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UCLA Football: Bruins Nation's Washington State PostGame Roundtable Discussion

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The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the U.C.L.A. Bruins self-directed implosion in their third loss of the season against the Washington State Cougars, falling 27-31.

Congratulations John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn!
Congratulations John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn!
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

A special thank you to Minnesota Bruin for serving as this week’s guest panelist on the Washington State postgame Roundtable. I know I can speak on behalf of the entire Bruins Nation team when I say we were all excited and honored to have Minnesota Bruin participate with us.

Enjoy this week’s Bruins Nation Washington State Cougars Postgame Roundtable.

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1. First order of business: officiating. A few days after the game how do you feel about the SPTRs changing the outcome of the game?

Minnesota Bruin: I’m hesitant to blame EVERYTHING on the officiating here.  Obviously, we contributed to our own demise in this latest loss.  And I’ll be the first to admit that you simply don’t get the same perspective watching the game on TV as you would sitting in the Rose Bowl.  That said, the officiating in this one was just about as bad as anything I’ve seen and it’s become a disturbing trend in the Pac 12 Conference.  I mean, not one but TWO overturned calls that even had the announcers baffled.  It’s not all sour grapes either.  I mean, when you have CJM running after the head official after the game and pleading to AD Dan Guerrero to have this individual fired, that tells you something.  These are not common occurrences.  Ultimately, it’s up to the ADs and Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott to get a handle on this problem.  Don’t get me wrong.  I completely and fully accept the fact that you’re never going to get a "perfectly" officiated game.  Bad calls here and there are a part of the deal.  I get that and understand that.  But this game Saturday night was not a "here and there" deal and it seems like a lot of other Pac 12 games aren’t either.

gbruin: Come on, is it a surprise that the SPTRs suck that much? Ultimately it’s our responsibility to make sure that a bunch of idiots disguised as referees don’t cost us a game. The refs weren’t responsible for many of our false starts, dropped passes, terrible play calls, lack of takeaways, and wasted opportunities. On a bigger scale though, the officiating in the conference is an embarrassment. WSU would tell you they got jobbed against Stanford. Ask ASU about their Oregon game. I’m sure every team can’t point to multiple occasions this year where the refs’ incompetence adversely influenced a game or two, and the Pac-12 office is negligent and is harming its product by allowing it to continue.

Mexibruin: It’s a two sided coin. I’m absolutely livid the SPTRs cost us the game. But, they weren’t the only ones. Settling for FGs when you have a first and goal on the 2 yard line? I think the better question is "who are you more livid with?"

Bruinette88: I don't accept the premise that the refs changed the outcome of the game. Obviously incompetent refs can make it harder to win, but in this case, the Bruins had plenty of opportunities to make plays to control the outcome of the game. Unfortunately, they didn't make enough of those plays, and that's what cost us the game. As a player, you have to focus on what you can control; bad decisions by an official can't become a distraction. Players and coaches have to find a way to get the job done in all circumstances. On the other hand, if a team feels it's entitled to something better, it will do this:

beer&math: After a few days, I’m over it. Holding occurs on almost every play, but the level of holding that UCLA opponents can get away with is ridiculous and I can’t wrap my mind around it. The refs clearly saw the obvious holds on Falk so was it just to protect him? Is it some misguided heroism that they let them holds go to protect the kid? There’s no right answer to this question, which means that Falk should not have been out there in the first place. I’m confident Mora would not have sacrificed a player to win a game like Leach did. I’m quite disgusted with Leach for letting Falk come back in the game and risking serious trauma to one of his players. Now, about those fumbles. Nah, I said I was over it.

orlandobruin: It is gross incompetence (i.e., the guy in the booth does not know the definition of the word “indisputable”) or someone is on the take. Period. I am sooo over PAC 12 officiating. There is no other reasonable alternative. Larry Scott must be made to answer this question. Incompetence or or bribery?

