- The theme of this week was “progress in the face of adversity.” Overall, what were your initial thoughts on the game?
Markybcool: My initial thoughts continue to be Chip is making the 100% correct choice in letting Thompson-Robinson line-up behind center and, hopefully, it continues even if Speight gets healthy. Thompson-Robinson made that game fun to watch even though it got out of reach. Overall, there was progress, but, like many have said, it is hard to get excited about progress when a team pretty much dominated your football team in every single facet of the game. It shows how far we have to go.
AnteatersandBruins: I thought Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked a lot less in over his head and a lot more stable this week. In the Cincinnati game, he looked unprepared and rattled. This week, he had a lot more confidence and command of the offense even if we got smoked. I think this team will be showing marked signs of improvement over the course of the season.
orlandobruin: The result was not unexpected. This is a process. Thompson-Robinson made some really good throws in the game, made a number of mistakes as was, but was generally much improved from the Cincinnati game. He is the future of the program and, the more snaps he gets now, the better he will be later this season and beyond.
Andrew_goodman3: I loved the fact that Chip Kelly started Thompson-Robinson in the game versus Oklahoma. Even against the #6 ranked team in the country, he was poised in the face of adversity. The more playing time he gets, the better he’ll look. The future is bright in Westwood with him under center.
Dimitri Dorlis: I think my overall impression is mostly positive, with a few hangups (if we’re rebuilding, for example, why aren’t the younger, more talented players getting more of the reps on offense?) that I’ll probably keep questioning for a few weeks. There was progress from last week, which is the important thing.
Joe Piechowski: I’m with Dimitri. I’m trying to stay patient, but there are concerns I have which I would like to see addressed. For instance, I want the playcalling to get better. In addition, I’d like to see Chip throw the ball downfield a little bit more. But, overall, there was definite progress made last week. If last week’s team faced Cincinnati, the Bruins would have won.
2. The offense did some things better, but still have some noticeable flaws. What did you think about the offense’s performance in this game?
Markybcool: Like I said above, the offense had its bright spots and Dorian Thompson-Robinson is first on that list. With that being said, the offensive line continues to make me cringe almost each week. They did a better job protecting Thompson-Robinson in the second half, but running the ball effectively and consistently is a constant struggle. You simply cannot be a good football team if you cannot run the ball. Many have said and I will just echo, teams are built with a focus on the lines and there absolutely has to be a focus on building this offensive line in these next recruiting cycles. I also continue to look for “more” from Chip in terms of playcalling and putting players in different situations to make plays and I just have not seen that at the level I was expecting so far.
AnteatersandBruins: I agree with the above statement that the offensive line definitely has a long way to go. We’ve struggled in that area for so long that it goes much deeper than just working on technique and reading defenses. We haven’t recruited well up front and that has all but dismantled the run game and sent our QB’s either running for their lives or to the locker room for x-rays. I thought they looked better overall with some glaring areas needing improvement.
orlandobruin: Oh, that offensive line. In fact, UCLA was dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That having been said, Oklahoma has a bunch of future NFLers up front on both sides of the ball. The Bruins will not face lines like that for the rest of the season. The Bruins scored more points on the road at Oklahoma than they did at home against Cincy. That’s progress, and I expect more of it next week against Fresno State.
Andrew_goodman3: It was a pretty mediocre offensive performance due, in large part, to the gaping black hole that is the offensive line. They are a huge work in progress, but I do like what I’ve seen from true freshman Christaphany Murray thus far. There’s really not much else you can ask for when playing one of the best teams in the country on the road. The offense is “trending” in the right direction, though.
Dimitri Dorlis: This is going to depend a lot with how the offense looks against Fresno State, but I am of mind that something needs to change with the offense on some level. Yes, I get that the offensive line has some issues (though some of that, like moving Andre James and Michael Alves to the left side rather than letting them keep the right side stable like they did last year is on the coaching staff) but this offense won’t get to develop at nearly the rate it should be able to if it can’t run plays with any consistency.
For this game, it was fine. I think the players played much better compared to what they did against Cincinnati to the point that had they played that same way in Week 1, UCLA would be 1-1 right now and there’d be much less rending of garments amongst the fanbase. But it is increasingly clear that the offensive system may require some horses that just aren’t there at the moment and aren’t being recruited at the moment and that could prove to be a problem.
Joe Piechowski: Again, I agree with Dimitri. Are they progressing? Absolutely. Is there a solution for some of the biggest areas where help is needed? Not yet there isn’t. That needs to be a concern.
3. The defense gave up a lot of points to the high-powered Oklahoma attack, but they too did a lot of good things in this game. How would you rate the defensive performance against Oklahoma?
Markybcool: I would rate the defense as better than it was last year, I know.. I know, that’s not saying a whole lot since last year’s defense was historically bad. With that being said, I am seeing some lingering issues around tackling and an inability to get to the quarterback consistently. I do like the overall effort and play of our secondary, but I am tired of seeing Adarius Pickett leading the team in tackles and, if I am a UCLA LB, I would not be happy with that either. Against teams not as offensively stacked as Oklahoma, the defense will hold up fine.
AnteatersandBruins: Let’s remember who we were playing on Saturday. The fact that OU didn’t cover the spread says a lot about how the defense played. I hate talking about moral victories, but I think both sides of the ball have learned a lot in terms of what they need to change and work on to be successful. Our defense is making progress and it’s not hard to see if you follow the team. We have to go deeper than wins and losses this year.
orlandobruin: Considering out middle linebacker situation, I think the Bruins’ defense is much, much better than last year, especially the rushing defense. Yes, there were missed tackles. Yes, their top back was lost during the game. But the UCLA defense is in pretty good shape so far. That having been said, Nate Meadors had a poor game, by his standards.
