A month ago, let's say the UCLA Bruins were offered up a scenario where the Bruins were 4-0 (1-0 in the Pac-12) with the offensive line having only allowed 1 sack, the true freshman quarterback having only one bad half of football, and the biggest question mark on the team being the performance of the defense in stopping the run.
There is not a person among us who doesn't take that deal in a heartbeat. Jim Mora takes that in a heartbeat, Josh Rosen takes that in a heartbeat.
The now out for the season trio of Fabian Moreau, Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack take that in a heartbeat as well.
Make no mistake about it, the UCLA Bruins defense got steamrolled by the Wildcats on the ground in this game. If not for the cavalcade of primarily self-inflicted wounds, this would and should have been a "last team that touches the ball, wins" type of a game between UCLA and Arizona.
Does that happen with EDV, Fabian and Myles on the field instead of their replacements?
Unfortunately, we will never know. I would tend to lean towards the Wildcats not putting up 6 yards a carry on 59 carries with any one of those three still on the field.
Every team has to overcome injuries, very few have to lose potential NFL draft picks at every level of their defense before conference play starts.
The beauty in this is that the Bruins have now reached the point where losing these types of players can be mitigated without the season being lost.
It is a long road ahead with probably at least 1-2 losses out there for UCLA, if we are being realistic.
The Pac-12 is vicious. Utah beat Oregon by 6 touchdowns, Arizona State got run out of Tempe by Southern Cal and Stanford obliterated that same Southern Cal team. UC Berkeley is 4-0.
Those things aside, this is still one of the best football teams in the NCAA.
If the season ended today, there aren't 4 better resumes than the one UCLA has put up.
Through September, I'll take this.
Let's get to the grades.
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
I will start with the positives.
- Arizona could not throw the ball in this game. Their passing success was one 34-yard TD pass on the first drive of the game to Nate Phillips.
- Ishmael Adams flashed some of his big play ability.
- The Bruins capitalized on Arizona's mistakes.
And that's about it.
353 yards rushing on 59 attempts.
6 yards per carry.
That is counting an 11-yard loss on a bad snap that went over Anu Solomon's head, a 5-yard loss on a fumble caused by a high snap where Nick Wilson's elbow knocked the ball out of Solomon's hands on accident, a 9-yard loss on a snap that went through Jerrad Randall's arms.
Taking those plays out, (which is a little unfair because the presence of Kenny Clark probably put some fear in the head of Cayman Bundage at center) the Bruins actual rushing total allowed is 378 yards allowed on 56 carries, which is almost 7 yards per carry.
The defensive line and secondary were fine. Some little mistakes, but those happen in every game.
But, the linebacker play was atrocious.
Like unbelievably atrocious.
I cannot remember watching linebackers play that bad at UCLA ever. I watched Sean Westgate's limited athleticism get forced into a starring role on a defense and he would have been the best LB on the field for this team last night.
How UCLA looked so bad against a zone read is incomprehensible to me. That is on everybody from the film guys to the coaching staff to the players to the scout team offense. Everybody is accountable for how bad the linebackers looked in this game.
The crazy thing is that I'm not sure Myles Jack's absence was even a remote factor in why they played so bad at LB. He likely would've been split wide a lot with how Arizona was playing. Maybe they would have stuck him as a permanent spy on Randall or something, but this was just embarrassing to watch.
I can't give the defense an F because of the linebackers, so I'm splitting it into 3 areas of play. Linebackers are an F, DL is a B, secondary is an A- (they played very well considering that they basically were playing down two starters with Jack and Moreau gone). That works to a 2.23, which is just short of a C+. That feels too generous, so I'm going C (2.0).
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
This was arguably the best offensive game that I have seen UCLA play under Jim Mora. I would have to go back and go over every single grade I have given out, but this feels like at least close to the best.
The line was dominant from start to finish.
Taking out the two kneel downs for -3 yards and a 1-yard run that was unnecessary because Paul Perkins had already scored on the play before, plus, as I advocate for constantly, keeping the two sacks for -11 yards as separate from rushing attempts, this rushing unit was insanely good.
The Bruins had 42 attempts for 227 yards, rushing for 6 touchdowns. 5.4 yards per carry.
Passing attack was super efficient and put up explosive plays as well.
Tough to find a flaw anywhere.
Our running backs are insanely good. Three deep of backs that could play in the NFL at some point along with a talented player in Bolu Olorunfunmi. The receiving depth is insane and all the players that stepped on the field played well. I dig the mini-emergence of Darren Andrews in the slot. Jordan Payton balled out, Thomas Duarte looks like he's taking the leap, Kenny Walker is improving, if Nate Iese ever realized he weighs 250 pounds he could be an X-factor.
