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The "Eye Test": The UCLA Bruins Overcome Terrible Scheduling To Beat UC Berkeley

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Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 40-24 win over UC Berkeley in the Bruins' 5th win of 2015 to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?

I loved the scheme and execution by the defense in this one.

For the first 50 minutes of the game, UCLA got to a 40-16 lead and was in no danger of losing the game.

The defense looked great against an explosive UC Berkeley offense. Tackled well, looked prepared for the most part, made big plays when they needed to be made.

The Bears got 113 yards on 18 plays over their last two drives with UCLA in a shell defense just trying to not give up home run balls.

Taking those garbage time possessions away, UCLA held UC Berkeley to 313 yards of offense on 70 plays.

That is a dominating 4.4 yards per play from an offense that was averaging just over 6 yards per play coming into the game.

Jared Goff went 7-11 on those garbage time drives for 71 yards and a touchdown to make his stat line look much better.

Before that he was 25-42 for just over 200 yards and had been sacked 4 times.

Goff is a legit NFL prospect at QB too. He is a damn good football player who I enjoyed watching a lot throughout this game. But UCLA's defense more than handled him.

This is why I have not accepted injury excuses from this defense in terms of grading. Because this type of performance is on the table every week regardless of if Jack, Vanderdoes, Moreau, Hollins, Savaiinaea, or any other player is on the field.

There is immense talent at every level down to the 3rd/4th string players.

John Johnson was an animal in this game. Jayon Brown was all over the place. Aaron Wallace looked as good as any player Jim Mora has had at his disposal coming off the edge. Eli Ankou was stout as hell in the run game.

Not one of those players was expected to be a factor this season. But not one should be a surprise because they were all highly coveted talents.

This is an A- (3.7) and I am expecting this level of play the rest of the way because UCLA needs to have it to win the Pac-12 Championship (which is still very much on the table). Great bounce back game.

2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?

Tough to argue with 536 yards in 3 quarters of football.

Tough to find an issue with 40 points of offense in 3 quarters of football.

Tough to do anything but praise 6.78 yards per play through 3 quarters of football. (79 plays for 536)

The whole first quarter was masterful on offense. The whole unit looked so smooth, keeping the Bears off balance with Paul Perkins and Josh Rosen both making good decisions running and passing. Just got derailed by an OPI in the redzone.

Have to give Noel Mazzone props because there were a lot of looks I hadn't seen much before that were clearly a result of scouting UC Berkeley's defense. Those quick hitches to the slot WR that got 5-8 yards off of the zone read playaction looks and a 3rd down conversion where UCLA went trips bunch to the near side of the field and had the two inside WRs run deep breaking routes while Payton just feigned a step forward and Rosen waited for the Bears' defenders to bail out in zone.

At the same time, the two-minute drill to end up getting into field goal range was well run by the entire offense including Josh Rosen. But the play calling and time management was off-putting.

  1. A run to start the drive seemed like a "give-up and get to halftime" play, which might be the play I hate most in football because it is needless wear and tear on your team. Then, the RB draw out of the timeout was an odd choice but Soso Jamabo got 6 yards out of it due to great individual effort.
  2. Then, after a 13-yard completion to Devin Fuller to get to the 32-yard line, there was an injury timeout that gave UCLA (and I timed this) 59 seconds to actually get a play called on offense.
  3. Again, an offense which prides itself on this "tempo" stuff, had a minute to get a play call in and decided to go with the spike to stop the clock with 12 seconds instead. UCLA still had a timeout left and the clock wasn't running due to the first down and the injury.
  4. Wasted play, in my opinion.
  5. Then, after that spike, Kolton Miller gets beat instantly at the snap and Rosen is forced to abandon the play and checks down to Jamabo. This would be fine in a normal offense, because Jamabo would have been about 2 yards away and able to cut upfield quickly to get some positive yardage. Then you take your last timeout and try about a 45-yard FG. Making lemonade out of lemons.
  6. However, in this offense, Jamabo is standing flatfooted 8 (yes, 8!!!) yards behind the line of scrimmage and basically on the sideline.
  7. Not an ideal place to have your checkdown option in that situation. But, far be it from me to question the offensive genius that is Noel Mazzone.
  8. Ends up losing 5 yards and making a long FG into a borderline impossible FG.

