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UCLA Football: Arizona Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s 31-30 victory over the Arizona Wildcats.

NCAA Football: Arizona at UCLA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

1. Second win of the season! Initial thoughts?

Markybcool: A win is a win, and I will take it based on this season so far. However, it looks like it might be costly as Dorian Thompson-Robinson looks like he might have some injury issues. I do not know what it is when we play Arizona, but we cannot stop the run, I tweeted out after the game that UCLA has allowed over 700 yards rushing against Arizona over the past two games. I thought our DL was dominated and the gap integrity of our LB’s continues to be an issue on defense.

AnteatersandBruins: It wasn’t exactly progress, but we officially have a win streak. If you thought once we started winning none of those wins would be ugly, you’ve been kidding yourself. I was pleasently surprised by Wilton Speight — he didn’t look nearly as bad as he did in Week One — and he was genuinely happy with the win after the game. It’s this kind of positivity we need going forward.

orlandobruin: I’ll admit that I thought UCLA would win more comfortably, but the running defense took a step back versus Arizona. Once Thompson-Robinson went down, I thought that the Bruins might be in trouble, but Speight did enough to win. Mazzone did the classic Mazzone with bad playcalling stalling out the Wildcats’ final drive, resulting in a field goal. And UCLA did a great job of killing almost 6 ½ minutes of clock to ice the game.

Andrew Goodman: I definitely thought UCLA would win by a bigger margin, but a win is a win, nonetheless. I was a little disappointed with how the Bruins D performed. They got mauled by Arizona’s offensive line. However, I was pleased with how QB Wilton Speight played when he took over for DTR. He was serviceable which is exactly what the Bruins needed.

Dimitri Dorlis: I’ve poured over this game a few times, wrote another giant Eye Test about it, and I’m still unsure how I feel about how the game went. There were a lot of mistakes from players and schematic issues, specifically on the defensive side, that were causes for concern, especially against a subpar Arizona team, but they were also able to grit out a win, so *shrug emoji*

Joe Piechowski: As the game was played, I was pretty happy overall. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that we led most of the game. I think, more than anything, I was just happy that UCLA finished the game and didn’t do something that cost the Bruins the game.

Sure, there were issues, but we played our best when our best was needed to earn the win.

2. Dorian Thompson-Robinson had an impressive opening drive, looked shaky for a bit, and then got injured. Wilton Speight showed a lot of early rust, but put together some impressive drives to get the victory in the end. How did you think the quarterbacks did in this game?

Markybcool: I was happy with the way Speight came in and led the Bruins. Losing DTR is disappointing and, like I said above, it looks like it might be more than a one game loss. It is not like Speight lacks experience to be able to come in and lead an offense, so I would expect him to do the same against Utah if he has to start, although his lack of mobility against the Utes is Halloween scary.

AnteatersandBruins: I thought they both looked pretty good within their individual skill sets. DTR is more of a dual threat while Speight doesn’t really have legs (although he ran when he had to and got us a couple of key first downs). I’m sure Speight will get more reps this week, especially if it’s looking like DTR needs to sit this one out. He was seen throwing on the sidelines during the last game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

orlandobruin: That first drive was magical. It looked like a “Chip Kelly” offense. Aside from that, the QB play was uneven, both with respect to Thompson-Robinson’s remaining game time and the play of Speight in relief. But Speight did a nice job running the offense in the last 6 ½ minutes of the game.

Andrew Goodman: Just your typical performance for your true freshman QB. Peaks and valleys. Seeing DTR get hurt definitely had me feeling less confident about a Bruins victory versus Arizona. However, Wilton Speight answered the call. He also was good and bad. The only takeaway here for me is that DTR is still the best QB on the roster.

Joe Piechowski: How’s this for a turnaround on my part? I was extremely happy with DTR’s performance before he got hurt. I thought his play was much improved over his other performances, with the possible exception of the UC Berkeley game, which I didn’t really get to see.

When he got hurt and Speight came in, I thought Speight looked bad. In fact, there was a point at which I thought he was suffering from what I called “DTR Disease”, the inability to hit his target receivers and, instead, overthrowing or underthrowing his passes, but, as the game went by, that did seem to disappear. The final drive was probably his finest of the game.

3. The offense had enough success to put 31 points on the board, but, at the same time, it had a host of issues. What stood out the most to you?

Markybcool: Eight drives of less than five plays. So, to me, the inability to stay ahead of the chains and the fact that this year they are converting on 3rd down at a 37% clip is still an issue, 44% for this game.

AnteatersandBruins: The number of false start penalties was downright painful to watch. It’s four downs to move the ball 10 yards, not 15, and UCLA kept setting themselves backwards rather than forward. Regardless, we had more points at the end of the game. So, I’ll take it.

orlandobruin: After such a clean game last week, the penalties returned in force against Arizona. Aside from that, Joshua Kelley stood out in the second half, after having a tough first half. The announcers were even commenting on his “down game” in the 3rd quarter, but then he exploded late in the game.

