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UCLA Football: Washington Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s 31-24 defeat at the hands of the Washington Huskies.

Washington v UCLA Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
  1. Initial thoughts on the game?

Markybcool: It was actually a fun game to watch, and it seems like it’s been a long time since I have said that.

AnteatersandBruins: I thought we played really well. Going into the game, we were expecting to get blown out, but we only lost by a touchdown. Couple that with the fact that we outscored them 17-7 in the second half, and I was really impressed.

Andrew_Goodman3: Much like AnteatersandBruins, I was definitely expecting a blowout loss. However, I was pleasantly surprised by UCLA on both sides of the ball throughout the game. Yes, there were some head scratching moments, but this was UCLA’s best performance to date. Like Markybcool said, it was fun to watch.

Dimitri Dorlis: Definitely a better result than I would have guessed going in, and what struck me upon my first watch of the game was the fact that UCLA really was in this game late in the 4th quarter. Washington was able to put the game away because they’re a good team, but UCLA showed that it could, theoretically, be good too.

2. Dorian Thompson-Robinson had easily his best game as a Bruin, throwing for over 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. What was your biggest take-away from his performance?

Markybcool: My biggest takeaway is that hopefully it will quiet some of the negativity that has been piled on this young man. It’s clear that he is having ups and downs right in front of our eyes, but like I have said all along, I am ok with that. Some in Bruins Nation say that he is better off learning in practice and letting “some other QB” lead the Bruins this year, and while learning in practice is definitely one aspect of practice, one of the biggest parts of learning in practice is applying what you learn in practice in game situations. If DTR is sitting behind some other quarterback on gameday, he’s not applying those learned skills in real situations, and absolutely NO practice can simulate game situations. So this Washington game was an example of continuing to take what he is learning in practice and apply in game situations, and we will continue to see some good and some bad. I will say this, not a lot of us have ever watched a 17 play 90 yard UCLA Bruins drive, but we did Saturday, and he was a driving force in that drive.

AnteatersandBruins: He looks like he grew up a lot in Saturday’s game. The team was coming together and playing as a TEAM and not a bunch of individuals wearing the same jersey. I hope this gave him some confidence as a leader, and it will also shut down some of the criticism so he can move on and bring this team to the level that fans are hoping for. We still need to have patience though, as he is a TRUE freshman, with no college experience, not even spring ball, to draw from

Andrew_Goodman3: It was a terrific performance from DTR, who definitely quieted his critics. To do that against a top-10 team is fairly impressive, to say the least. He’s a true freshman which is crazy to wrap your head around, because it’s clear to see how high his ceiling as a starting QB is. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you gain absolutely nothing from benching him. He’ll be UCLA’s QB1 for years to come, and it’ll be something special to watch.

Dimitri Dorlis: I think my biggest takeaway is that he finally looks like a Pac-12 level quarterback. He still made a handful of true freshman mistakes, but this was a clear step up from the nightmare he had been against Colorado. He played an even game with Jake Browning, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference (though you can count me among the people who believe Browning is very overrated as a passer) and finally found Caleb Wilson over the middle. Now to see if that translates on the road.

3. The offense in general had a very good day against what is statistically the 2nd-best defense in the country. What stood out to you the most?

Markybcool: This is easy, the offensive line. They absolutely had a beast of a game, and that is not something that we have said in a long time. The line opened holes for the running game, protected DTR, and allowed the UCLA offense to get things going. To not allow a sack to that defense is pretty incredible. I would be remiss if I did not mention Joshua Kelley; he ran the ball well.

AnteatersandBruins: We had not one, but TWO passing TD’s, when the Huskies had only allowed one in game on against Auburn. That’s huge. And so is their defensive line--Greg Gaines is 336 pounds and has been pushing offenses around all season. It looked like our o-line really settled in. Props to Boss Tagaloa taking over at center--I think he’s found his groove there.

Andrew_Goodman3: The offensive line was absolutely phenomenal against the vaunted UW defense. They gave DTR time to throw, and opened up big holes for RB Joshua Kelley. The O-Line made UW’s defensive front look mediocre, which is really difficult to do. Without the success of the O-Line in this one, we would’ve been looking at a much more lopsided score. Kudos to them.

Dimitri Dorlis: Offensive line was big. Joshua Kelley was big. But time for a shout-out for Caleb Wilson, who finally got catchable balls thrown his way and turned that into his first big day of the year. Wilson is probably gone this year, and it was a good reminder why, because he’s such a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

4. The defense struggled against a solid Washington attack, especially on the ground and on deep passes. Are there any changes you’d make to this unit going forward?

Markybcool: There just seemed to be multiple breakdowns and an overall lack of pressure on the quarterback. When there is no pressure, DB’s are forced to cover longer, and the breakdown of a defense is in motion. With that being said, the DB’s have definitely had a difficult time this year turning and locating the ball, and this was on full display Saturday.

AnteatersandBruins: I definitely agree with Marky on this point--we were talking on the way home about how our secondary not only gets burned, but they never turn around, thus creating the potential for a PI penalty on every long pass and also no chance for an interception. Tackling looked better, and there were even a few tackles made in open space that would have been touchdowns for the opposing team in previous weeks. So overall, I’d say the secondary needs the most work right now.

Andrew_Goodman3: Well, they did make Jake Browning look like a dual-threat QB at times. To reiterate Marky’s point, when there’s no pressure being put on opposing QB’s, it’ll open up the whole field for them which creates more big play opportunities. The secondary doesn’t look very good, and Nate Meadors got roasted throughout the game. It could’ve been worse, but I’m not terribly disgusted with how UCLA’s D played.

Dimitri Dorlis: Part of it just comes down to inexperience on the defensive line. They struggle to get pressure on a quarterback without sending extra bodies at the moment, and in this game they broke contain multiple times, allowing Jake Browning to scramble for easy yards. UCLA should probably consider throwing more bodies into opposing backfields - hell, maybe throwing the linebackers on a blitz consistently will get them to better understand how to fill gaps?

5. The Extra Point - Sound off!

Markybcool: My beginning of the year prediction for the Bruins was 6-6; my prediction is still in play!!!

AnteatersandBruins: We’re going to beat UC Berkeley. I’m calling it right now. Oh yeah, and Josh Kelley--HELLOOOOO!!! That guy was in beast mode all night!

Andrew_Goodman3: #FeedJoshKelley

Dimitri Dorlis: Yeah, I do agree that it feels we’re going to beat UC Berkeley, but I’ve seen this movie before. Hell, I’ve seen this movie before this same year after the Oklahoma game. So let’s see if UCLA does actually continue to show improvement.