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

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the second game of the 2015 season in which UCLA completely dominated UNLV, 37-3.

David Becker/Getty Images

1. How do you rate Rosen’s performance against UNLV?

gbruin: On its own, it was pretty decent, maybe a B. If you asked me before the season if I would have been happy with that performance against UNLV in the true freshman’s second start, I think I’d have taken it. It obviously didn’t look that good when you compare it to Week 1 because that performance was just so outstanding, but in a vacuum, it was ok, especially for the first road game. Our receivers didn’t have their best collective game, and the INT came when our RB whiffed on a blitz, so the passing game as a whole wasn’t so good, but I thought Josh was fine.

Bruinette88: 1. There was a pretty substantial drop-off in Josh's performance from week 1 to week 2. Fair or not, Rosen will be judged by the standard he set in his debut. On that basis, I'd give him a C+ for the UNLV game.

IE Angel: Probably a B as well. If nothing else, this contest showed the gap between what Josh Rosen is capable of and what Jerry Neuheisel is capable of. Some overthrows by Rosen popped up, but I am more confident that he will correct those issues than I would be if he were appearing to be mentally phased by the jump in the speed of play from high school to college. First road game was a win and he rebounded well from his first collegiate interception. Positives far outweigh any issues thus far. Certainly looks better than Everret Golson at FSU, Jeremy Johnson of Auburn, or Vernon Adams at Oregon thus far (although there is no comparison between Michigan State’s defense and UNLV’s).

orlandobruin: I give Josh a B minus. If this had been his first game, I would have rated him higher. His performance last week has raised the bar in my mind and he slipped a bit from last week.That is to be expected from a true freshman in his first road game, even against a seemingly weaker opponent than Virginia.

Joe Piechowski: I agree with orlandobruin. He earned a B- for this game.

2. UCLA committed nine penalties for 80 yards against UNLV. Are you concerned that penalties will again prove to be a Bruin bugaboo?

gbruin: I’m always concerned about the Bruins and penalties, although the flags didn’t stand out so much as drive killers on offense or drive extenders on defense this week. The penalties haven’t felt as overwhelming as they did the last couple years, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Bruinette88:Yeah, I'm concerned about the fact that through two games, we are picking up penalties and penalty yards at almost exactly the same rate as in 2014.

2014 average - 8 penalties/game & 75.3 penalty yards/game

2015 average - 8 penalties/game & 77.5 penalty yards/game

Two games is a small sample, but for those of us anxious to see improvement in this area, there's no evidence so far that things are going to be different in 2015. Also, Myles Jack picked up another pair of really stupid penalties. That's not a good sign going into a game against a team like BYU.

IE Angel: Not concerned at all on my end. I have 100% come to terms with the reality that the UCLA football team will end up with at least 70 yards of penalties in every football game that they play. Will there be games that it hurts, certainly. Will there be games like this where the penalties are basically just a small speed bump to a victory, certainly. But something in the vicinity of 9 penalties for 80 yards is just what is going to happen on a weekly basis.

orlandobruin: I was at the game and I really didn’t notice the penalties as much as I did watching on TV last season. Aside from the two Myles Jack horse-collaring penalties last week, none this season have stood out to me as extending opponents’ drives on  3rd down stops or were blatant UCLA "drive-killers." Those were the kind we saw repeatedly in the past under Coach Mora. 9 penalties for 80 yards (7 for 75 yards last week) is an improvement over last season, when I recall double-digit penalties and triple-digit yardage on a regular basis. Of course, this is a small sample size; a few bad games penalty-wise could take UCLA back where they were in past seasons.

Joe Piechowski: What I noticed from my seat was how many apparent penalties were not called. I'm guessing that it was likely a Mountain West crew, but, wherever they came from, they sure weren't interested in calling PI as much as the Pac-12 officials. There were multiple times when receivers were hit prior to the arrival of the ball which went unflagged. If this had been our trusty, flag-happy Pac-12 officials, we would have seen a lot more penalties called against both teams, possibly as many as double.

3. We saw Myles Jack return a kickoff against UNLV. He may return more kicks this season, but in your opinion, should he be returning kicks?

gbruin: No. No no no no no. Hell no. NOOOO!!! The risk is not remotely worth the gain.

Bruinette88: I can't understand the logic behind having Myles Jack return kicks. The drop-off at linebacker between Myles Jack and a backup inside linebacker has to be much greater than any drop-off at kick returner between Jack and Fuller, or for that matter, any of the other possible kick returners. I'd like to see Steven Manfro returning kickoffs as soon as he's back to full health, and I'd prefer to see Myles Jack focus exclusively on playing linebacker and adding some much-needed discipline to his game.

