I don't know about you but I’m still jittery after that epic game. We laughed. We cried. Now, it’s time to think!
Here are some questions and answers for this week’s Bruins Nation BYU Postgame Roundtable.
A special thank you to bcbruin for serving as this week’s guest panelist on the BYU postgame Roundtable. I know I can speak on behalf of the entire Bruins Nation team when I say we were all excited and honored to have bcbruin participate with us.
1. I think it is only fair to kick off this roundtable by talking about our defense. What did you think of Coach Scrap’s (Tom Bradley) "bend-but-don’t-break" defense? Was it "more of the same" or was it somehow different than the previous versions Bruins fans are familiar with?
bcbruin: I think there is a world of difference between Coach Scrap and Ulbrich. Scrap constantly makes adjustments to his schemes based on situation, on what the other team has been doing, and on personnel available. Ulbrich never adjusted, or if he did, I sure as hell don't remember it. The "bend but don't break" defense was certainly there in the 3rd and 4th quarters, but it was there because the defense was depleted and worn down. It was an adjustment, and a very necessary one under the circumstances IMO. The defense, after BYU's first series was very aggressive in the 1st half, and that aggression prevented the three turnovers and the recovered onside kick (I still think the guy who recovered it had a foot out of bounds at the time, but that's water under the bridge) from turning into a massive point deficit from which we could not have recovered. BYU got 3 points from our 4 miscues in the first half. But, by the 2nd half, time of possession and injuries was a huge issue, particularly against an offensive line that was bigger than our defense. Scrap had no choice but to go into "bend but don't break" mode in the second half based on the personnel he had left -- but in BYU's final series, when the game was on the line, Fabian Moreau hobbled back in and allowed him to make more aggressive calls again, which he did -- to very good results.
orlandobruin: This was the best quarterback and receiving corps that the Bruins have faced all season. Compound that with the defense being on the field for ⅔ of the game, losing our best tackler in the 2nd or 3rd minute of the game, multiple injuries to the secondary, and one very short field (due to the second Rosen pick). Still, the Bruins only allowed two touchdowns. I know that a lot of folks were complaining about giving up the cushion on the WRs in the second half, but the alternative was potentially getting beaten deep with a third stringer at one corner and a safety at the other corner. Also, the SPTRs missed about 5 holding calls on left tackle, Ryker Mathews (#76), who held Deon Hollins all night long. If those calls are made, IMHO, the game is not as close as it was. So, I think that the defense did just fine, considering those circumstances. In Scrap we trust.
beer&math: I wrote this question partially inspired by the comments during the gamethread, however, I don’t think think the "bend-but-don’t-break" defense is the same as in past regimes. Here’s why. It was strategically implemented by Coach Bradley to lure the BYU quarterback into a false sense of comfort. I get the feeling Bradley was fine with the yards and the TOP since he knew his players would clamp down in the redzone. I can’t prove this, but maybe IE (or someone else) can. Given that they were out there nearly the entire game, they looked very strong and conditioned and only looked tired in the 4th Quarter. Coach Mora has definitely stockpiled depth in the defensive side of the ball and it showed against a very tough opponent last Saturday night.
uclaluv: This defense is different in every way to recent UCLA defenses. Part of it is having an extremely experienced DC that knows how to mix it up. He spoke about it in his press conference...giving different looks. You could see it in practice, a great of time was spent working with the linebackers and the secondary together working on different sets. I don’t recall seeing that before. I don’t think the Cougars knew what was coming at them. This defense can do complex things. They can go beyond the basic three sets or whatever the number of sets Ulbrich ran with them was. It is fun to watch. And while I was frustrated by the cushion, the cushion was more the exception than the rule, at least as far as I could tell. Fisher gave a cushion, but given his lack of experience, a cushion was probably the smart thing. It was great to see him, and others, out there getting important experience. Figure in the different schemes, the intelligent assertiveness, and the incredible depth … this d is something to contend with. I love the depth on the d (and actually at most positions). Even with Eddie out, the d is solid. In previous years, one loss on either side of the ball, and the Bruins would be attempting to find pieces to fill in the puzzle. This is no longer the case. The Bruins defense brings depth and talent at every position. And the guys seemed really prepared - they knew what the heck they were doing.
