The Bruins won a road game 36-34 against UC Berkeley for the first time since 1998. They moved to 5-2 (2-2 in the Pac-12) after losing back to back games to Utah and Oregon to essentially eliminate themselves from contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Just to be upfront with everyone, I tried to re-watch this game and could not muster the energy to finish it. So, I'm going off of my initial impression of the game. This leaves me more at risk of misremembering things, but this was probably the most "meh" game of the season. My energy level spiked once in 4 quarters and that was after the Marcus Rios interception.
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
The defense probably had their best game of the season in this game, despite the point total.
California has put up an average of 482.5 yards per game (22nd in the NCAA) including this matchup, their offense averages 6.1 yards per play (26th in the NCAA), converts 45.56% of their 3rd downs (22nd in the NCAA), put up 380 yards passing per game (3rd in the NCAA), 14 yards per completion (20th in the NCAA) and 8.9 yards per attempt (12th in the NCAA).
That's only counting games against FBS opponents, which takes away all stats from a 55-14 victory they had over Sacramento State.
Anyway you slice it, that is one hell of an offense.
UCLA's defense shut them down.
366 total yards (more than 100 below their season average, Jim Mora might not care about yards, but they do matter).
5.01 yards per play (which would be in the 80s/90s nationally).
5-14 on 3rd down conversions (35% is very bad).
310 passing yards on 42 attempts and 26 completions, which are all well under Cal's averages.
20 of the points can be directly attributed to Cal starting 3 drives inside UCLA's 32-yard line due to the offense turning the ball over (an 18-yard TD drive, a 20-yard TD drive and a 32-yard TD drive)
The defense can still play better (especially limiting explosive plays, which Cal had 3 of), but they had a good game in this one. B+ (3.3)
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
I liked the game that Noel Mazzone called in this one. UC Berkeley's defense is and will continue to be appallingly bad, but UCLA did what they were supposed to do against a bad defense and put up a ton of yards.
Not finishing drives was frustrating.
Punting on a 4th and 3 from the Berkeley 44-yard line, that's a go-for-it down.
Probable TD pass dropped by Devin Fuller on a 3rd and 7 from the Berkeley 19-yard line, 3 points instead of 7.
Going for it on 4th and 3 from the Berkeley 34-yard line was the right decision, especially against a bad defense. Perkins picked up 12 yards and UCLA scored a TD on that drive.
Going for it on 4th and 1 from the Berkeley 46-yard line was the right decision. Doing a QB sneak from under center was the right decision. Brett Hundley happened to not get it. If that exact play were repeated 10 times, UCLA converts at least 8 of them. Process over results when making judgements.
Kicking a FG on 4th and Goal from the 6-yard line while up 3 points was probably the right decision. But after a 67-yard kickoff return from Mossi Johnson, UCLA's offense has to put up a TD on that drive. Would have been a back breaker for Berkeley after they scored to make it a 3-point game. Right back to a 10-point lead would have been a big boost. A 24-yard FG was not.
That is a lot of points left on the board for an offense that basically had their way with UC Berkeley, passing and running the ball. Offense gets a B (3.0).
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
This section is going to be much shorter than normal, because I don't get to add the breakdown element on the 2nd watching of the game.
One thing that stands out was UC Berkeley scoring a short rushing TD on a play where Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Ellis McCarthy were not in position at the snap. When your defensive tackles (where they were on the play) are standing up at the snap, they are going to get moved and sealed off with ease. High school linemen could have given Berkeley enough space to score on that play, all they had to do was lean and the gap was there.
The offensive line looked much better, albeit against a non-existent pass rush. Connor McDermott had some spots where he looked stiff and rusty, but that was the best game UCLA has had a tackle play this season. Malcolm Bunche looked much better at guard, especially run blocking. He also had some rough spots that I remember, one play that got a running back blown up in the backfield.
Myles Jack is still playing in his own world at times on defense. The 39-yard pass early in the game was 100% on Jack peeking in the backfield and guessing run instead of playing man-coverage like he was supposed to. He was once again great in pass coverage aside from that, breaking up 2 passes and affecting several more. With a player like Myles, you have to take some bad with the good. Focus-based mistakes should not happen though and he was once again close to getting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on a few plays.
8 tackles for loss (5 more for no gain or 1 yard) by UCLA's defense and 3 sacks. This was so nice to see.
As always, the penalties are taken on a play-by-play basis:
1. Pass interference on Priest Willis. Kind of a ticky-tack penalty, but I agree with the call. UCLA still got a stop on this drive, so not a damaging foul at the end of the day.
2. Holding on Jordan Payton. Unnecessary hold as Tyler Scott (we'll get to that later) was already on his way to a nice gain on first down regardless. Turned a 2nd and short or potential 1st down into a first and 20.
3. Pass interference on Ishmael Adams that was declined because UC Berkeley's high-level WR Chris Harper made a ridiculous one-handed catch anyway.
4. Kick catch interference on Priest Willis (I believe that's who was flagged, could also have been another player) Instead of Berkeley starting on the 31-yard line, they start around midfield. Undisciplined penalty.
5. Pass interference on Fabian Moreau. Not an egregious penalty, but I don't remember being upset about it being thrown. Was an incompletion on a 3rd and 9 and turned into a 1st down at the 22-yard line.