This offense could be scary good.
A+ (4.0) from me today and I don't give those out easy.
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
- Marcus Rios diagnosed a 2nd and 9 pass to the outside perfectly. Had obviously seen it on film. If it is an accurate pass, he intercepts it. Just broke it up because it was low and away.
- The touchdown pass allowed to Nate Phillips was a weird look defensively. Ishmael Adams looked a bit rusty flipping his hips in coverage. I have no clue what coverage Tahaan Goodman is doing as the safety over the top though. It looks like a 2-deep with man coverage underneath based on what the safety on the other side is doing, but Goodman floats outside where there is no threat whatsoever instead of staying closer to the completely unoccupied middle of the field. Naturally, the route breaks to the middle of the field and all Solomon has to do is float it where Phillips can run under it in the end zone. This has kind of been Goodman's main issue at UCLA, he has to be able to recognize right away that the outside WR is no threat. That WR barely even runs his 3-yard hitch with any effort, but Goodman takes forever to start going towards the middle of the field because his eyes are locked in the backfield. Phillips crosses his face though, there is no reason to not see that deep breaking route and go there. Trust your reads and go be athletic.
- The Wildcat look with Mossi Johnson but no motion threat or option besides a QB draw. Arizona's whole team knew what was coming. I knew what was coming. It shouldn't happen again. Unimaginative, lazy, ineffective.
- The stuff Rosen does in the pocket as an 18-year old is scary sometimes. He manipulates safeties with his eyes. Duarte touchdown pass was beautiful QB play. He froze a very good player in Tellas Jones and put a nice ball out there for Duarte. The catch looked much harder than it was, but that type of route needs to be a bigger factor in the offense. Take advantage of Duarte's talent there. He's like an Aaron Hernandez type of player (not to ever speak well of a murderer, but Hernandez's skill set at TE/Y was exceptional and he moved similarly to Duarte)
- Loved the blitz call on a 3rd and 1 in the 1st quarter. Sent Savaiinaea and Brown through opposite B-gaps, rushed Solomon into a bad throw down the sideline. Going to need that type of ingenuity this season without the natural pass rushing talent inside from Vanderdoes.
- For all the love Rosen deserves for being massively ahead of schedule as a passer for an 18-year old, he needs to just trust his reads on these zone reads. 1st and 10 with 5 minutes left in the 1st quarter. UCLA runs a zone read where there is only a corner and an edge defender to the side of the run action. The edge defender crashes down, clear read to keep. The WR has the CB outside handled. Rosen keeps here, he gets at minimum 6-8 yards before he needs to slide to avoid being tackled by the safety. He gives to Starks and it is a 2-yard gain because that defender was crashing down. I know he pulls later for the TD and it was nice, but this is just a straight incorrect read. You don't get credit for saving your keeps for later, every play counts exactly the same. UCLA has to punt at midfield after failing to get the 1st down here. That's a wasted possession in a game that should have been close if not for AU miscues on snaps.
- Tackle for no gain on a 3rd and 4 by Ishmael Adams. Open field on a swing pass to Nick Wilson. First game back, big time play by Adams.
- This isn't about knowing where to be, but more knowing who you are. Nate Iese is so frustrating sometimes. He is 250 pounds of muscle, an absolute monster out there physically. There is no reason for him to be trying to side step 190 pound defensive backs. Just get going with a head of steam and run dudes over.
- This down block, kick-out, pull by Benenoch, Redmond and Lacy on Soso Jamabo's 18-yard run was exactly how that play was probably drawn up on the whiteboard. Then Jamabo's explosiion through the hole and past a 2nd level defender finished it off. Might be my favorite play of the night. Perfect job on complicated blocking assignments.
- I have no idea what Savaiinaea was doing on the 39-yard TD run by Randall. Basic zone read look, Orjioke gets too far upfield and doesn't set the edge or take on the pulling lineman at all. But Savaiinaea has his eyes locked on Wilson despite the fact that the play before Solomon had kept on the same play and gotten 12 yards and a first down. I don't know why AU ran another play besides the zone read. UCLA's LBs had no clue what to do. Really alarming and this happened the last few years with zone reads at UCLA without Tom Bradley. Wadood also gets turned around at safety, which is the reason it became a TD run instead of a 15-yard run.