2. They’re ba-aack: penalties. F’n penalties. Discuss.

Minnesota Bruin: Oh yeah, the penalty thing.  This item is really making me look hard for that bottle of Excedrin or Tylenol P.M. depending on the time of day.  And let’s be honest here.  Some of these penalties that we’re guilty of seem to come at the WORST possible times; i.e., when we’re in the red zone or just when we seem to be getting a good, clock-eating drive going.  Look, it really all boils down to discipline and consistency and, for some strange reason, those two qualities seem to be lacking with this squad and that really bothers me.

gbruin: They do matter, Mora. They matter in the game when they kill our drives or when they extend opponent’s drives or when they create dissension between our players. They matter in the bigger picture because it’s continued evidence that the coaching staff can’t instill smart disciplined play and good execution within our team. As much as anything, the penalties are a continued indictment on the failure of our coaching staff.

Mexibruin: This one is a difficult one to assess, because the officiating was so atrocious. Sure, Benenoch and Redmond seem to be repeat offenders, but how much of that can we blame on the refs?

Bruinette88: In my opinion, the Bruins' penalty propensity never went away. I've been talking about the Bruins' penalty problems since week 1 because I haven't seen any evidence that the lack of discipline that is the root of the problem has been addressed. More than any other issue--other than my concern about the composition of the coaching staff--the Bruins' lack of discipline makes me question Coach Mora's ability to lead this team to the next level.

beer&math: The penalty problem is getting worse in year 4 and I can’t say the Bruins don’t deserve them. All the teams we play against are running stunts (legal and illegal) to confuse our OL and Washington State was no exception. This tells me that Klemm doesn’t know how to teach our players to avoid false starts as he’s worked with this current OL group for at least 2 years (many 3 or more). There’s a serious problem brewing too: Goodman’s targeting non-call.  The shameful targeting lunges are becoming so regular I practically expect at least one each game. That’s dirty and inexcusable. I will never root for a team that tries to injure other players by committing "aggressive penalties." This is strange dichotomy because Mora has a proven track record of protecting our student-athletes but what I see from his team is that he doesn’t extend the same courtesy to the opposing side. I’m not ok with this.

orlandobruin: The worst one was the one that was not called. Goodman. I agree with beer&math. Inexcusable. I hope he was disciplined internally. As for the ones that were called, this is obviously not changing in Mora’s tenure and it is a huge strike against him. Although we are racking up penalties (most false starts . . . Klemm?!?!?), I cannot believe how many holds have not been called against opponent o-lines. I would love to see a solo camera just on Deon Hollins on every play so I could count how many holds have been missed this year. See above re: the officials on this latter point.

3. The Bruins offensive stats continue to look pretty good--rushing for 214 yards and passing for 340 yards. Are these stats enough for you?

Minnesota Bruin: I agree that the "numbers" look good – up to a certain point anyway.  But as good as those numbers look on the stat sheet, they’re not translating into enough points on the scoreboard.  At least in this latest example from this last Saturday night.

gbruin: It’s not so much the stats as the efficiency. Rolling up over 500 yards of offense is a really good effort on any day, but when those yards don’t translate to points, the total yards become irrelevant. What would we give for just 4 more yards of total offense: two 2 yard runs in the red zone in the first quarter? There no real difference between 214 and 218 yards rushing, but there’s a big difference between 2 field goals and two touchdowns, and an even bigger difference between one loss and one win.

Mexibruin: Well, no. Yards are only part of the picture. As anybody who plays fantasy football can tell you, when you are assessing players for your draft, or on the waiver wire, you look just as much at TDs scored as you do the yards they put up. So, let’s take a look at our results from 10 possessions. FG, FG, Punt, TD, FG: 1st Half. Punt, Fumble, Punt, FG, TD: 2nd Half. So, out of 10 Possessions, we managed only 2 TDs!! 20 percent efficiency is not going to cut it anywhere. 4 out of 10 possessions resulted in FGs. So, 12 points out of a possible 28 points. That’s just under 50% efficiency on those 4 possessions. Then, you tack on the 3 punts and a fumble, 4 out of 10 possessions. Any way you look at it, that is terrible. Finally, let’s look at how we opened the 2nd half: Punt, Fumble, Punt. Does anybody honestly believe that is a winning combination?