It works fine here because Fairbairn made a damn 60-yard FG, but I was too pissed at Mazzone to fully enjoy that moment.

That type of crap is what costs teams games. Bad process that leads to lucky results is a losing formula. In life and in football.

And, of course, UCLA ran that idiotic RB screen that gets blown up every time they run this version of it and (surprise) it got blown up. I have literally run out of ways to display the rage I feel when I see the Bruins run this play. It is just so poorly designed and they keep f-ing doing it.

Tearing up a bad UC Berkeley defense is what I expected to happen, but the same underlying issues did still pop up and that scares me moving forward.

In this game however, the offense 100% met my expectations and balled out while the game was in question. A- (3.7)

3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?

General Observations:

  • UC Berkeley's first 3rd down of the game, Tahaan Goodman just doesn't appear to know where the 1st down marker is. Gives up position to Stephen Anderson for a 14-yard completion on a 3rd and 8. TE ran right to the sticks and Goodman gave up ground.
  • Johnny Johnson with perfect coverage on Bryce Treggs on a big 3rd down where UC Berkeley tried to catch UCLA napping with a shot deep down the sideline. Johnson was ready for it and kept stride with an extremely talented WR.
  • Josh Rosen audibled out of the original call on Jamabo's 23-yard completion. Sees both linebackers showing blitz, sends Jamabo into the flat out of the backfield and gets him the ball with no one covering him. That's a big time play.
  • Giovanni Gentosi, the redshirt freshman walk-on out of Corona Del Mar and a player who I did not know was on UCLA's roster prior to this play, is counted on to make a massively important block as a fullback on the 4th and 1 conversion by Paul Perkins and Gents does a fabulous job of sealing the hole. Massive, massive props to him at FB.
  • Darius Allensworth is a damn good player for Berkeley in the defensive backfield. He made some impressive plays that were near interceptions mostly due to his incredible effort and ability to recover after mistakes. A guy to keep an eye on in the future.
  • Kenny Clark diagnoses screens as well as any DT that I can remember. Such a smart player in addition to the massive amount of talent he has.
  • Josh Rosen gets outsmarted by UC Berkeley on an audible at the line to a quick slant. The Bears show pressure with their linebackers, Rosen checks out, UC Berkeley checks out as well and Rosen tries to gun a slant that Allensworth was already breaking on. Telling you all now, Allensworth is a star. He has the juice.
  • I think Rosen getting outsmarted on the first play of the drive caused him to under think a play later in the drive where Bolu Olorunfunmi gets tackled for a 2-yard loss. Linebackers are showing blitz again, and the safeties are both also showing blitz (basically standing where linebackers would normally be. UCLA has man coverage on the edges with 3 WRs, as well as Nate Iese behind the RT as an H-back. Has to be a check out to a throw, you cannot run into an 8-man box with 6 blockers on 1st and 10 and expect to be successful. Line actually blocks well, but the safety is unblocked and has an easy TFL. Learning curve will have some speed bumps.
  • Rosen deserves a ton of credit for how well he has played this season, but he's been god awful with his decision making on zone reads far too often this year. The first play of the half was just another example of this. In between read on taking it or keeping it, the LE does a nice job of keeping himself in the cutback lane if Jamabo gets the ball and not allowing himself to get too far inside where Rosen can run past him. Rosen keeps and does the one thing you cannot do as a less than mobile QB. You cannot run laterally on zone reads because you are slower than everyone who will be chasing you down. He pays for it and gets crushed by Damariay Drew.
  • He does respond on the next play by making Drew look silly with a pump fake on play-action though. So the praise comes right back.
  • Randall Goforth does a great job diagnosing an end-around and making a good open field tackle.
  • Ishmael Adams gets fooled on Berkeley's 2nd TD of the game. Let his man slip right past him over the middle without chasing.