Andrew_goodman3: We expected UCLA to give up a lot of points and they did. But, there were a few bright spots. The secondary played pretty well all things considered and there was little they could do about Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray dropping dimes to WR CeeDee Lamb. UCLA’s inability to put pressure on the opposing QB is concerning, though. Oh, and if these silly arm tackles continue, I might have a coronary.
Dimitri Dorlis: OU not covering the spread doesn’t say as much about the defense as you might think - they still scored 49 points and were playing mostly 2nd string in the 4th quarter. Still, I’ll look at the first half when the game was still competitive and say that UCLA’s defense did much better than expected. The plan was to focus on stopping the run and make OU attack UCLA’s strength in the secondary, and it (mostly) worked. The only problem was OU trotting out NFL prospects at the WR and TE positions, which especially left Nathan Meadors struggling at times, but it’s hard to fault him completely.
Joe Piechowski: I think the lack of a pass rush in this game was by design. Last week, Chip Kelly said that he would hate to get Kyler Murray into a baseball rundown because he is so quick. I think the defensive strategy was to try to force Murray to stay in the pocket and throw rather than allowing him to break contain and rattle off large runs. Unfortunately, the secondary just couldn’t hold. Nate Meadors did not play well and has admitted as such.
4. This is one of the youngest teams in CFB, so we’re getting to see a lot of these younger players get increased playing time in these games. Which young guy has impressed you the most so far?
Markybcool: I know, I sound like the chairman for the Thompson-Robinson fanclub, but I get to sound off again. I’m not sure how it can be anybody other than the person playing the most important position on the field. So it’s easy for me. DTR has impressed me the most. He’s impressed me even more since the amount of playing time that he has received as a true starting quarterback is minimal (high and college combined). I like his balance in the pocket. What I mean by that is the way he keeps his eyes downfield and doesn’t just take off and run, which is what many young quarterbacks that have that ability do with the first sign of pressure. His arm strength allows him to make any throw on the field and we also know that part of his game needs to be harnessed a little, but he just seems to be one of those guys that has “it”. Chip Kelly has seen many quarterbacks in his day and when you hear him talk about Thompson-Robinson you just know that he already has a high level of belief in his skills.
AnteatersandBruins: Markybcool can be chairman of the DTR fan club, but call me president of the Kazmeir Allen Fan Club. That kid will be a beast when our offensive line gives him room to run (notice I said WHEN).
orlandobruin: Thompson-Robinson and Allen have already been spoken for. So I’ll say Martell Irby and Chase Cota, both of whom looked good against OU. Cota tied Caleb Wilson for most receptions in the game for the Bruins with four. I’ve also like the play of sophomore Quentin Lake, who reminds me a lot of his father, Carnell, who played when I was in school.
Andrew_goodman3: I’ve been very impressed with Thompson-Robinson and Kazmeir Allen, but WR Chase Cota has caught my attention so far. He hasn’t made a huge impact yet, but you can tell that he has the intangibles of becoming a solid option at WR for years to come with his athleticism.
Dimitri Dorlis: Atonio Mafi is the only true nose tackle on the team and a true freshman at that. So, it has been a nice surprise that he hasn’t looked out of his depth on the field thus far. You can see the raw talent on display and he’s going to be a nightmare for offenses in the future.
This is also a cheat, but we often forget that Darnay Holmes is only a true sophomore and he’s taken to the new coaching staff with gusto to the point that he looks like a true lockdown corner through 2 games. It’s nice to see a highly-regarded player come to Westwood and really develop into a world-destroyer.
Joe Piechowski: Wow. Dimitri and I seem to be in complete agreement on everything this week. Not that that’s surprising, just uncommon. Mafi has huge upside potential and Holmes has been making big plays downfield.
5. The Extra Point - Sound off!
Markybcool: It’s hard to say that a third non-conference game against Fresno State is a must-win game. So I won’t. But, it sure is a game that the Bruins need to win. If the betting line stays at it is, Chip Kelly and the Bruins would get their first big upset, since UCLA is a 1-point underdog at home. Yikes!
AnteatersandBruins: I’m excited for Saturday. It will be our first win of the season and something to hang their hats on. Additionally, our freshman class is loaded with guys who are taking on jobs usually reserved for upperclassmen. They’re having to grow up really quick and props to those players who have risen to the occasion.
orlandobruin: It looks like the line has shifted from UCLA being one-point underdogs to UCLA being one-point favorites. I’m not sure how good the Bulldogs are. They stomped Idaho and lost to Minnesota on the road with the potential game-tying score intercepted in the end zone on an exceptional play, but UCLA cannot take Fresno State lightly. Hopefully, this week, we see not only more progress but the tangible result of such progress in the form of a win.
Andrew_goodman3: Fresno State should not be slept on. With UCLA’s youth, it’ll be difficult to find consistency, but this is a game they have to win. Getting that first W of the season can go a long way in building chemistry and overall good vibes in the locker room.
Dimitri Dorlis: I, for one, cannot wait for Fresno State fans to decide to slide into my mentions again. Seriously, they were the only group that read the Deep Cuts, went and found my Twitter account that I don’t use, and began hurling insults. You have to appreciate the level of commitment to being that crazy.
Joe Piechowski: Well, they certainly were the only fanbase to comment on the Deep Cuts. Stanford fans did to. They just sent them to the BN Twitter account instead of finding your personal account.
I’m going to, again, call on the UCLA Athletics Department to give the Spirit Squad and Yell Crew their microphones back. Fan participation at the Rose Bowl has been awful. The microphones are needed so that they can rally everyone into cheering at the right time, rather than sitting down on the hands in situtations like 3rd downs.