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The "Eye Test": UCLA Puts It All Together In Seattle

Grading out the finer details of UCLA's 44-30 victory over the Washington Huskies to see if UCLA football is meeting expectations.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was the best day of college football that I have seen all year. From 9 AM until 11 PM there were top 10 teams playing close games against quality opponents and then the UCLA Bruins actually showed up to a football game on both sides of the ball for more than one quarter.

There were no turnovers, only 1 legitimate penalty committed by the Bruins, a few sacks on the defense and only one of the offense, deep passing plays, no walk-on WRs getting playing time, pass breakups by the UCLA secondary, a steady balance of run-pass on offense with change ups in the early downs to keep the Huskies honest.

I was downright pleased with the game both while watching it originally and while re-watching it. If this were the way the Bruins had played against Virginia and Memphis (similar teams in quality to Washington, actually), then the entire tone of the 2014 season would be different. Alas, it took until week 11 for the Bruins to go from start to finish handling an opponent on offense and defense without severe mental or preparation-based screw-ups.

Let's get to the grades (because you'll enjoy reading them):

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

366 yards allowed on 72 plays (5.1 per play) is less than ideal against an offense as bad as the Huskies. The second quarter was fantastic.

3-and-out for negative 4 yards topped with a Deon Hollins sack. 3-and-out with 3 yards gained. That was it. UCLA had the ball the entire quarter because the defense put them in position to step on the Huskies' throats. And the offense could have if not for some hideous clock management (but we'll get to that later).

Even the opening drive of the 3rd quarter was adequate on film. Washington had to drive 57 yards in 15 plays (that's under 4 yards a play, and counts a terrible face-mask call away from the ball against Myles Jack that gave UW a first down when UCLA had stopped them on 3rd and 7 for a 1-yard gain) The defense still forced a FG as Takkarist McKinley got a huge sack of Cyler Miles.

There were good things to take away, like the play of all the edge players. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Deon Hollins, Takkarist McKinley all flashed multiple times in this game. Steady improvement. Eric Kendricks wasn't on his A-game, but still put up 12 solo tackles. Fabian Moreau has looked stellar the past couple weeks, as has Anthony Jefferson (outside of a few times he's been beaten in press coverage).

As far as big plays from UCLA's defense, I expected more to be honest.

4 TFLs, 3 sacks, a late game-clinching interception while Washington was desperate to score.

I was upset with the counter of UCLA giving up big plays.

A 36-yard screen pass. A 28-yard jump ball (Ishmael Adams getting Moss'ed by a 6'5" WR). A 19-yard broken play scramble by MIles. Six 7+ yard plays on one drive that made the score 41-27 in the 4th quarter. A 17-yard run and a 21-yard pass on UW's final TD drive.

That is way too many near breaks for a bend-don't-break defense. UCLA cannot have that happen against Southern Cal's skill position players because they will not get stopped for just 19-yards.

This is like a B (3.0) performance. Not as bad as the point total looks (special teams TDs will do that).

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

To be honest, I thought the offense looked borderline great in this game. Lucked out a little because Hau'oli Kikaha got knocked out of the game early on. Probably would have been a much different look from the UW defense with the leader for Pac-12 DPOY (I would give it to him over Scooby Wright, but it is close) on the field all game.

Only 3 TFLs allowed and only the one sack where Kikaha just over-matched Connor McDermott. That'll happen when you have a future 1st round draft pick against a player that will not be playing football in a few years. Talent wins most of the time, can't fault McDermott too much.

10 different receivers caught passes and they were all scholarship players. This is a huge improvement in personnel use. Attacked the middle of the field, loved the changing up of the running backs because all three guys are playing great.

Mazzone actually out coached UW's defensive coordinator. I can say that with confidence.

476 yards on 77 plays is an admirable 6.2 yards per play, putting up 44 points on a thin, but still talented Washington defense is nothing to shake a stick at.

Offensive line looked good in the passing and running game. Props to all of those players.