In general, the team looked extremely well prepared for UC Berkeley on both sides of the ball. There were slip ups because there are going to be slip ups when you play over 200 total snaps of football. B+ (3.3)

4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense?

As always, the penalties are taken on a play-by-play basis with context:

  1. Offensive Pass Interference on Thomas Duarte on a 3rd and 4 inside the 20 yard line. Pretty blatant and unnecessary. Probably cost UCLA a touchdown on the opening drive. Just ran over the player trying to defend him. Not allowed to do that as a receiver if you don't have the ball.
  2. Kolton Miller with a false start on a PAT try. If you're going to flinch once a game, doing it on a PAT is best case scenario.
  3. Holding on Caleb Benenoch. Gets UCLA in a 1st and 20 to start the drive. Obvious, blatant. He got beat and tackled the end.
  4. False start on Darren Andrews. This is inexcusable, should not ever jump as a WR. Your eyes are only on the ball, shouldn't even listen to the count.
  5. Pass interference on a 3rd and 9 by Jaleel Wadood. Got his hand wrapped around the WR right in front of the referee, he moved it before the ball got there but that is a penalty in 2015. One of those ones that will go uncalled on most plays, but a 3rd and 9 the offensive player is usually going to get the benefit of the doubt.
  6. False start on Najee Toran on Ka'imi Fairbairn's 55-yard attempt. Thanks to him for making the school record breaker possible.
  7. Holding on Kenny Lacy on the first play of a drive. Unnecessarily came off of a double team to reach for someone running behind the play. Jamabo was already outside of the gap this player shot through and Lacy just lost focus. Dumb penalty and took a 6-yard gain on 1st down off the board.
  8. Holding by Kenny Walker takes a touchdown by Stephen Johnson off the board. Totally unnecessary. UCLA still scored on the drive, but should have been a non-issue. Beautiful play and execution. Giving that touch pass to an athlete like Johnson instead of Fuller or Mossi Johnson is the difference between a 3-6 yard play and the play Johnson delivered.
  9. Offsides in garbage time by Takkarist McKinley. Not really too worried about this one.

Offense:

I loved the response drive after the Bears scored to make it a 33-16 game. UCLA went right down the field and scored to make it a three possession game in the late 3rd quarter. Was a clincher of a drive. Offense looked crisp and focused all drive. Intended to score and they went down and handled their business. That mentality goes a long way with me in regards to grading.

I was not crazy about the super conservative shell that UCLA went into after that drive.

4th quarter: 8 runs, 1 pass, 2 kneel downs.

I'd much rather have seen the backups come in and run the normal offense if I had known that was going to happen. Get younger players reps and don't risk injury to your key guys.

Defense:

Flea flicker by UC Berkeley fools just one player on the defense. Unfortunately, that one player was Jaleel Wadood and he was the only one who needed to be fooled. 42-yard completion to set up the Bears' first TD in the 2nd half. He also got beat on a 4th and 7 later in the drive in man coverage by a TE. Not a great series for him.

But, I go back to what I said about the offense. UCLA had just gone down and scored to make it a 40-16 game heading into the 4th quarter. Basically out of hand if you get a stop because the Bears would have to make up three scores in around 10 minutes.

UCLA needs a stop and after two 3rd down conversions provided by Jared Goff runs (escaping through the pocket), Kenny Clark blows up the interior line to get sacks on back-to-back plays on 3rd and 4th down on UCLA's half of the field.

After getting a turnover on downs on that drive, the game was on ice. But, just for good measure, UCLA also stepped up and got another stop on the ensuing drive after the offense went into "run the ball/clock for 3 plays and punt" mode.

The closing factor was there in this one.

Special Teams:

Jayon Brown making a huge individual play on the fake punt attempt by UC Berkeley. Think that is the second time I remember where UCLA has actually stopped one of those plays.

Also, I feel unbelievably vindicated for standing up for Ka'imi Fairbairn all these years. He was incredible and is probably on the short list for the Groza Award at this point in the year.

Rant beginning.