Bruinette88: Coach Bradley seems to be flexible in his approach. In my opinion, that’s the sign of an excellent coach. So far Coach Bradley has done a terrific job of adapting his tactics to the available personnel, the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent, and the game situation. This year’s defense looks much better equipped to deal with adversity than previous editions.
Joe Piechowski: This defense is incredible. Through three games, the first team defense has still only allowed two touchdowns. It's night and day to last season. It's even better than Lou Spanos' defenses. Spanos was very good at making halftime adjustments. So his defenses would come out and be stingier in the second half than the first. Bradley's defense has so far been stingy in both halves, meaning that Bradley either really knows how to prepare the defense for the first half, is not waiting until halftime to make adjustments or both. I have a feeling it's both.
2. Josh Rosen was noticeably shaky in the first half throwing three interceptions (two completely ill-advised). Yet, he came back calm in the second half and showed every bit of his 5* ranking with some superb timely throws in the face of some serious adversity. How would you grade his performance?
bcbruin: Can we rate him by halves? Gotta give him a "D" for the first half -- and maybe that's generous -- but he gets a "B" from me for the second half. Can't really give him more than that as he only had one drive in which it was really on him to shine, but shine he did, finishing with a perfect throw to Payton. But for the rest of that half it was again the defense and running game that carried us, and while I can be grateful that he eliminated the problems of the first half, I can't give him an "A" for a second half in which he only looked like 5* Rosen for one series.
orlandobruin: Josh gets a C- from me. That is a combination of an F in the first half (5-15, 0 TDs, 3 INTs) and a B+ in the second half (6-8, 1 TD, 0 INTs). I don’t think anyone will argue with the F in the first half, not even Rosen himself. Josh gets the "plus" in the second half because of his (and the offensive line’s) refusal to come out of the game on 4th and short for a chip shot field goal. Perkins pounded out the first down, and UCLA ended up scoring a TD on that drive. He does not get an A because he wasn’t the prime mover and shaker of the offense in the second half, like he was in the UVa game.
beer&math: I teach at a fancy liberal arts college where we don’t give grades. So, I won’t give him a grade rather a reflective piece. Yes, Josh made tons of n00b-mistakes I simply didn’t expect from him given all the talk about his IQ. Yet, I can’t help but look at the singular moments where the pulled it together and made the few plays he needed to make (ie Payton’s TD throw) to help the team earn a victory. The running game was so strong, like ridiculously strong, and the defense was strong, like ridiculously strong, that all it took was just a few error-free plays from Rosen. And he delivered shaking off that terrible first half-plus.
uclaluv: So first you ask us to grade him and then you say you don’t give grades? As a teacher, I hate giving grades. I always said I take half the pay if I could forego this whole process. I mean there is so much to factor into grades. But in football, somehow it seems easier. I’ll go with the C. It would have been a D, but I think how you do in the second half matters more than in the first, especially at the beginning of the season. I think Mora was spot on when he spoke about how Josh probably thought he could do things on this field that he could do on a high school field. Stepping up to a different level forces new kinds of decision making on a talented athlete. Josh learned that he can’t get away with the same kinds of magic he could in high school. In the second half, he seemed to have learned the lesson. The throw to Payton was perfect. He made better decisions. And throughout it all, he looked poised (even when passing into triple coverage). After listening to his press conference, I’m guessing he gave himself a D. But as a teacher, I could see the learning curve happening, so he gets a C from me.
Bruinette88: As before, I’m grading Rosen according to the standard he set in week 1. On that basis, he earned a C- against BYU. He can do better—a lot better. At the end of the season, if this game represents Josh’s worst performance, then the Bruins will be in great shape.
Joe Piechowski: I was surprised to hear Mora say he told him at halftime that he wasn't going to pull him because he earned a D- for the first half. To his credit, he earned a B- for the second half. That averages out to a C- overall.