6. Two different pass interference/holding call on UCLA's defense on another TD pass. Didn't matter because Trevor Davis made a ridiculous grab for a TD. It must be nice to have players capable of making those type of catches.
7. An offsides penalty on a 3rd and 10 that was declined due to Berkeley getting the first down anyway. Still a dumb foul.
8. Holding on a punt by Deon Hollins. Ended up being less than a 1-yard penalty because the punt was downed inside the 1. But imagine if that had gone in the endzone (something Hollins had no way of knowing when he committed this foul) and instead of getting the ball at the 20, UCLA starts at the 20. Process over results on stuff like this.
9. Defensive holding on Anthony Jefferson gives UC Berkeley a free 1st down on their drive to take the lead over UCLA.
10. The refs also missed a blatant horse-collar tackle when Devin Lucien chased down a player on Brett Hundley's interception. Just kind of a luck deal.
11. I would also like to note that UCLA has had several defensive backs come dangerously close to getting thrown out of games for targeting. Tahaan Goodman and Jaleel Wadood both got lucky in this game. Goodman because he missed while diving with his head down at someone's head and Wadood because the officials ruled that Chris Harper wasn't defenseless while falling on the ground not attempting to fight for more yards.
Some good, some bad. Lots of penalties. 3 turnovers. Same UCLA team that has been there all season. C (2.0)
4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
Energy level looked pretty mediocre throughout this one. The players played hard but it was just kind of a bare minimum type of deal. This feels like a C+ (2.3) type of deal.
5.) Do our players execute?
The line seemed to do a better job of picking up blitzes against Berkeley's defense. Run blocking was solid outside of a few outliers.
Tackling wasn't a noticeable problem. Ka'imi Fairbairn made 3 FGs and looked as good as always kicking off. Matt Mengel had a nice game punting, as he has for most of the season. Serviceable as a last second fill-in this season.
Brett Hundley's interception was a poor decision, the first fumble was a result of trying to do too much and the 2nd fumble (recovered by UCLA) was the result of getting crushed by his own player.
I do not like calling out individual players. Tyler Scott is a player that could be on scholarship at a lower level of competition. I'm sure that he'd start on some Sun Belt or MAC teams and be a solid player. As far as I know, he's a human being that represents UCLA well off the field and in practice.
He is not capable of performing at WR in the Pac-12. It is clear.
He had a forced fumble in this game. Unfortunately, it was because he hit Brett Hundley in the open field while turning around after not being able to block anyone. He missed a block that resulted in a TFL. He does not get separation on routes. He has size at 6'3", 220. But he does not play like a player that size. Gets re-routed far too easily.
Mossi Johnson balled out. Why was he not getting 90% of the reps at the inside Y spot with Duarte unable to play?
Alex Van Dyke's redshirt is burned, why is Logan Sweet ahead of him in terms of reps?
Why is Kenny Walker not getting playing time? I get that he dropped passes, but I (and any rational human being) will take a 60-yard TD and three drops over whatever Sweet and Scott have provided this season.
Why not fit the speed of Ahmaad Harris, Craig Lee or Roosevelt Davis into the mix for a play instead of try to have Devin Fuller break a play on that Tavon Austin-style tap pass?
Use the tools you have.
This isn't exclusive to the execution part of the game, but I needed to vent that somewhere.
Give the team a C (2.0) for this. It would change if I were to rewatch every play because I'm sure I would find some noteworthy positives and negatives.
6.) Do we have leaders on the field?
I'll shout out Marcus Rios here for playing a good game even before the interception to seal the win, though I'm still not 100% confident that foot was down with possession while in bounds. Was nowhere near enough evidence to overturn the call on the field, whether it was ruled a catch or incompletion.
Rios' story is inspiring. One of those things that makes sports rewarding to follow. Could be dead right now and instead he makes a game-saving interception.
He was a bright spot.
The rest of the team was just kind of there. Brett Hundley played fine, but nothing exceptional. Paul Perkins had a nice game, but got banged up. Offensive line played well.
Myles Jack had ups and downs. Eric Kendricks was just okay. The secondary was overmatched talent-wise (it is just true, Berkeley's WRs are ridiculous) and played well for the most part, but not enough to warrant overwhelming praise.
This was an incredibly boring game despite the ending. The game thread reflected this and so did the general mood. That isn't something you can put on leadership, but UCLA won this game because they are better than UC Berkeley. Once again playing down to the level of the opponent and getting away with it. C+ (2.3)
Final Grade Card for the UC Berkeley Golden Bears
1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? B+ (3.3)
2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? B (3.0)
3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? C (2.0)
4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game? C+ (2.3)
5.) Do our players execute? C (2.0)
6.) Do we have leaders on the field? C+ (2.3)
UC Berkeley GPA: C+ (2.5)
For reference, the GPA in UCLA's previous loss to Oregon was a D+ (1.3) and the loss a week before to Utah was a C-/D+ (1.6) and seemed like the low-point of 2014. The win over Arizona State was a B+ (3.4), which was the high mark of 2014. The wins over Texas C (2.2), Memphis C (2.2) and Virginia C+ (2.5) all saw UCLA look exceptionally mediocre, similar to this game.
UCLA can probably have a similar game against Colorado this upcoming week and get by with a victory. At some point, the Bruins are going to have to show up and play a full game on both sides of the ball or there are 2-3 more losses on the schedule.