His struggles (and a lot of struggles of special teams players in general at all levels) can mostly be pinned on the complete lack of a true special teams coach. UCLA great and solid NFL punter Chris Kluwe made reference to this issue in some of his articles on Deadspin.

No coach should ever be able to complain about their special teams at any level if they haven't made the investment into having someone qualified enough to course correct these players when the have issues.

Kicking and punting are massively important things and there are so many programs (and a lot of NFL teams) that just expect these guys to figure it out on their own.

Can you imagine that being the norm for any other position in any other sport?

Like if a baseball team just said, "Well, you're a relief pitcher. Figure it out during practice. I'm going to worry about the guys that are really a part of the team."

It is asinine for this to still be the norm in 2015. With all the millions of dollars that are in football, not spending some of that on kicking and punting is insane to me.

Rant over.

You know what, on second thought,

Rant not over

Why is there any praise being given for throwing Kenny Walker out there to produce the exact same results (worse technically, but I'll give Walker credit for the inside the 20 punt) as what Matt Mengel was doing?

Walker had two punts for an average of 36.5 yards.

Mengel this season, 38 yards per punt on 25 punts. Without the rugby style look where the punter gets a running start.

Mengel last season, 40 yards per punt.

UCLA's punt return defense in 2014, 16th in the nation. 63 punt return yards all year on 16 attempts.

UCLA's punt return defense this season. 2nd in the nation. Two returns for negative one yard.

Net punting in 2014, 16th in the nation, 39.44 net yards per punt.

Net punting in 2015, two yards worse at 37.09 (including the 32.7 average from this game that drags that down)..

But even that is with just 25 punts. Not as though Mengel can't reach that standard again.

The punter is a part of that success.

Mengel has visibly had some bad punts this season and he is just average overall anyway. But there are so many other issues with this team than worrying about benching the punter when he is in a slump.

You know what probably would help Mengel get out of the slump he got in?

A F-ING SPECIAL TEAMS COACH WHO KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!!!

But, no, it seems way more reasonable to put the punter (who, by the way, chose your school out of nowhere to save the special team's ass in 2014 after Sean Covington had to leave school) in his place by benching him for a WR to get the same result.

That's the kind of leadership I want in a staff.

This did not make me nearly as angry during the game, but with some reflection and getting to watch the punts again, it is such bullcrap that they aren't getting ripped for this.

Wrapping things up for this section.

Penalties were exactly what is normal for UCLA under Jim Mora. There were a lot and they were occasionally costly.

The offense and defense both played well and put the game out of reach at the earliest point they could. Ka'imi Fairbairn had one of the most impressive individual games I have ever seen a kicker have in a football game.

B (3.0), just cannot give that high a grade to a team that commits 9 penalties.

5.) Do our players execute?

General Observations:

  • Opening snap of the game, Kenny Clark blows Cal's center two yards into the backfield, sheds the block and makes the tackle. Dude is not fair.
  • Takkarist McKinley makes a hell of a play on a 1st and 10, and is helped out by a weak pull by Berkeley's LG.
  • Matt Dickerson gets pancaked at the line of scrimmage and Khalif Muhammad goes right through that hole for 15 yards.
  • To his credit, on the very next play Dickerson drives Berkeley's LT 4 yards into the backfield with speed and power to blow their 1st down run up.
  • Ka'imi Fairbairn boots a 44-yarder to get UCLA on the board. Looks so confident.
  • Josh Rosen has his weekly Aaron Rodgers play on a 3rd down conversion where he steps up through the pocket as pressure comes, has to escape to the right towards the sideline, high steps a diving tackler, keeps his eyes downfield throughout and fires a bullet into a big, safe, open window to Jordan Payton.
  • Props to Kenny Lawler for springing Muhammad for a 15-yard play. Very savvy block on Jayon Brown that he made without ever touching Brown. Just came back towards the line of scrimmage a little closer than a WR normally would and made Brown adjust his angle so that instead of a 4-yard gain, the Bears got a 1st down.
  • Caleb Benenoch probably cost Darren Andrews a touchdown because he got blown up by a pretty weak pass rush on the right side. UC Berkeley only has 1-deep safety and Andrews runs a skinny post out of the slot to the right side and is so insanely open. Rosen is stepping up to gun it there. But the pressure in his face stops the throw from happening and Rosen has to bail out of the pocket and reset his feet, by the time he gets there Andrews is covered and Rosen ends up scampering for 9 yards. UCLA scores on the drive anyway, but this is an explosive play that got left on the board.
  • Caleb Benencoh, Nate Iese and Alex Redmond gets pushed back on the right side on Soso Jamabo's 2-yard loss on a stretch play. No chance for yardage. Kenny Lacy has nowhere to pull because of this, so there are 4 giant UCLA players clogging up the lane Jamabo is trying to get to. Jamabo actually gains 3 yards to make it a -2 yard run.
  • Perfect throw and route and timing on the Devin Fuller 1st quarter TD. Back shoulder throws are possible because of practice
  • Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte both with great block on a WR screen to Andrews.
  • Hell of a play by Isaako Savaiinaea to break up a pass on a 3rd and 10 towards the end of the first half. Looked like zone, and he broke on the ball perfectly. Actually had to go backwards instead of downhill, which is immensely promising to see.
  • The 2nd and 12 throw to Thomas Duarte in the redzone was phenomenal. NFL arm talent on that throw, trusted his read and it was appropriate to do so.
  • Ishmael Adams mostly looked close to his normal self in this game. Definitely his best game of the year. But he got burnt by Darius Powe badly on a 36-yard completion. Tries to get hands on, but Powe runs right past him on a deep out and nearly scores.
  • The throw on the 2nd Devin Fuller touchdown makes me wish that I could put emojis in these posts because this comment would just be like 6 fire emojis. Absolutely flawless.
  • John Johnson, who balled out in this game (and is another player I feel vindicated about vouching for all these years that he's been hurt), almost had too good of coverage and it probably cost him an interception. Bryce Treggs tries to beat him with a slant route on a 2nd and 5 and Johnson knew exactly what was coming, got his feet and hips pointed in the right direction so quickly and finishes the slant route before Treggs can. Should have been an OPI on Treggs for holding Johnson's arm and keeping him from picking it off. But Johnson almost made the play anyway with one arm.
  • Jayon Brown with a perfect plug and shedding of a block to make a 2-yard tackle on a 1st down.
  • Ishmael Adams did a great job in this game of breaking on the ball and making tackles with no gain after the catch. Stopped three players from getting first downs with his tackle attempts.
  • I know that Berkeley converted this 4th and 1, but Kenny Clark drove their center back 4 and a half yards into the backfield with a bull rush at the snap. Scary play on film. UCLA has Muhammad down in the backfield, but he lunges for that extra yard to get the conversion.
  • Marcus Rios with a great pass breakup in the end zone on Kenny Lawler. Nice to see him make that play.

Some observations about the dropped passes, sacks, fumbles, interceptions and missed tackles:

  • Back to back missed opportunities for sacks on Berkeley's first drive by Eli Ankou and Takkarist McKinley. Both out of control with a free rush and allow Jared Goff to escape and buy more time. Got lucky on the first one that Goff missed Lawler in the end zone (can't expect DBs to cover Lawler for 7-8 seconds) and he gets a 3rd down conversion to Bryce Treggs on the 2nd one.
  • McKinley with another missed chance at a sack on a 1st down.
  • Aaron Wallace with an outstanding edge rush to get the first sack of the game. Anthony Barr signature move, knock the hands down and bend the corner to get home. Loved it. Watched it back 4 times just to appreciate.
  • Kenny Clark with an outstanding move to get off of his block, but totally whiffs on Goff for a sack.
  • Copy and paste the above comment, but switch Kenny Clark's name for Aaron Wallace.
  • Copy and paste the above comment, but add Takkarist McKinley's name.
  • Kolton Miller had a nice debut in the starting lineup overall, but he probably is the reason Fairbairn ended up having to kick such a long FG. Gets roasted at the snap after the needless spiking that stopped a clock that was already stopped and Rosen has to abandon the play instantly.
  • Jake Brendel has really been an issue in pass protection this season with what appear to just be straight mental errors. He let another DT go untouched past him to force Rosen to deal with instant pressure right through the middle of the pocket. I don't remember this being an issue for him with Hundley nearly as often as it has been this year.
  • Piss poor effort on a 2nd and 20 by 3 members of the offensive line. The Bears send a 3-man rush against 5 blockers and 2 of them get a chance at a sack on Rosen. Redmond and Benenoch handle their business on the right side exactly as you should when you get to double team a player you are both more talented then. Brendel and Lacy totally botch a double team. Kolton Miller does an awful job with his feet and gives up way too much ground when he knows he has a chip coming from the RB to his left. Ends up a sack. Lazy play.
  • Kenny Clark with back-to-back sacks to clinch the win in the early 4th quarter. Dominating player being dominant when he is needed to be dominant. He deserves all the accolades and money he is about to get this year and in the future.