- Another bad read on a zone read by Rosen. Play after Perkins' big run that got taken away by a hold. Has no threat in the front 7, has 3 WR to 3 DBs to the side he should keep to, edge defender crashes down to Perkins instantly. Just has to keep the ball here, gets the first down easily on 1st and 13.
- 14-yard run by Wilson. Zone read, no clue where Kenny Young is going as a play-side LB. Starts bolting to the sideline as Wilson runs right where he started the play. Jayon Brown gets pancaked trying to flow from the other side to the play. Thank goodness Arizona decided to throw the ball on the next three plays of this drive, ending with an interception by Adams. They definitely score a TD if they kept running the ball.
- 27-yard run by Wilson at the end of the 1st half. As much as I'd like to blame someone else, pin this on Kenny Clark quite a bit. Picked a side instead of just occupying his gap. If he makes Wilson bounce around in the backfield, the help would've gotten there. Clark picks the right side and Wilson cuts left where he take advantage of a nice unintentional ref block to get to the sideline where he runs over Marcus Rios, breaks a Wadood tackle and gets out of bounds. Kenny Young got held on the play as well, in my opinion. But it was borderline.
- Orjioke got jobbed out of a TFL by the stat keeper. Hell of a play by him on the edge to corral Randall.
- Savaiinaea gets caught out of position on another zone read and also gets pancaked to double down on the bad vibes from this play. 11-yard gain and a first down by Randall.
- Takkarist McKinley gets jobbed out of a TFL on that botched snap by Randall. Given to Orjioke instead for some reason.
- Kenny Walker gets jobbed out of a reception that somehow got credited to Thomas Duarte. How you get those two players confused is beyond me.
As always, the penalties are taken on a play-by-play basis with context:
1. False start by Alex Redmond and Kenny Lacy. Both start pulling before the snap. Looked more on the snap than either player because they went simultaneiously.
2. Kenny Lacy with a 2nd false start on the 1st drive of the game. This one was definitely on him.
3. Defensive holding by Ishmael Adams. Negated an interception by Jaleel Wadood. Just looked like one of those plays where he got turned right as the ball was coming out and it would normally just be normal contact, but turns into a penalty. Didn't seem like the hold caused the INT either. Tough loss on a drive that AU scored on to make it 28-14.
4. Holding on Kenny Lacy, sprung a huge run by Perkins down the sideline. He got caught with his hands locked. Happens sometimes. He had a great game aside from the penalties, so I'm willing to cut him a bit of a break here.
5. Defensive holding on Jaleel Wadood. Negates an interception by Marcus Rios. He got beat playing out in the slot, lets the WR inside of him and grabs a hold of the jersey. Pass would have been an interception regardless, was a terrible pass.
6. Block in the back on Octavius Spencer on a punt return. Only real miscue by the special teams coverage or return units in any capacity.
7. Holding on Alex Redmond on a scramble by Josh Rosen. Real story on the play was Rosen needlessly taking a big hit instead of sliding.
8. Personal foul facemark on Octavius Spencer in coverage, can't see it on the play, but I assume it was because he got beat in press and reached out. Takes away a sack for Aaron Wallace where he made a hell of a move to get around the edge. Tough break on a tough night for the defense.
9. Personal foul for a late hit out of bounds by Nate Meadors. Was a broken play after a forced fumble by Adarius Pickett.
A ton of penalties (9 for 76 yards, par for the course), an amazing night for the offense from top to bottom, special teams were also great. The defense was just so rough here though. Drags the grade down to a B- (2.7) almost single handedly.
4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense?
The offensive line has gotten so much better at picking up blitzes that it is worrying that they were so bad at it in past years. Get some legit pride every time that someone from that unit stalemates a safety or LB shooting in late.
Caleb Benenoch, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel and Kenny Lacy were all phenomenal. Conor McDermott had an okay game, tough 3rd quarter but overall was good.
For skill positions guys, an example of what you want out of a team: 59-yard completion to Jordan Payton was a picture perfect example of a scramble drill. WR didn't give up on the play and neither did Rosen or the OL. First look isn't there, smartly tries to extend the play in a safe fashion, ends up being a huge play.
The blocking on the punt and kickoff returns by Devin Fuller was outstanding. Devin Fuller has also been promising. That'll be nice if he can handle those duties because the defense needs all the snaps it can get out of Ishmael Adams.
Kai'mi Fairbairn was a monster on kickoffs tonight, as he has been all of his career basically. He'd be the 1st Team All-Pac-12 kicker at this point if the season ended. 23-29 on getting touchbacks. That's almost 80%, Arizona State's guy is at 70%, 3rd place is at 63%. And he is 6-7 on field goals and perfect on 19 PATs.