Andrew Goodman: The penalties absolutely killed them. It’s hard to sustain drives when you’re committing 10+ penalties in a game. It’s actually pretty impressive that they scored 31 considering how many yards they had negated. Also, UCLA RB Josh Kelley has established himself as one of the better Pac-12 running backs.

Dimitri Dorlis: What stood out more than anything else was the play of the offensive line. We’ve said the phrase “line wins games” about a million times around here, but this game was a pretty good showcase for why that is the case. In the first half, the line was mostly horrific, only really putting in 2 solid drives (coincidentally, both of those ended with touchdowns) and had the Bruins with only 36 1st half rushing yards while allowing 3 sacks and 10 TFLs. Luckily, they got their act together in the second half, and the entire team flourished as a result.

Joe Piechowski: To me, what stood out was the play of Josh Kelley and, of course, much of the credit for that goes to the offensive line. But, I also really liked how he was worked into the passing game as well this week because once he had caught the pass, he was tough to bring down. It made for a really nice change of pace and forced the Wildcat defense to have to deal with one more offensive threat from the Bruins.

4. The defense gave up 520 yards of total offense to the Wildcats, but also forced 3 turnovers. How would you rate their performance in this game?

Markybcool: I would rate their performance as a D, and it obviously would have been an F if they lost. The defense was lucky that Rhett made some horrible throws that resulted in turnovers, or the result of the game would have been different. As I mentioned above, the defense simply could not stop the run, and helped allow the Cats to continue to use our defense as their personal cheat code to pad their team rushing stats.

AnteatersandBruins: Our defensive backs NEED TO TURN AROUND!!!! So many of Rodriguez’s passes could have been picked off and PI penalties could have been avoided if we learned to play the ball. We were getting burned too much downfield, and the front five need to learn to close the gaps on the opposition’s run game. But I’ll say, Darnay Holmes punching out the ball and then falling on it in the endzone was rather impressive. Since a C is passing and we did win, I’ll give it a 69.9%, which you’d round up to a C- if you’re a nice person. But the performance was really more of a D+.

orlandobruin: The defense got punked by an overachieving coach’s son. Rodriguez floated a lot of balls that somehow found receivers, and the secondary needs to do better. Really, Arizona could have had two more touchdowns but for Quentin Lake’s pick in the end zone and Darnay Holmes forced fumble at the one and recovery in the end zone.

Andrew Goodman: Not a great look for the Bruins D to get carved up by a coach’s son who was making just first-career start. Mostly disappointed in how the run D performed, very weak. They got manhandled by U of A’s offensive line that isn’t all that spectacular to begin with. Darnay Holmes’ hustle play to force a fumble at the goal line was spectacular! Hustle play of the year.

Dimitri Dorlis: The secondary has been taken to task for much of this year, but they are the sole reason UCLA was able to win this game. 3 turnovers forced (and I mean forced), 3 of the top 4 leading tacklers, and they got stuck trying to defend the run and pass for way too long thanks to an ineffective and downright awful performance from the front 7. Which is not to say they were perfect, but they were the position group that able to step up when necessary.

Joe Piechowski: There is no doubt that the defense didn’t play well for a lot of this game, but what really stood out to me was the fact that they came up big when they needed to come up big. Whether it was Darney Holmes’ forced fumble that prevented a touchdown or Quentin Lake’s interception in the end zone or holding the Arizona offense to a field goal on their last drive of the game, they got the job done when the team needed them. While that was encouraging, I’d like to see them play better defense all game long.

5. The Extra Point - Sound off!

Markybcool: We are in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship. I can’t believe that we are even able to utter those words.

AnteatersandBruins: Anything can happen at this point, and I love that this isn’t necessarily a “throw away” season. We have bright spots that are becoming more regular occurrences and I think we may actually have a decent finish to the season. Bowl eligible? That remains to be seen. But we will definitely regain some respect and have momentum going into 2019, which will be incredibly important when that early signing period opens in December.

orlandobruin: Utah’s defense is ranked #7 in the nation. When UCLA played similarly ranked defenses (Cincinnati is #5 and Fresno State is #10), they lost. The Bruins will need to bring their best effort a home on Friday night to prevail against the Utes. They will also need some turnovers to win as well, and Utah is tied for #86 in turnovers lost, with nine fumbles and three picks on the season.

Andrew Goodman: Friday is a huge test and, oddly enough, each team has a lot riding on this one.

Dimitri Dorlis: I know Utah has a great defense, but you know who else had a great defense? UC Berkeley, which had a top-5 defense before the Bruins torched them for 37 points, which is not to say that the same thing will happen on Friday, but I don’t buy that UCLA is automatically sunk because their opponent has a good defense. If anything, this game seems tailor-made for the Bruins to pull the upset, what with Utah coming off their emotional home victory over Southern Cal, then having to turn around and travel to play a Friday night game. I’m not saying it will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. It’s just been that type of season.

Joe Piechowski: It looks like UCLA has lost Justin Murphy for the season, based on a tweet that Murphy sent out today. Here’s what he tweeted:

So, it sounds like he will petition for an extra year. We’ll have to wait to see how that goes for him.

Go Bruins!