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

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s 42-21 victory over UNLV.

NCAA Football: UNLV at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

1. Ok, so now that we’re a few days removed from Saturday’s game, how are we still feeling about the performance?

AnteatersandBruins: After watching it at the Rose Bowl and twice at home, I actually feel a bit better. I remember saying all last year how it felt like the offense and defense can’t click on the same day, and I’m seeing it again. However, there were individuals on defense that had a great game, namely, Randall Goforth. I saw him pick up two and three blocks per down on top of his two picks. Unfortunately, 11 guys are on the field and 11 guys were not playing as hard as Randall.

Robert Bastron: Not great, but not terrible. There is room for improvement. Can the O improve? Will the D look better when everyone is available? I think we still don’t know a lot about this team. One thing I did like was the ability to sustain a long, slow drive. This is something we could never do in the Mazzone era, and games like Colorado last year would get suddenly close. The two fourth quarter drives, even if one was thanks to a targeting penalty, were a positive to me. It’s good that this team can hold onto the ball for an extended period of time and finish in the endzone.

Nirya: I’m in the middle of my third rewatch for the Eye Test, and I’ve definitely moved towards a level of understanding towards the performance. It’s easy in the moment to get caught up in the negatives, but there was a lot of good in the game. I’m still not happy with large portions of the game, but I’ll get into that stuff with the more in-depth article.

2. Compare and contrast the offensive performance in this game with the Texas A&M game:

AnteatersandBruins: I thought it came together a lot better and they seemed more comfortable with the playbook. However, they were at home playing a much less talented team, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. There were fewer dropped passes, but Rosen still looks like he can’t hit the long bomb. I was also not at all happy with the amount of penalties on the line. I believe each member of the front five (save one, maybe) had a penalty. Way too many.

Robert Bastron: The two biggest differences were that UNLV didn’t pass rush, and also we had way more penalties in the UNLV game. Otherwise, it seems that the main thing holding back the offense is the mistakes.

Nirya: Definitely a better job by the offense, with the obvious caveat that they were going up against lesser competition. Still, line play improved, which let the run game flourish, and Rosen was much better compared to the first game. There’s still big issues, like the wide receiver drops which somehow increased in this game, and the issue of being unable to run inside, but the most important improvement for me was the recognition by the coaching staff on what was and wasn’t working, and calling plays to take advantage of the positive gains.

3. What’s been the biggest problem offensively so far this year?

AnteatersandBruins: The quarterback connecting with the receivers. I’ll hand it to Rosen that at A&M the line wasn’t exactly giving him time to throw. But this week they looked better and there were still some dropped passes. I want to see them make that diving catch. I don’t think you can ignore the penalties, but I also remember a few years ago that Oregon could run up a score and have almost as many penalties as UCLA. I’m not justifying penalties at all, but the receivers need to help move the ball down the field. It can’t all be on the run game and dump passes.

Robert Bastron: There are the obvious problems in the passing game, drops and some inaccuracy in Rosen (which I still think will kind of clean up), but we heard all offseason how the offense this year was going to be much more physical, establish a power running game, and use that running game for a vertical play action passing game. It doesn’t seem like the interior of the O-line is up to that task.

Nirya: For me, the biggest problem has been the line, specifically the interior. Through 2 games UCLA has absolutely no inside running game to speak of, and a lot of the pressure on passing plays has come from missed blocks here. Quessenberry has been a particular disappointment for me, because he has starting experience, and while snaps have been fine, he’s looked lost on a few plays (he got an ineligible man downfield penalty on Saturday where he was 10 yards downfield for some reason). Flat out, this unit has to play better if UCLA is going to have any chance against top-end competition.

4. Compare and contrast the defensive performance in this game with the Texas A&M game.

AnteatersandBruins: Not sure where to start with this one. They played fairly solid against A&M. Were they playing down this week to a lesser opponent? Was the early absence of EV a factor? Who knows. The bottom line is that UNLV should never have put up three touchdowns. I ahd the Rebels scoring two field goals and nothing else.