Two A+'s and one F. That works out to a 2.67, which is between a B- and a C+. I'm rounding up to a B- (2.7) because the offense and special teams earned that privilege.
5.) Do our players execute?
- Kenny Clark, picture perfect on a 1st and 10. Stalemates a guard who had outside leverage at the start of the play to hold his gap, sheds the blocker when Nick Wilson appears, makes a tackle right at the line of scrimmage.
- The 46-yard KOR by Devin Fuller was perfectly blocked. Most people on this website get to at least the 30-yard line. with the blocking. Fuller read it perfect and headed to the sideline. He's looked great on these the last couple weeks. I believe Thomas Duarte had to block that sprung him to the sideline.
- Clark probably deserves a half sack on the one fully credited to Tahaan Goodman in the 1st quarter. Shed three blocks to keep Solomon in the pocket. Exceptional blitz and effort from Goodman off the edge though, Gets cut blocked but gets around it enough to hurry Solomon out of the pocket, where Solomon meets Clark. As Solomon is figuring out an escape strategy for that, Goodman is able to get up quickly and close in to bring down the QB. Great job by both players.
- Paul Perkins' first TD run. Lots of praise. Caleb Benenoch's down block was highlight worthy on its own. He had a disadvantage pre-snap with the alignment of the DE, still managed to get outside positioning and wipe the dude out in a way that also blocked a LB. Nate Iese with a great job taking out a LB to the play side. Paul Perkins breaking a safety's ankles on a juke move was the flash and deservedly so. Such a dirty move.
- 9-yard run by Nick Wilson on 1st down after the 1st Perkins TD. Jayon Brown takes on a block terribly, stops his feet, engages the blocker on his heels where he needs to be closing down that gap. Isaako Savaiinaea also just straight misses the tackle in the hole, which didn't help things. Should be a 2-yard gain, instead gives AU a 2nd and 1.
- Logan Sweet and Taylor Lagace on Fuller's 30-yard punt return. Perfect blocks. Sweet actually put his guy on the ground twice to give Fuller the space to turn the corner.
- Perkins definitely scored on the play that the referees called him down at the 1-yard line. Like without question he was over. He got tackled a yard deep into the end zone. Awful spot. His totals for the day should take away 1 carry, would help the YPC.
- Perfect ball placement on Jordan Payton's TD catch. Hell of a catch as well, but the placement on the fade to the back corner was literally perfect.
- Great individual and freakish effort by Kenny Clark makes up for Jayon Brown being insanely out of position, probably should've been a 10 yard run, ends up being just 5.
- Perfect coverage on a slant on 3rd and 3 by Marcus Rios in the redzone.
- Really randomly great possession for UCLA's defense after Rosen's TD run. Kenny Clark splits a double team to make a tackle on Wilson for a 1-yard gain on 1st down. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner makes an outstanding play to stretch Wilson to the sideline for a short gain on a stretch play on 2nd down, Deon Hollins makes an outstanding pass rush to force Randall out of the pocket and then chases Randall down for a stop on 3rd down.
- Kenny Clark on a 1st down in the 4th quarter. Holy crap!!! Absolutely wrecks the center, drives him 5 yards deep in the backfield and makes a TFL. Highlight reel play for him.
- The whole last scoring drive for UCLA was impressive to watch. 11 plays for 88 yards taking up almost 6 minutes of clock in the 4th. Soso Jamabo looked insanely good with the ball all game. Darren Andrews made two nice plays with the ball in his hands. The line blocked well, as they did all night. It was an exclamation point on their performance in this game.
Some observations about the dropped passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles:
- 4th play of the game, Kenny Young takes a great line on Anu Solomon after Solomon tries to scramble. Young leaves his feet and gets easily stiff armed by a QB he outweighs by 30 pounds. The flashy part of this play was Goforth getting knocked over at the end of the play on the sideline, but that wasn't really the truck stick it appeared.
- Another missed tackle for Young on Solomon in the open field on a scramble on 3rd and 8. Bad angle, bad feet. This is a fairly consistent issue for Young in the open field in man coverage and on run plays. He did do a nice job in his zone drop in coverage underneath and re-routing a WR on this play though, to his credit.
- Ishmael Adams, right place at the right time. Bad pass by Randall, he is in position to take advantage of it and makes the play for an interception on a drive that looked destined for an AU touchdown.