3. On that note: there was lots of talk about the dirty play from BYU in their previous games. What did you see from the BYU players versus UCLA? What about UCLA?
bcbruin: I am not as good as most of you at spotting all the holding. The conventional wisdom is that there is holding on every play, and if that's true the question becomes at what point the holding becomes sufficiently egregious to where it's called, or should be called. Most of the time, I can only spot the difference when it's extremely egregious, and I didn't see to much of that. But really, what we were fearing before the game was a multitude of cheap shots from both teams. We didn't see that. Well, I didn't see that. Maybe some of you did. Perhaps, though I didn't really believe that Kenny Young was trying to stick his elbow out and clock Magnum, I think the refs might have used the occasion to send a message to both teams on cheap shots -- and if that was the case, it was a good call because the game was mostly clean from that point on.
orlandobruin: I was one of those who highlighted BYU’s "extracurricular activities" in my previews of the Cougar offense, defense, and in the Pregame Guesses. Tip of the cap to BYU, they played a clean, yet physical game. No brawls, cheap shots to the knees, or nut punches. Conversely, UCLA’s Kenny Young took a very cheap shot at Tanner Mangum and was lucky that his helmet missed Mangum’s (Young was flagged because of the intent to target and his shoulder pad did indeed contact Mangum’s helmet). The SPTRs made the right call in ejecting Young. Hopefully, Young will learn that this type of play is not acceptable.
uclaluv: I think the BYU coach got his players under control. I think he needed to, given all the publicity about the dirty play. I love it when bad things get exposed. It makes it more difficult to continue those bad things, especially when those things are being broadcast. I also was proud of Myles Jack. Whether there were dirty things or not going on out there from the BYU side, Myles kept it together. Before the game I thought the historical dirty play of BYU might provide the challenge to Myles and others to keep their cool. They did. I guess I didn’t think Kenny Young would also have needed a talking to. But, I agree with bc here. I didn’t see in Kenny’s play an intent to target the guy. One could argue that his intent was to not hit the guy, otherwise he would have pounded him. Even though he got ejected from the game, I was really glad he avoided the harmful hit.
Bruinette88: It was a physical game, but there weren’t the kind of incidents that we’d seen in BYU games recently. That said, Kenny Young deserved to be ejected even though it didn’t look to me like there was intent to target Tanner Magnum.
beer&math: It starts with Kenny Young’s shocking ejection which was deserved IMO. There was no reason for him to go towards their QB when he was already sliding whether the intent to go for his head or not. This set the tone for the game and curtailed any egregious extra-curriculars I think. However, I did see a few plays from BYU I didn’t like. I’m going from memory here since I don’t have a DVR anymore :( Early in the game when Rosen overthrew Payton on 3rd down, I saw a BYU player go straight for Payton’s knees, eerily similar to the deplorable play versus a Nerbraska player in Week 1. I feel Payton saw him and it gave him just enough fear to barely miss the catch. That’s basically it for the "dirty plays" until the we got in victory formation. There was overall chippiness from both sides but nothing you don’t see on regular basis on basically any football game. From UCLA, besises Young I didn’t see anything (Bruin colored glasses maybe). Even Myles Jack seemed like he was completely consicous of his actions and didn’t do anything boneheaded (and, the results were awesome with his hero INT). It might have looked that way since we was exaggerating his actions (the putting his hands in the air with the "I didn’t do anything" look) after a play but he played a great game. Kudos to the coaches for getting into Jack’s head..for at least one game.
Joe Piechowski: I think the officials decided before the game that they weren't going to lose control of the game and, as a result, they called it pretty tightly, at least, as far as the bigger fouls go. They seemed to allow a lot of holding to go uncalled, but, in general, you can probably call holding on most plays. I think the call on Kenny Young was a direct result of the officials calling the game big stuff tightly.
4. With our running game seemingly unstoppable (#Perkinator4Heisman anyone?), who is to blame for going away from it for a couple of drives in the second quarter? How do you feel Noel Mazzone called the game?
bcbruin: I felt the deep ball on first down was a good call in that situation. I think after running successfully on first down several time in a row, the linebackers and safeties move up into the box and you have to take a shot downfield to keep them honest and move them back again for the run game to continue working, which is what Mazzone was doing. I believe someone mentioned that the defense had a run blitz on for that play, and there was little pressure on Rosen. Was it Payton he threw it to? Whoever it was, he was covered one on one and Rosen threw a good ball that was very close to being caught. Overall, I thought Mazzone called a good game. Not all of it worked, but the play calling throughout the game sets up what gets called in the 4th quarter, and there is no doubt that the 4th quarter play calls were solid and that they worked -- both on the drive with Rosen passing and the drive with Starks running. We tend to think that if those plays worked at that point that's what he should have been doing all day long, but I don't think it works like that. Some plays have to be called to set up certain expectations by the defense that you later counter by exploiting those expectations. I think that's what we got in the 4th quarter.