Best the offense has looked since Arizona State. Feel good with an A- (3.7) here. That has to be the highest grade this offense has gotten in quite some time.

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

General Observations:

  • I don't understand why teams are continuing with the squib kicks on kickoffs against UCLA. They are willingly giving UCLA the ball near the 40. Just trust your coverage team, it is so demoralizing as a special teams to intentionally abandon your kickoff coverage because you think another team is that superior to you in the return game.
  • Second play of the game, Brett Hundley keeps his eyes downfield, escapes the pocket while doing so, still cannot find an option and then throws it away when pressure forces him to. Looked good.
  • Isaako Savaiinaea actually played a significant number of snaps at a fullback position instead of Nate Iese in this game. I noticed him on the field on offense, but he was on offense far more than Myles Jack was. Probably around 10-15 snaps. Actually looked good. Sealed a MLB on a 7-yard run by Perkins on UCLA's first TD drive. Drove a DE off the line on the 17-yard completion to Jordan Payton in a 1-on-1 situation. Ran a flat-route on a 2nd and 7 inside the 20-yard line and was more open than Paul Perkins was, so he is obviously trustworthy enough for the role. Amazed no one has covered this in the media (but that would require them to do their job, so that is expecting too much)
  • Vision by Paul Perkins on a 13-yard run. Sees Kikaha over-pursuing at LB and cuts away from the flow of the play, where there was still a decent chance for yardage. One step and go.
  • The kickoff coverage team had a below average day, even before the kickoff return for a TD. Players were not staying in their lanes. This is almost certainly an aberration, but just a bad day.
  • Tahaan Goodman needed to do a better job of setting the edge on the first play after the 57-yard TD pass. He is in the right spot with good position, but then does a spin move inside on his blocker to try and make the tackle himself instead of just holding contain and letting the pursuit make the play. Turns a 3-yard gain into a 9-yard gain.
  • Deon Hollins does the exact opposite of what Goodman did on the previous play (in essentially the same position) and it goes for 4 yards instead of 9 yards. That is what you do against a player like Shaq Thompson who has shown he loves bouncing it to the outside, you force him inside and make him use instincts he does not have.
  • Myles Jack is so frustrating because he shows amazing instincts and discipline on some plays, like scraping over the top of Owa on a 1-yard gain by Thompson to make a play. But then he just abandons that sometimes to try and make a big play.
  • Like on the very next snap, on a 2nd and 21 where his man slips off of him into the flat and he continues pursuing the QB. Play luckily gets saved by a illegal block in the back penalty downfield. I think part of that is not having Ulbrich at LB coach anymore to work through those issues on a daily basis.
  • Top-notch pursuit by the entire UCLA defense on a jet sweep by Washington. Forces a 10-yard loss by stringing out the play.
  • Kenny Young gets saved by a terrible throw by Miles on what should have been a TD pass on 2nd and goal. Bites too hard on run and has to try and recover.
  • Eddie Vanderdoes is the reason Miles was able to scramble for 19-yards in the last drive of the 1st quarter. Spins inside, but not upfield. Ends up on the on the right side of the offense despite starting over the left tackle. Deon Hollins cancels out a rollout with a nice pass rush, but MIles is able to reverse field because Vanderdoes is chasing a sack instead of keeping contain on the backside.
  • I am such a fan of the stunt UCLA ran with Deon Hollins on a sack in the 2nd quarter. Used Hollins lack of size and plethora of speed as an advantage. Crashes down to the A-gap while the two DTs slant to the right side of the offense. Has a free rush on Miles inside and makes the tackle.
  • More on coaching than anything else, but UCLA managed the clock so terribly at the end of the 1st half. There is no need to spike the ball with 33 seconds left on a 1st down. Why were there not two plays called on that 3rd and 7. The clock was stopped, run a play. All you have to do is "If we convert this 3rd down, we're going to the line and running this." Boom. That easy. Attack a defense that just gave up 19 yards on 3rd and 7.
  • And if you are going to spike the ball on 1st down, YOU CANNOT ALSO SPIKE THE BALL ON 3RD DOWN. You just can't. If you have a DAMN TIMEOUT and are going to spike the ball to get a 4th down, then you should not be deciding anything for a football team. They're lucky Brett bobbled the snap exchange because the Bruins would have stopped the clock with around 20 second left and allowed UW to get a kickoff return after the FG. Just makes zero sense.