IE Angel: This has now happened on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half in back-to-back weeks. If that is all that it is, I am not that concerned. Just on a yes or no level: no, I do not think he should be back returning kickoffs. The idea and experience of having arguably the most athletic player in the NCAA running back kickoffs is exciting as hell, but I want Myles Jack playing close to every snap on defense and nothing else.

orlandobruin: I can see the debate on both sides, especially the argument for not returning kicks based on what happened to EDV. Myles is not returning kicks regularly, so I personally do not think it is a huge issue. Playing devil’s advocate...was this even a debate back when guys like Tim Brown or Rocket Ismail regularly returned kicks? They were their respective teams’ stars and, at around 6’0", 190 lbs., each was smaller in stature than the 6’1", 225 lb. Jack. Or, closer to home, I seem to recall that we UCLA fans celebrated Maurice (Jones) Drew returning punts and kicks, right? He was pretty important to UCLA’s success.

Joe Piechowski: I'm concerned about this sentiment I'm hearing from people all over the place who appear to be scared of an injury happen. What happened to EVD was not really preventable. If it didn't happen while he was on offense, it most certainly would have happened either later in the game while on defense, in practice or the next game. If his ACL was going to blow, it was going to blow. In fact, even if his knee locked up on him as has been widely reported and keeping him out of the remainder of the game would have prevented him from getting hurt in the game, he was still likely looking at season-ending surgery. Why?

Because it's the ACL. The ACL will not heal itself. It needs to be reconstructed using tendons from another part of the body or a cadaver.

Are you really going to say we should keep our best guys off the field because they MIGHT get hurt?

4. Do you feel better about UCLA’s running game after the UNLV game?

gbruin: Some, mostly just from the confirmation that it looked strong this weekend, though I wasn’t that overly concerned after week one. Virginia obviously committed to stopping the run which opened up the passing game, and then the run game looked better when Virginia had to be honest. Getting Nate Starks back was a boost this weekend as well, and I think he and Bolu Olurunfunmi will add that short yardage power role we need. I do wish they hadn’t shown the Wildcat look with Soso Jamabo, as they didn't need it on Saturday, and it won’t be as much of a surprise for future opponents. It’s a good wrinkle, but I’d prefer we saved it for a better situation.

Bruinette88: I saw what I expected from the run game against UNLV: UCLA runners gashed UNLV's defense for nearly 6 yards per rush, which is twice the rushing average from week 1. It's great to see our depth at running back too. Perkins, Starks, and Olorunfunmi all looked good against UNLV.

IE Angel: I agree with gbruin, I wasn’t all that worried after the UVA game. The passing game was so effective in Week 1 that it made it tough to get enough carries for the running game to be flashy. It was more of a counter-punch to what Rosen was doing in week one. The 47 carries this week made it clear that the running game was the jab in the game plan against the UNLV Rebels. Paul Perkins looked solid, as did all of the other backs that got touches. I was also impressed by how comfortable Kolton Miller looked at right tackle once he got extended reps with the first team.

orlandobruin: Agree with gbruin and IE. Not worried. Perkins was a beast after having a relatively average game against UVa. Starks was back and looked very good. Olorunfunmi was very solid again. Jamabo had a worse game than the UVa game. This is the beauty of having such a wealth of talent at RB. UCLA is going to be fine at RB this season.

Joe Piechowski: I'm not concerned about the running game. Perkins, Starks, Bolu and Soso will take care of things in conjunction with the offensive line.

5. I know it’s still early in the season, but based on what you’ve seen so far, how does UCLA’s defense compare to Bruin defenses of the Mora era?

gbruin: It’s just two games and the opposing offense didn’t look that impressive, but you have to like it. The starting D has given up 9 points and no touchdowns in 6 quarters, and the lone touchdown was in garbage time on a very short field. The biggest thing is that the defense seems to improve as the game progresses which makes me think that the defensive coaching staff is prepared and able to adjust to what the opposing offense is doing, which is something we didn’t see consistently last season. I do hope we’ll see some more pressure on the pass rush, but the whole approach from the system to game day tactics to execution is an upgrade.

Bruinette88: Through two games, the defense has looked awfully good, and I can see this unit becoming the best defensive team of the Mora era. Statistically, a couple of numbers really stand out:

  • The Bruins are holding opponents to a 21% third down conversion rate (14th nationally).
  • UCLA is allowing an average of just 9.5 points per game (11th nationally).

Again, it's only been two games against two relatively weak opponents, but I'm excited to see how good this defense will be when we start playing Pac-12 games.