orlandobruin: Mazzone gets the blame. But he also gets credit for going with the hot hand(s) in the second half. Our O line really wore down BYU’s defensive front, and it showed on the last drive:
Pass to Payton for 9
Perkins rush for 7(first down)
Perkins rush for 4
Starks rush for 31 (first down)
Starks rush for 22 (first down)
Starks rush for 4Starks rush for 3 (touchdown)
uclaluv: I guess I don’t really blame Mazzone for not calling more runs. However, I do think it would have been good for him to mix it up more in the beginning to help Josh get more comfortable and confident. Joey Kaufman had an interesting article on Sunday about the play calling. He noted that in the Virginia game, the play calling really helped Rosen get his game going. He mixed up short and long passes, for instance. Kaufman says that he thinks Mazzone should have stuck with this kind of play calling, but instead has kind of thrown Josh into the deep end too quickly. Instead of going with the high percentage pass plays, that really helped Josh in game one, he moved on to the kind of play calling you might give a more experienced quarterback. I also still wonder about personnel decisions. Perkins did get tired in the first half and I was surprised to see Soso Jamabo out there so much, instead of Nate Starks and Bolu Olorunfunmi. Olorunfunmi has shown he can be a powerful back, with speed, and I thought he was a better fit for the physical team the Bruins were up against. Yet I didn’t see him. Looking at the stats sheet from the official site, it looks like Olorunfunmi actually had zero carries. I think that’s odd. Prior to this game he had rushed for an average of 6.8 yards per carry.
Bruinette88: I’m more inclined to criticize Mazzone when the game plan is ill-considered rather than when a series of plays don’t work. On any given play, it’s really difficult to separate judgment of the play itself from the execution of the play. To make a fair and reasonable judgment about play calling, you need more than a dozen plays to consider. Overall, I thought Mazzone called an okay game. If I were grading him, I’d give him a C.
beer&math: Where do I start? I’ll look inward first. I’m a little bit crazy during the game threads, mostly since I’m just trying to have fun and not cry when things go bad. I don’t know who is to blame, honestly. I think the INTs were on Rosen and not Mazzone since Rosen’s responsible for making the decisions on the action plays. But, I firmly stand my ground when I say we should have just ran the ball, period. I only remember BYU stopping a RB for less than 3 yards once with Soso in the game. That’s it. I really think this was a keep doing the same thing until proven otherwise. If so, this could have been a blow-out. As a remark, this also shows my confidence with the OL and their physicality. They really didn’t back down.
Joe Piechowski: Mazzone's play calling is certainly suspect. There's been no change in my opinion on that. That said, I do think that he made the right halftime adjustments. He seemed to dial back what he was asking Rosen to do in response to the three interceptions. But, after Perkins racked up 99 yards in just the first quarter, I also think that he should have kept pounding the crap out of their defense. Well, I guess you could argue that, after going to the ground in the first, they tried to go to the air in the second with the hope that the ground game had loosened up their pass defense which wasn't really the case.
5. Many young players, such as Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Isaako Savaiinaea, Denzel Fisher, have been called into action earlier than expected and Mora is not shy about playing freshman (true or redshirt). Are there any young players that you are surprised to see they have not yet played in a game?
bcbruin: I'm not sufficiently up on the deep end of the depth chart to have any good answers for you on this one because I don't know who hasn't played in a game yet. Jordan Lasley? Aaron Sharp? Alex Van Dyke? Have they gotten into games yet? Obviously Soso and Bolu have gotten into games but perhaps I would have expected to see a little more of them in the blowouts.
orlandobruin: Has true freshman Keisean Lucier-South seen the field yet this season? I do not recall. He is a stud but is a bit undersized at 215 lbs. for a pass rusher. I want to say true freshman DL Rick Wade, but I seem to recall seeing a comment somewhere that he saw action during either the UVa or UNLV games. I am surprised that redshirt freshman WR Jordan Lasley has not caught a pass this season, although I have seen him in on some plays.
uclaluv: Aaron Sharp and Jordan Lasley are two receivers I expected to see more of. They really were sharp (pun intended) in camp and I expected to see more of them. But it is still early. On defense, I would like to see DeChaun Holiday out there. He is an amazing athlete and could really cause some havoc for receiver I think.
