4 losses in a row, 3-6 on the year. This is exactly what everyone assumed would happen this year, right?
AnteatersandBruins: Uhhhh...not exactly. But we all know that when UCLA is publicly hyped, we seem to fall short. WAY short. I’m disappointed and sick about what this season has turned out to be.
Robert Bastron: I was totally sold on the shift to a pro-style offense, and believed in Kennedy Polamalu. He’s clearly not a great coordinator, but I also didn’t see think the offensive line wouldn’t be able to shift to the new scheme, though his particular line probably wouldn’t be great in any scheme. I would’ve thought a truly awful year was 7-5. I was wrong.
Joe Piechowski: I disagree with AnteatersandBruins. I don’t think UCLA was “publicly hyped” that much this year. The biggest “public hype” was that we were picked to win the Pac-12 South. My thinking as to what has caused the wheels to come off so badly is that, perhaps, Mazzone’s offense understood that the offensive line was in bad shape and, maybe, it somehow managed to mask it for four years and that, Polamalu’s offense has been unable to account for that deficiency or adjust to cover it up. I’m not quite sure.
But, I am sure that we have talented players and that this coaching staff has failed the players.
Nirya: Obviously, I wrote this question while in a fit of sarcastic brilliance, but yeah. This really has been a worst-case scenario of a year. And even then, the talent level on this team should have allowed for a floor of 8 wins. That UCLA is so far below expectations should be alarming to even casual fans, as we’re at the point that an injury to Josh Rosen doesn’t come close to explaining this team’s problems.
2. This game was a return to form for the team: great defense trying to keep a bad offense in the game. And, since asking the same questions over and over again is boring, let’s try something different: word association. What word best describes the offensive performance in this game?
AnteatersandBruins: Underwhelming. They showed glimpses here and there of putting something together, but overall, completely disappointed me.
Robert Bastron: Comatose (I used a thesaurus). Are you alive? Can you hear me? If you can hear what I’m saying, squeeze my hand?
Joe Piechowski: Anemic.
Nirya: Inspired. As in, Kennedy Polamalu calling the most conservative offensive game of the season has inspired me to reach new levels of drunkenness I did not think I could reach!
3. Here’s another fun question: which offensive coach has actually done the best job this season?
AnteatersandBruins: Overall and most consistently, Tom Bradley. Our defense is the only reason the scores have been tight and we haven’t been completely blown out.
Robert Bastron: Scherer. The tight end unit has provided some of the best receiver performances this season, and these are guys that weren’t supposed to really be tight ends. Iese is probably the second best receiver on the team, and both Austin Roberts and Caleb Wilson have made big plays.
Joe Piechowski: On one hand, I’m almost inclined to pick Bradley even though he’s defensive coordinator and not on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense has done more to make games winnable than anything on the offensive side. But, sticking strictly to offense, I’d have to agree with Robert and go with Rip Scherer.
Nirya: Yeah, I wrote this question specifically to offer a mea culpa for Scherer. The tight ends have easily been the best unit on the team, which maybe says as much about the other established coaches as it does the job that Scherer has done. Still, he’s taken 3 non-prototypical tight ends and turned them into weapons. If this offense was any good, they’d be utilized more often.
4. What word best describes the defensive outing in this game?
AnteatersandBruins: Sacrificial. In talking to my consultant (read: husband), he basically compared our defense to the first guys that stormed the beach at Normandy to give the second wave of guys a fighting chance. They go out, series after series, knowing they’ll be back out in an extremely short amount of time because they offense can’t get anything together.
Robert Bastron: Menacing. Chief of the menaces is Takkarist McKinley. I think this was their best performance of the season, turning the ball over 4 times, and only really giving up three points--the other 13 were really on the offense and special teams. Colorado was able to be much more productive on the road against the nation’s most elite defense, Michigan, than they were at home against the Bruins on Thursday.
Joe Piechowski: I like menacing. It’s a good description. The defense had Liufau under pressure all night.
Nirya: Depressing. Why? Because the defense was so good in this game, that it even further highlighted just how much of a missed opportunity this season has been. The defense held Colorado, which has been a very good offensive team this year, to under 4 yards per play, which is ridiculous. They also caused 4 turnovers. At this point, they almost have to score multiple touchdowns to get the Bruins a victory, because they’ve done everything else at this point to get a win.