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

1. Ridiculous facemask penalty on Myles Jack.

2. False start caused by Jake Brendel's snap count.

3. An atrocious offensive pass interference call on Devin Lucien that negated a TD.

4. An intentional delay of game penalty to set up an easier punt.

Going A- (3.7), basically no penalties of consequence, lots to like here. Had to be the best grade of the season in this category. I'll be posting more specific notes on the 2nd half later in the week, in case you were wondering. Stuff got deleted in the transfer process.

4.) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?

UCLA played at a consistent level for almost an entire game. Not just effort, but in execution as well. Both sides of the ball looked solid for the majority of the game with no glaring flaws. This was probably the most satisfying 60 minutes to rewatch of the season. Far less head scratching and far more positive to point out. I much prefer doing this kind of write up. The Bruins get an A- (3.7) here just because I'm a tough grader.

5.) Do our players execute?

General observations:

  • There is no one who isn't glad to have Thomas Duarte back on the field, but he whiffed on a block on a swing pass on a couple of plays in this game. First one on a 2nd and 10 on UCLA's first drive that would have likely gone for a first down but was a 2-yard gain. The second one got Jordon James killed for a 5-yard loss (that was credited as a running play because UCLA's stat keeper is terrible).
  • Owamagbe Odighizuwa, second snap of the game, pancakes Washington's left tackle on a bull rush to force a rushed throw by Cyler Miles. Physically dominated him.
  • Owa, third snap of the game, drives the left tackle back into Miles' face to force another rushed throw for an incompletion. Deon Hollins was also motoring around the right tackle and would have had a sack if Miles didn't get rid of the ball.
  • Throw by Hundley on the 17-yard catch by Payton was impressive as hell. Floated down the sideline perfectly. Nice grab by Payton also to get a foot in bounds despite being held.
  • I look forward to the day that Devin Fuller makes the first man miss, because it will probably be a TD if it ever happens. That is why he is averaging such a low total per completion. It isn't play design or blocking. It is because Devin Fuller is tackled by the first man about 95% of the time.
  • UCLA is having the most unlucky season with sacks that I can remember. Owa and Eddie Vanderdoes both beat their men in 1-on-1 pretty much instantly. Vanderdoes gets walled off because Miles steps up into where Owa is headed, but Owa actually tackles Miles into a 1-yard gain. This was a sack. A total domination of UW's offensive line by two players and it ends up being a 1-yard QB run.
  • AND THE SAME THING HAPPENS ON 3RD DOWN TWO PLAYS LATER!!! Cyler Miles for some reason wanders out of the pocket in under 3 seconds against a 3-man rush with no immediate pressure. Owa comes off the right tackle and has Miles in front of him 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage without seeing him. And Owa's momentum drive Miles forward to the line of scrimmage for no gain. Owa had 2 sacks on one drive that ended up being a net gain of a yard. Looks great on tape, not as great in the box score.
  • Don't need to say much about the 57-yard TD pass to Kenneth Walker. Good enough ball, nice route, nice pass protection. Thanks to Budda Baker for blowing that coverage. Appreciate that.
  • Hundley misses on a throw to Paul Perkins on 3rd and 14. Perkins runs a lovely route to break into the flat and fool the MLB. He has a decent chance at the first down, but Hundley doesn't step into the throw because Danny Shelton is coming after him.
  • Brady Quinn (hurts to type this) broke down Hundley's pass to Thomas Duarte perfectly. He goes through progressions, steps up in the pocket and fires a seed to Duarte over the middle.
  • Hundley audibled at the line on a 3rd down conversion to Paul Perkins. I don't know that I have ever seen Hundley be allowed to do that.
  • Such a bad snap by Jake Brendel inside the red zone. Lucky Brett Hundley is so athletic that he can jump and extend his arms 9 feet in a micro-second and that the ball bounced to Scott Quessenberry.
  • The closing speed of Fabian Moreau gets shown off on his pass deflection. A good look for Moreau.
  • Pass rush on a 3rd and 14 by Deon Hollins was impressive and blew up any chance of Miles throwing a pass. Forces a scramble by a QB who is not Brett Hundley, and ends up being a 4th down.
  • That same throw that Hundley missed on to Perkins, he completes to Jordon James for 17 yards. NIce recovery and adjustment by Brett.