Bruinette88: Stats are useful for analyzing a team's performance, but it's important to use a complete set of stats to get an accurate picture. The total number of yards indicates that we moved the ball, but it's useless in revealing in what part of the field we moved the ball and what we did with our scoring opportunities. Also, against a team like WSU, it's important to win the time of possession battle. We didn't. With that in mind, I would have been a LOT happier with rushing for 300+ yards and passing for 200+ yards. Considering the fact that we averaged more yards per rushing attempt than passing attempt suggests that our offense could have been managed better. Overall, the offensive game plan should be devised and managed to maximize the probability of winning, not to maximize total yards or even points. If using more of the clock improves the probability of winning even at the cost of reducing points scored, that's what needs to be done.

beer&math: Short answer no. Through 10 games, UCLA is ranked #22 nationally in red zone efficiency converting 90% (well, 89.80%) of their possessions into points, with touchdowns and field goals accounting for 60% and 30% of the points, respectively. Let’s compare this with a few teams: Michigan (#3, 95%, 69%, 26%), Washington State (#8, 94%, 68%, 26%), and Alabama (#81, 56%, 25%). I was surprised by this since I didn’t expect UCLA to be so high in efficiency, however, as you can see it’s not the only way to win. We must look beyond the numbers and execution and towards the play calling itself. It was so bad in the first half that it costs us at least 8 points...and that’s just the first half to say nothing about the sad second half (insane Rosen heroics notwithstanding)...which would have easily covered the points scored by WSU. UCLA players are pretty damn good and Mazzone’s offense has all the plays needed to be elite (I mean the numbers are pretty good), if they are put in a position to succeed (the Nate Iese play comes to mind).  Mazzone’s play calling is beyond baffling and downright detrimental to the team’s success and that’s why he has to go.

orlandobruin: Stats. Shmats. We need better play-calling in the red zone. Mazzone needs to stop being cute and stick with what works. Anyone who reads BN regularly knows the criticisms. I am not going to beat a dead horse here.

4. UCLA Running back Paul Perkins ran the ball 20 times for 121 yards, yet I can’t help but feel he continues to be underused. Am I crazy or do you feel the same?

Minnesota Bruin: I would tend to agree here about Perkins not being used enough.  IMHO, I feel a lot better about things when he’s grinding out yardage, getting those first downs and eating up some clock in the process as opposed to putting the load on freshman QB Josh Rosen and having him trying to create things.  Not that he can’t obviously BUT a solid ground game with Perkins backed up by Nate Starks and Soso Jamabo is pretty darn solid.  I don’t know…..Maybe it’s because I grew up in B1G country going to Iowa games in my youth (BEFORE Hayden Fry came to Iowa and resurrected a sagging program there) and saw the "three yards and a cloud of dust" thing frequently.  Guess it had a lasting impression.

gbruin: I do feel the same but it’s again a matter of efficiency. Certainly Nate Starks and Soso Jamabo are very capable backs and deserve some carries, but Perkins has proved to be an outstanding back, and when he’s going well like he was Saturday, just keep feeding him. Further, it’s silly to try a handoff to Kenny Clark on the goalline or to run Nate Iese outside when you have any of those three sitting on the sidelines.

Mexibruin: You are not crazy. I feel the same way. If you would like outside confirmation, I seem to remember that late in the game, most likely in the Red Zone, even the commentators made a remark that they found it strange that Perkins was not in on that snap considering it was such a crucial moment in the game. Some may say it is a question of substitution patterns. I would retort that coaches need to keep an eye on that and get other guys enough snaps earlier so you always know you can get your #1 in there when you need him most.