I was generally happy with the execution in this game.

No drops, just the one meaningless fumble by Jamabo in the 4th quarter.

Rosen had a couple of scary throws, but I actually attribute those more to outstanding plays by Darius Allensworth than I do penalize Rosen. That leaping near-pick over the middle in the end zone was a damn good throw, Allensworth was probably up at 10 and a half feet high to get his hands on that one. Dunking height in full gear is not exactly an easy thing to do.

The defense didn't miss many tackles. The offensive and defensive lines performed like they were physicality better than the Bears front. Going B+ (3.3) here.

6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

Kenny Clark on defense is one of the most impressive defensive players that I can remember UCLA having. I watched Brian Price and Dave Ball and Bruce Davis and Spencer Havner and Robert Thomas and Ricky Manning and Alterraun Verner and Jarrad Page and Ryan Nece and Datone Jones and Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack. I've seen all those players and would put Clark's tape up against any of them and feel good about his chances of being the best player in that group.

He's a marvel to watch in the trenches. So unbelievably strong and smart and agile.

Josh Rosen had another good game. I was impressed by Soso Jamabo again and would expect that to continue throughout the year. Jamabo is going to be insanely good. He flashes a ton to me in a similar way to (not comparing the two because no RB in college is as talented as this player is) how Leonard Fournette did in his freshman year.

When Perkins declares for the draft after this season, I do not think the Bruins will miss a step with Jamabo. He's going to be that good.

Paul Perkins also had a very impressive game prior to his injury. That first drive was insane. Some Madden on Easy type stuff.

The line generally played well, but had some mishaps that cost UCLA at times.

John Johnson and the defensive backfield in general needs to get a shout out as well. Making a 1st round pick type of QB look like Goff did in this game should reassure everyone of how good these players all are.

Ka'imi Fairbairn also. Enough said.

A+ (4.0)

To be frank, the Bruins beat the crap out of UC Berkeley in this game. It was clearly the best game that the Bruins have played this year. The grades reflect that.

Grade Card for the University of California, Berkeley:

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? A- (3.7)

2.) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard? A- (3.7)

3.) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times? A- (3.7)

4.) Do our players play disciplined and with exceptional effort for 60 minutes every game on special teams, offense and defense? B (3.0)

5.) Do our players execute? B+ (3.3)

6.) Do we have leaders on the field? A+ (4.0)

UC Berkeley GPA: B+ (3.57)

For reference, the GPA for last week's game (the word "loss" doesn't seem to sum it up well enough, so I'm just calling it a game) against Stanford was a D+ (1.52). The loss to Arizona State was a C (2.17). Those two standing in sharp contrast to victories over Arizona, a B- (2.9), BYU, a B (3.27), UNLV, a B (3.26), and Virginia, a 3.45 (B+).

The Bruins will host Colorado for a Halloween contest against a 4-win Buffalo team that is coming off a victory over Oregon State.

This is the easy part of the Bruins' Pac-12 slate and they need to be dominant in a way they were not last season (rough games against Colorado and UC Berkeley).

Go Bruins!