairbairn experiment and see what Steven Flintoff can do.

5. What needs to get fixed before the Bruins head out to Dallas for a "neutral site" game against the Texas Longhorns?

Bellerophon: The defense needs to be better about being more aggressive (read: blitz dammit!) and the offense needs to work out some of the kinks in their game. Most importantly, the Bruins need to improve their focus - both the players and coaches. We need to see a UCLA squad come out and play a complete game for 60 minutes on both sides of the ball - something we have yet to see this season.

Achilles: I almost typed this answer without reading B's answer and it's funny because I was going to say the team needs to be more aggressive in every area: offense, defense and coaching.

chrissorr: Let's hope Ulbrich opens the book for Texas.

AHMB: The biggest complaint I had on Saturday was the constant over pursuit on the defensive side of the ball.  That is a sign that the team is either playing without discipline, and that can and should be fixed immediately.

gbruin: Honestly, it's just consistency and focus and discipline. We saw good defensive play week 1 and at spots late in week 2. We saw some very good offensive play in the first half Saturday night. Just sustain that. Want it.

uclaluv: A new offensive coordinator would be nice. As I said above, someone else needs to be deciding who is in on the offense. The man who sits behind me kept saying we needed to play press coverage.  I couldn't agree more.  And as gbruin said, discipline. The penalties are a drag.

JoeBruin15; More disciplined play is a must. Each penalty yard earns you a lap. Start running. More defensive pressure on an inexperienced Texas QB and O-Line is a must. Get aggressive on defense. On offense, run more read option and let Hundley be Hundley.

6. The extra point - fire away:

Bellerophon: Watching us flail away and struggle to put away a very mediocre Memphis team (3-9 last season, just eight Division I-A wins in the past four years) that could only claim a win over Division I-AA Austin Peay (0-12 last year, with 11 out of the 12 losses being by 24+ points - in short, one of the, if not the, worst team in Division I-AA last year) reminded me a lot of our inability to put away San Jose State in 2011.  People talked about how SJSU was "up and coming" and "improving" (just like they did in the post-game against Memphis), when the reality is we simply played flat and down to the opponent (SJSU finished the year 5-7 in 2011).  Is this the road we're going down in Mora's third year?  Or will they get it turned around?

Achilles: Like I wrote above and like I'll likely write again later in the week, I'm not sure if we're a good team playing poorly or just an average team playing to the level of our opponents. I went into the season really believing in our talent on defense and questioning our talent on offense, except at quarterback. But maybe our talent level just isn't that great. Don't misunderstand, it's better than the talent at Virginia and Memphis, but maybe it's just not as good as I/we all thought. I guess I still need to say more. You know, we had a good team last year. We lost a few key players, but so did everyone else. Did we just not have any guys who could step in for Barr, Marsh, X and Evans? I don't know yet.

chrissorr: Why is Mazzone using Sweet and Scott? What happened to Mossi Johnson? I'm concerned that even if everything else gets fixed, the special teams are a disaster. That's enough to prevent us from winning the PAC-12 South.

AHMB: It's funny that Bellerophon brought up the San Jose St. game. I thought the same thing while I was watching us play Memphis. IIRC, San Jose St. even busted a long TD run on a 4th and short. Things need to change fast. Coach Mora talked about a culture change in the program, and it's time to show that things have changed.

gbruin: I still don't know who this team is, and with Texas really struggling, this next game may not provide any answers either. We're right to be upset with the inconsistent play so far, right? Mora said the same things right after the first game himself. I really think the bright lights of all the national attention got to this team - not that they got arrogant or lazy, but that they didn't really know how to keep it from affecting them. I'm still hoping this team will settle down and focus and just play their game. And I hope for world peace, too.

uclaluv: I don't want to focus on the refs, we have enough of our own problems. But in both games it seemed so clear that our rushers were being held in the back field. I do wish that would be called every now and then. In one game, two hands were holding Owa's arm as he tried to get to the qb. This last game, someone had a hold of one of our guy's jerseys. It was stretched out at least a foot and ended up being torn.  It's time for Larry Scott to do something about the terrible refs. And as gbruin said, I too hope for world peace.

JoeBruin15: The extra point? I'm in favor of them. That's why someone other than Fairbairn needs to be attempting them. Seriously, Texas got thrashed by BYU. We need to go into Dallas and put the Longhorns away early like the Niners did to the Cowboys on Sunday. That's the only way to eliminate the home crowd the Longhorns will have. This is not a neutral site game.

That's it for this week folks. Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the Memphis game as we begin gearing up for this weekend's battle against a reeling Texas Longhorns team at "neutral site" AT&T Stadium just outside of Dallas.