Bruinette88: I agree with my colleagues: I expected to see more impact by Jordan Lasley, Rick Wade, and DeChaun Holiday.
beer&math: To answer Orlando and BC: KLS has not played and looks like he’ll redshirt, Van Dyke has played in every game though sparingly but has not seeing a ball thrown his way. As to the players I’m surprised I haven’t seen, I agree with Orlando and Luv: Ricky Wade (esp. after EVD's injury) and DeChaun Holiday. Otherwise a large portion of our freshmen have played through three games.
Joe Piechowski: I don't tend to go looking for freshmen to play unless they've had a breakout game, although I know Wade is chomping at the bit to play since the Vanderdoes injury.
6. The Bruins begin Pac-12 play when they travel to Arizona next week. Seeing as Jim L. Mora has never lost to Arizona, how do you think the game will play out? Blow out or nail-bitter?
bcbruin: Oh, hell. I was predicting a blowout victory for us against BYU, so clearly a bet against whatever I say would make real sense. I'll go with psychology here. As opposed to any football reasoning. I think the team had a galvanizing week against BYU. I think they learned what can happen when you come out flat (or maybe it was the abrupt loss of Young that made them flat) so I think they will come into the game pumped up and ready to play from the opening whistle. I also think that Josh Rosen was psychologically liberated by his experience in the BYU game. He should certainly realize now that he doesn't have to carry the team on his back. Rather, the opposite is true. The team will carry him on its back. He doesn't have to overplay. I think we'll see the Rosen from the UVA game at best, or the second half of the BYU game at the worst (which ain't bad). The lesson from BYU is that we have a lot of ways we can beat the opposition. I think we win handily in AZ.
orlandobruin: Forget about UCLA v. Arizona at the Rose Bowl. I want to focus on our matchups in Tucson. Before Mora’s 31-26 win in 2013, UCLA had lost 4 straight in Tucson, 52-14 (2005-exposing what was an undefeated UCLA team before that thrashing), 34-27 (2007), 27-13 (2009), and 48-12 (2011-the infamous Thursday night brawl game). Two of those games were blowouts and only one was a one-score game. Mora’s win was by 5 points. I think Saturday’s game will play to form. UCLA will not blow out the Wildcats. It will be a close game that will come down to who makes plays in the 4th quarter.
uclaluv: I’m going with blowout. I think Josh will be much better, at least a B+. The offensive line will continue to be the Ents of the field, protecting Josh and opening big holes for the running backs. The running game will continue to amaze. And the defense will continue to improve in the new schemes they are running. I expect more sacks and a couple of turnovers. Of course it all depends on whether the fans wear blue to the game, the right kind of blue (not zona blue). :)
Bruinette88: Neither. I expect the Bruins to win by more than a field goal but by less than 10.
beer&math: Stanford is to UCLA as UCLA is to Arizona. Mora and Co. has always outcoached RichRod and Co. I feel we will win big and we will see a new exciting wrinkle to the offense.
Joe Piechowski: I expect this week's game to be a close one and, again, look to the defense to be the biggest reason why we will win.
7. The AP poll has the UCLA Bruins as the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at #9. How does this make you feel? Do you think they will be the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at the end of the season?
bcbruin: I don't know. I go with the Fox strategy here. I just want one measly win a week. If we can execute that, I believe we will do solidly in the polls at the end of the season. As for right now, yeah, it feels good to be in the top 10. And it feels good to be the top ranked team in the Pac-12. But the only poll that counts is the one at the end of the year, so I don't want to get to feeling too warm and fuzzy with the current rankings.
orlandobruin: The polls are fun but meaningless. It is all politics. just$C* is ranked ahead of Stanford. Ole Miss jumped up 12 places and has first plac e votes (SEC votes, no doubt). LSU beat a bad Auburn team yet LSU jumps over UCLA and Auburn is still ranked. Thank God these polls have zero impact on the College Football Playoff. I am hopeful that UCLA will be the highest ranked team at the end of the season in the College Football Playoff committee rankings, as that would mean that the Bruins advanced to the PAC 12 Championship game and won, punching their ticket to the playoff.
uclaluv: It makes me feel good. I think it’s about right for now. If Josh can find his groove again, I think we’ll be ranked higher as the season goes on. We should always have been ranked above the Trogans!