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

  • Kikaha just made an outstanding individual play on a pass rush to get the first sack. Beats McDermott, shows outstanding bend to get around the corner and then pushes Paul Perkins aside like a rag doll. Around 3 seconds to get to Hundley as he is stepping up in the pocket.
  • Tahaan Goodman misses an open fileld tackle on a 3rd and 7. Has a drag route tackled for a 3-yard gain that would have forced a 4th down. Just takes a bad angle to get there and the WR gets an extra 5 yards and a 1st down.
  • He makes the tackle, but Shaq Thompson dragged Eric Kendricks 5 yards forward to convert a 2nd and short when UCLA was in position to make the stop.
  • Two plays later on the Cyler Miles TD, he guesses jet sweep based on the motion and bails out of the middle instead of reading the play. This might be a responsibility issue, but either Kendricks, Myles Jack or Tahaan Goodman needed to be responsible for the QB. Unless UW never showed QB draw on a jet sweep look on film, in which case kudos to Chris Petersen and staff for a nice play design.
  • Dropped pass by Fuller on a screen at the end of the first half. Just a drop, nothing fancy to break down.

I missed a lot of the second half stuff because it got deleted while I was editing, I'll post something on the 2nd half later in the week. This was a strong performance though, still some issues but a B+ (3.3) is a good game.

6.) Do we have leaders on the field?

Do I need to go beyond Brett Hundley?

29 completions on 36 attempts for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns, was only sacked once (on a OL breakdown). Rushed for two touchdowns and didn't need to risk taking hits on more runs for the majority of the 2nd half. Throwing seeds at every level. Deep balls, intermediate crossing patterns, the screens to the outside, even throwing balls away to avoid sacks.

That was a Heisman candidate performance. Brett has no chance to get to the ceremony, but that was one hell of a performance. Where would this program be without Brett Hundley? I am terrified of the thought of that question.

On defense, Fabian Moreau and Anthony Jefferson did a great job all night in coverage. Owa and Deon Hollins were monsters on the edges, along with Kenny Clark inside.

Easy A (4.0) for this performance today in this section.

Final Grade Card for the Washington Huskies

1.) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play? B (3.0)

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 for 60 G-D minutes every game? A- (3.7)

5.) Do our players execute? B+ (3.3)

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

Washington GPA: B+ (3.6)

That is basically an A-.

For reference, the GPA in UCLA's previous win over Arizona was a B (3.1) and the Arizona State win B+ (3.4) were the high marks of 2014. The Bruins two losses to Oregon, a D+ (1.3), and Utah, a C-/D+ (1.6) were obviously the low points. The wins over Colorado  C (2.2), UC Berkeley C+ (2.5), Texas C (2.2), Memphis C (2.2) and Virginia C+ (2.5) all saw UCLA look exceptionally mediocre.

There is no reason that UCLA shouldn't win out to go 10-2 in the regular season and end up around the top #10 in the College Football Playoff Poll going into a rematch against a top 4 team in Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game (needing a little help from ASU dropping another game) or perhaps getting a Fiesta Bowl berth if Arizona State is able to run the table and then get beat by Oregon.

Go Bruins!