Robert Bastron: I actually thought the performances were pretty similar, save for the obvious fact that Texas A&M has much more talent. If anything, the defense played a little better against A&M, shutting them down in the 4th quarter. We allowed about 5 yards per carry in both games, which has to stop. Hopefully a fully stocked D line will solve that problem, otherwise, uh oh…

Nirya: Obvious point is that UCLA was without Wadood for this whole game, and kept Vanderdoes out at the half for precautionary reasons. That said, the defense definitely took a step back here, where last week they played exceptionally well against a solid opponent. Not a good look.

5. Two games in and the defense has already played significant time without their top playmakers (McKinley, Vanderdoes, Wadood). With that said, would you say the problems on defense are more personnel-related or scheme-related?

AnteatersandBruins: It’s looking scheme related. Where’s the BLITZ???? I didn’t see a blitz until the third quarter last week. Obviously injuries don’t help, but you have to develop schemes that work with the players you have. The two don’t seem to gel.

Robert Bastron: I think a little of both. Perhaps the Bradley formula works when everyone is in, we have yet to really see. It’s pretty clear though that without EV and Takk, should there be more games without this tandem, the coaching staff will have to try something new. There did seem to be more of a willingness to bring pressure against UNLV, but if that’s just to account for lack of a pass rush, they still need to be able to do something to stop the run.

Nirya: It’s actually a bit of both. Part of it is the scheme puts a lot of pressure on the linebackers to make the right plays, and in this game they were awful. Kenny Young in particular had a really bad game, though Isaako Savainnaea wasn’t much better when filling in. Better linebacker play fixes some of these issues. But the other problem is the scheme requires perfect play, and you’ll just never get that at the college level. At some point the coaching staff needs to recognize that generating pressure consistently will help the defense out, especially when you have such a strong secondary that can usually cover the receivers well.

6. This weekend the Bruins play BYU. What are your keys to this game?

AnteatersandBruins: They lost to Utah, but only by one point. I don’t want to resurrect the ugly past in Provo, so I want to see the pass rush, blitzing, and our secondary on their receivers like white on rice (but no PI penalties, please). I also want a sense of urgency on both sides of the ball--hold the line so Rosen can throw, separation by our receivers, holes so our running backs can make it through. This week is an audition for the Stanford game. Make it good.

Robert Bastron: Taysom Hill isn’t a great passer, he threw three interceptions against Utah, and their two games have been slow, ugly, and physical. They’re the least explosive offense in the country right now. They won’t be able to win this game through the air. They’re going to run the ball. We’re going to have to stop it. I don’t think there’s any secret about this.

Nirya: Before the season I actually had this one pegged as a loss, just because I assumed BYU would be better than they’ve shown. They needed a late field goal to beat a bad Arizona team, and then lost to Utah despite the Utes committing 6 turnovers. The key is going to be run defense. If you can contain Taysom Hill and the Cougar run game, you can dominate them defensively, and the Bruins should be able to move the ball offensively against this group.

7. The Extra Point - Fire away!

AnteatersandBruins: I want to give a shout out to Molson--this is the extra point, after all. That kid is solid. He’s only missed one field goal in two games (totally not his fault) and has made the transition to the NCAA nicely. He looks like a veteran and he’s only a Freshman. I’m no expert, so I’m sure he can improve, but I smell another Groza candidate in our midst. And since he’s from Canada, icing our kicker won’t work (cue cymbal crash).

Robert Bastron: Tom Bradley did make one nice halftime adjustment, he had Fabian Moreau line up on Devonte Boyd wherever he went in the second half, rather than staying on one side of the field. Boyd didn’t register a catch at all in the second half. So adjustments can be done, and they can work.

Nirya: Jordan Lasley had himself a coming-out party in the 4th quarter of the UNLV game, and it just continued to highlight the odd receiver rotations this year. I love Massington, but he’s just never going to be the guy the staff believes he can be, while Lasley might actually be there but gets stuck on the bench. Theo Howard, the big-time freshman playmaker, has 1 target through 2 games. Nate Iese has continued his disappearing act this season, while Austin Roberts and Caleb Wilson didn’t see much work after taking over the 4th quarter at A&M. At some point the receiver rotations need to change to get the best players on the field, and quickly.