Bruinette88: It’s a distraction for a team that doesn’t need distractions. If the Bruins had a lot of experience with being a top-10 team, I’d welcome the ranking, but we aren’t quite there yet.
beer&math: I like it but I don’t agree with it. I’d say we are the 2nd best team in the conference right now. Oregon, until proven otherwise, is still the creme de la creme of the Pac12. I saw the game against a great Michigan State team and Oregon was one play away from a win. I don’t believe teams should be penalized for playing tough out of conference games. On the other hand, we are undefeated and also played a good team out of conference (and generally good OOC schedule--*cough* no FCS teams *cough*) and won. 1A and 1B seems about right, with Oregon winning the tiebreaker since we haven’t beaten them since ??? (tried and failed to find this grrr--someone in the comments help!).
Joe Piechowski: If we keep winning, we'll get the respect I think we deserve.
8. The Extra-point. Fire away:
bcbruin: I want to thank all you front pagers for inviting me to participate in the Round Table this week. I think it's a great idea to throw one of us amateurs into the mix each week going forward. There are a lot of smart people contributing to this site who are not front pagers and I hope I've represented reasonably well for that group today. I look forward to seeing who pops up next week. Finally, with regard to the football program, I'm cautiously optimistic that we will see the Bruins finally step up to the next level this year. The win over BYU -- more importantly the way we won over BYU -- give me a lot of hope. Our defense will keep us in games. Our running game should allow our defense to get some rest. And Rosen seems smart enough to learn from his mistakes. He'll continue to be up and down for a while, but if he learns enough, by the end of the year I think we have the potential to be awesome.
orlandobruin: Survive and advance. Just one measly, stinking win a week. A win is a win. Whatever cliche you want to use, the Bruins ultimately DID beat BYU. UCLA will need to play better this week in Tucson, and continue playing better in the coming weeks as with ASU, (resurgent) Stanford, and (undefeated) Cal on the slate.
uclaluv: I just love our defense, our o-line, and our running backs. We are so deep in every spot and it makes the team feel so solid to me. Josh is an incredible young man who spoke with true humility after the game, admitting to shaky legs and to having a bad game. I think he really has the right stuff. I feel strength and wisdom in Tom Bradley. I feel a true support system amongst players on this team - they have Josh’s back! I really want to give props to the o-line which to date has really come through this season. Congratulations, guys! And I would like to thank bc for joining the round table. Bcbruin is correct. There are so many great minds in this community and I hope you will all continue to share your wisdom with the community.
Bruinette88: Every week I’ve used the "extra point" to rave about the performance of UCLA’s special teams coverage unit. They deserve praise again after holding BYU to a 1 yard average on punt returns and a 12.5 yard average on kickoff returns. For the season, UCLA’s opponents are averaging -0.5 yards on punt returns (6th nationally) and 12.8 yards on kickoff returns (4th nationally). BYU’s recovery of their onside kick is the only fault I can find with UCLA’s special teams coverage units so far this season.
beer&math: agree with all of what Luv said. There are so many positives that I don’t want them to be drowned out by the negatives. The level of play from the 2nd string and below players was impressive as hell. Without a doubt this is thanks to the hard work by all the position coaches. Going a bit macro: I just feel confident about the team and the direction this program is heading. Although I don’t predict we go undefeated, I don’t feel we are overmatched by anyone. And it feels good. Let’s welcome the brutal Pac-12 Conference schedule!
Joe Piechowski: The first team defense has still only allowed two TDs over three games. We used to lament how Karl Dorrell used to kick field goals all the time. If our defense continues keeping opponents out of the end zone and forcing them to kick field goals, we will win most, if not, all of our games.
That’s it for the BYU Postgame Roundtable. Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts and I welcome anyone else to share their own answers in the comments.
If you have any of your own questions, fire away in the comments as well.