IE Angel: I have been impressed as hell with the defense thus far. They have played two games against bad offenses (apologies to UVA and UNLV, but that’s reality) and made both look like bad offenses from start to finish. Tough to argue with the numbers, an extraordinarily nitpicky person could complain about the lack of pressures resulting in sacks and TFLs. I tend to be one of those people (think that is the coach’s son in me) but cannot find it in me to do so at this point. Tom Bradley, Scott White, Demetrice Martin and Angus McClure are doing a fantastic job and the depth of the defense is shining through.

orlandobruin: Again, this is a very small sample size and I don’t want to get too excited about beating two winless teams. I previewed both the UVa and UNLV offenses and both were very similar. Subpar in the running game, one All-American type receiver, and some experience at quarterback. The QB dynamic changed for UNLV when Blake Decker went down after throwing 6 passes. Kurt Palandech, who mostly ran the ball against Northern Illinois in week one, was 4 of 15 against UCLA, for 4 yards. So, the Bruins were not facing high powered offenses, to say the least. That having been said, the defense has performed well even against the lesser competition. Talk to me after we play the Arizona schools.

Joe Piechowski: gbruin is fond of saying the offensive line wins games. Well, defense wins championships. This defense is every bit the monster I thought it would be. The first team defense still has not given up a TD in two games and the team has still only given up one TD in eight quarters. This week will be a good test as we start heading towards conference play.

6. What did you think of the performance of the defensive line in the absence of Eddie Vanderdoes?

gbruin: It was good, though with the backup QB for UNLV in the game, the Rebels’ offense was very one dimensional, which gave our D line a distinct advantage. I haven’t looked at the individual stats but I heard Eli Ankou’s and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Matt Dickerson’s names a lot on Saturday night, and it’s hard to beat a shutout through 3 quarters.

Bruinette88: I thought the defensive line held up well without Vanderdoes, and of course all of the players getting extra snaps now are only going to get better over the course of the season. For what it's worth, Ankou led the Bruins with 2 TFLs, and Dickerson, JTM and Ankou were active and effective.

IE Angel: Matt Dickerson and Eli Ankou flashed throughout the game in person. JTM (think that abbreviation lends itself to an easy nickname) popped more than I expected on the rewatch. Lots more double teams for Kenny Clark can be expected all season. Overall, it was a good game. How much of that was due to the massive difference in raw ability will be seen in future contests, but against UNLV every defensive lineman that went out there played a positive game.

orlandobruin; Outstanding. Ankou played a lot and, physically, I think he is most like EDV. McKinley played well too. We have some younger talent with different skill sets than EDV in Dickerson and Tuioti-Mariner. The competition is going to ramp up starting next week and keep ramping up, so we will see how they do against better offensive lines going forward.

Joe Piechowski: The defensive line was outstanding, but big props go out to Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. I kept hearing his name being called all night long.

7. The extra point - final thoughts?

gbruin: Did I make it clear that putting Myles Jack back to return kicks is just a really horrible idea? This is the one decision the coaches have made with respect to personnel usage which is totally unacceptable. I think it’s fine and even valuable with running (note: running, not throwing deep) our base tempo offense with the third and fourth teamers in garbage time until the gun sounds. I’m mostly okay with using some defensive players in the jumbo package in short yardage situations (though I think we could do as well with some of the 2nd and 3rd string DL like Carl Hulick or Najee Toran in place of Kenny Clark). But putting our best and most athletic linebacker deep to return kickoffs is reckless and foolhardy. It’s coaching malpractice. If you guaranteed me he would return every other kick for a touchdown, I’d still say no. If we really need to do something more with Myles, get him to tackle through the body with his shoulders and wrap up instead of just reaching high on ball carriers.

Bruinette88: The kickoff and punt coverage units have been absolutely superb. Again, let me throw a few supporting numbers at you:

  • UCLA is holding opponents to an average of - 2 yards per punt return (4th nationally).
  • The Bruins are holding opponents to an average of 13 yards per kickoff return (8th nationally).

Those stats are based on an incredibly small sample size, but UCLA's special teams coverage units have been special so far.

IE Angel: The UCLA Bruins football team has looked like one of the best teams in the country for the first two weeks of the season. They played against a mediocre team and a below average teams, but so have the majority of teams and most have shown a lot more chinks in their armor than UCLA. BYU might be the most physical team that UCLA plays all season, so Saturday will be a much different test and more relevant to the Pac-12 slate. The Bruins should have no problem, as they are superiorly athletic and in talent-level.

orlandobruin: The next three games are going to be the litmus test for me. If UCLA can beat BYU at home, Arizona in the desert, and ASU at home, and stay relatively injury-free during that stretch, the Bruins could be a play-off contender. I know, I know, UCLA plays at Stanford the following week and they have been Mora killers in the past but, for some reason, I think the Bruins will exorcise that demon this season.

Joe Piechowski: I cannot stress enough the importance of what this team is doing on defense. It's the play of the defense that really had me wanting to get some money down on UCLA to win the CFP before I left Vegas, but the proposition was off the board when I tried to place it on Sunday. This week's odds are now down to 22/1 from 33/1. The offense can run whatever three plays Noel Mazzone has decided to call for next week as long as Tom Bradley has the defense prepared and ready.