5. And, one last time, what word best describes the special teams play, not just in this game, but on the season?
AnteatersandBruins: I’m going to go all 8th grade (since that’s what I teach) and just say crappy. Even though we finally saw some yards on the kick returns and not just an all out surrender, I can’t believe we missed three field goals. It’s criminal and needs to be fixed.
Robert Bastron: Disarray. This phase of the game is a complete mess right now. Mora keeps alternating kickers, which probably works about as well as alternating quarterbacks would for your offense. What do they say about two quarterback systems? If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any? Perhaps it’s the same with kickers. Do we think either FG kicker is coming out of the Colorado game stronger? The returns seemed to be as much the fault of the punter as the coverage unit, for kicking line drives before the coverage team would get down there. We have one almost elite phase of the game; and two utterly terrible ones. Not a winning combination.
Joe Piechowski: Awful. Missed field goals and the punt return for a touchdown cost us the game. I’d say that Jim Mora needs to go for it more on fourth down, but the offense has gotten so bad that I don’t think it would matter if the team tried for it on fourth down or not.
Nirya: I’m going to cheat, but the words I’d use are actively stupid. As in, the decision to continue to rotate specialists is actively stupid. Want to know the easiest way to mess with your true freshman specialists’s heads and wreck their confidence? Constantly play musical kickers. At this point, with the season over, both JJ Molson and Austin Kent should be getting all the reps to let them get better, and messing around with that is just actively stupid on Jim Mora’s part.
6. Oregon State appears to be our best chance at a win left this season, and at this point, it wouldn’t hurt to try anything different. Do the Bruins try something new, or do we expect more of the same.
AnteatersandBruins: I really hope they don’t throw the book away again. We need to find something that works and try to build on it week after week. At this point, I’m looking at November 19. I know we’re supposed to take one game at a time, but with no possibility of a bowl game (OK, sure, it’s mathematically possible at this point, but come on…) and a season completely in the toilet, we need to beat USC so I don’t have to hear it from everyone in Orange County for the next year.
Robert Bastron: I wonder if the offensive coaches bailed on the pseudo Air Raid because Colorado has a great secondary. It should probably come back against Oregon State, we know running isn’t going to work.
Joe Piechowski: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Let’s get at least one of the freshman quarterbacks some game experience at this point. It’s time to start looking to next season. This one is over.
Nirya: Here is how I will answer this - at this point, the coaching staff should be playing as many different young guys as possible, especially on offense, just to find out as much information about the players they have a possible. They absolutely should be trying new things. What will probably happen? My liver receives more punishment as the continued failures on offense drive me to a new hard alcohol each week. By the Cal game, I should be drinking straight absinthe.
7. The Extra Point - Sound Off!
AnteatersandBruins: Takk McKinley is SUCH a beast, and his impact on the defense cannot be underestimated. They guy was all over the field and will make some noise in the NFL in years to come. He will be a huge loss after this year (since he was a JUCO) so I hope Bradley and Co. have plans to replace him.
Robert Bastron: I mentioned this in my Hair of the Bear piece, but how do you lose a game by 10 when you win the turnover margin +3? Atrocious offense and abysmal special teams. In almost any game of football, you can discern the winner by looking at the turnover margin. UCLA scored 3 points off of 4 turnovers, and Colorado scored 7 points off of 1. That’s how you lose a game winning the turnover margin +3.
Joe Piechowski: I’m tired of losing. Jim Mora has a worse conference record than Karl Dorrell. Dorrell is no longer head coach at UCLA and neither should Jim Mora be after this season is over.
Nirya: In year 5 of the Jim Mora era, the fact that this team didn’t look all that competitive against Colorado should make things fairly obvious as to how badly the coaching staff has thrown away the early momentum it had created. Only Oregon at this point can give UCLA a run for worst coaching staff in the Pac 12.
Also, jokingly, but we’ve been much more disciplined this year in regards to penalties. It’s also led to our worst record by far. So obviously we need to start committing more personal fouls just to get back to our winning ways.