- Deon Hollins get caught flat footed on a zone read, he's in close to the right spot. Gets a bit too far upfield, but he stops his feet and Randall runs right past him. Randall ends up getting 17 yards because Jayon Brown is the play-side linebacker and gets driven back about 13 yards downfield by a tackle.
- Conor McDermott just let the DE run right past him on the sack to start the 2nd half. He had to be expecting help there, no way he'd just let that DE go otherwise. Not even an attempt to put hands on the guy.
- Isaako Savaiinaea commits too early to the outside on a zone read on AU's first drive. Play after Jayon Brown got injured. Should've been 2 yards, become 7. UCLA had all of halftime to get this shored up on defense and clearly the adjustment didn't reach the mind of Savaiinaea on this play.
- UCLA brings 6 on a 4th and 3 with a QB that had shown he had no clue throwing the ball. Perfect call by Tom Bradley. Kenny Young is unblocked, this should be a for sure sack on panicked throw away by Randall. All Young has to do is make an open field tackle. Settle his feet and drive through. He misses the tackle, hideous attempt at making the play. Randall scrambles away and the secondary can't keep the coverage after the initial rush. TD to give AU momentum on their first drive of the 2nd half.
- Conor McDermott gets beat around the edge on a blitz on 3rd down. Safety running full speed beats him with speed. Sack on 3rd down that probably should have been a turnover after a strip.
- Missed tackle and a bad angle by Kene Orjioke on a 16-yard run by Randall.
- 3rd and 11 for Arizona. Wildcats have an empty backfield, UCLA has 4 down lineman and Kenny Young at LB. Randall unsurprisingly gets a QB draw call. He breaks Young's ankles in the open field and gets a first down. Brutal.
- Kenny Young managed to put one final cherry on top of his dreadful game with a baffling read on Arizona's first play of their final drive. Ends up being a 29-yard run by the backup running back. Young just blindly flows to the opposite side of the field. Offensive lineman has the easiest seal he's ever had on this play.
It was hard to focus on any positives with how many bad defensive plays there were to go through. I'm a defensive oriented guy generally, so this was an especially tough game to rewatch.
The offense and special teams did great. The offensive line, especially. One of the best games I can remember seeing from any UCLA offensive line, maybe that game where the Pistol offense embarrassed Texas on the road. But this was against a good defensive team, so I give that more weight. Saying a B (3.0) because the rest of the team shouldn't be penalized because of how terrible the linebackers played.
6.) Do we have leaders on the field?
For fun, I decided to keep track of Paul Perkins' broken tackles in this game: 6 in the 1st quarter. 3 in the 2nd quarter. 2 in the 3rd quarter. Didn't notice any in the 4th, but he only had one 9-yard carry before Soso Jamabo got to tear up Arizona's 1st string defense on the final drive.
That's 11 broken tackles in a game. Pretty damn impressive. Most of those were at the 2nd level too because the offensive line was handling their business up front.
Josh Rosen was great, decision making and confidence was as though the BYU 1st half never happened.
The defense however, just atrocious in the middle. The defensive line was fine, Kenny Clark had a typical Clark game, the Vanderdoes replacements were plenty competent. The secondary did fine. Ishmael Adams looked solid in his first action, I believe every DB player in significant situations in this game. Rios, Goforth, Wadood, Goodman (looked great tackling in space), Pickett, Mossi Johnson (kind of a surprise), Nate Meadors burned his redshirt, John Johnson, Fisher. Tons of reps here.
The linebackers were, as you read above many times, very, very bad.
That leads me to go B (3.0).
Grade Card for the Arizona Wildcats:
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? C (2.0)
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? A (4.0)
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? B- (2.7)
4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense? B- (2.7)
5.) Do our players execute? B (3.0)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field? B (3.0)
Arizona GPA: B- (2.9)
For reference, the GPA for last week's victory over BYU was B (3.27) and the previous two non-conference games against UNLV, a B (3.26) and Virginia, a 3.45 (B+) that both resulted in Bruins wins.
This is one of those unfair times that a team's grade gets dragged down by the performance of a small segment of the team. But, without accountability there can be no necessity for change.
Next week, the Bruins take on an Arizona State team that just got embarrassed at home by Southern Cal. Expecting a similar result would be foolish, as the Sun Devils aren't that bad of a team, they got caught at a bad time by a team in need of a bounce back statement. Expect a result more similar to their game against a good Texas A&M team, a 38-17 loss on the road (neutral site in Texas, sure...).
Until next time, Go Bruins!