Bruinette88: I feel the same way about Perkins, but I'm not happy that the question is either/or. Why not both?

beer&math: Paul Perkins is a complete back (running, catching, and blocking). Due to Paul’s growth and work ethic (and good coaching--shout out tto Polamalu), he has really transcended expectations. I nearly expect at least 5 or more plays where he overcomes Mazzone’s poor playcalling, sheds tackles for a loss and turns upfield for a big gain. For this reason alone he should get at least 5 more carries. But, to me, the real reason is because Paul Perkins is a team leader. He is so intelligent during interviews and unwillingness to throw anyone under the bus (even when certain coaches deserve it) which speaks volumes in my book. I think really this really boils down to the coaches (Mazzone or Polamalu, I hope someone can clarify who decides personnel) because they "forget" about Perkins for large periods of some games, which is disagree with since he’s earned the lion’s share of the touches.

orlandobruin: I don’t know. Nate Starks looked great on his TD run. Do we want to run Perk into the ground before he gets paid? Does a coach have an obligation to a kid not to do this? Or can Mora ride him 25-30 times a game, every game? Georgia ran a lot of Nick Chubb when they had Todd Gurley. Frankly, I am not sure Perk is 100%. He has been grinding out yards and breaking tackles but hasn’t had a really big play since he was knocked a few weeks ago against ‘Furd. He doesn’t seem to cut and hit the seam as quite as hard as . Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the shuffles to the line are affecting things.

5. We still can win the Pac-12 South. If we beat Utah and $outhern Cal on the road, does it change your mind about the heights that a Mora lead team can reach?

Minnesota Bruin: This is an interesting question here…..The fact that we’re still alive in the Pac 12 South and we still indeed control our destiny.  I think that, when you look at all the injuries we’ve suffered this season, it’s something that we’re still in position to do what we want to do – get to the Pac 12 Championship Game.  That said, I really expected from the outset of this season that, given the amount of talent that we had that we’d be 10-0 or 9-1 at this point so there’s definitely that deflated feeling.  Would things be different minus those injuries?  We’ll never know now of course but you can’t help but wonder….I wish I felt better about our upcoming game this coming Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City.  I just feel that we’ll have to play the game of our life to beat the Utes.  We can do it but I really want to see our guys have the RESOLVE to go in there and get the job done.

gbruin: No, because I’m thinking about Mora and his staff with the totality of work in mind, and Washington State, Colorado, and Arizona State have shown there’s no change this year from the last 2. Of course we are capable of beating both Utah and Southern Cal. I want to see us stop flopping against teams we should beat and beat a team no one thinks we can. Those are the next steps for Mora and staff, and neither of those things have happened. If we win the last 2 games in  "must win" situations and then beat Stanford in the title game, then that would represent a change and maybe cause me to reconsider.

Mexibruin: Absolutely not. Even if this extremely unlikely scenario becomes reality, it only highlights how much more this team could have accomplished. But, at the end of the day, It’s not going to happen. So, IMO, there is no reason to play around with hypotheticals when we have the cold hard facts in front of us.

Bruinette88: My mind isn't made up on that issue yet so a pair of wins would simply provide more evidence for consideration. However, wins over Utah and Southern Cal would put the Bruins in position to play what I would regard as the most important game during Mora's tenure, and from that perspective, the outcome of that game would say more about the direction of the program than the wins leading up to it. On the other hand, the manner in which Coach Mora goes about improving his coaching staff in the offseason may ultimately be far more revealing about the direction of this program than results on the field in the next few weeks.

beer&math: No way Jorge! (Excuse the self-referential quip). Totally agree with gbruin and mexibruin above me. Although I would still be extremely happy, especially for the players, two games at the end of the season does not undo the 3 bad losses this team has suffered this year (and in the past three). I think the best way to describe it is by looking at IEAngle’s EyeTests. I can’t say there’s a pattern to the performance of Mora lead teams...sometimes they can blow out teams (Arizona, Oregon State), sometimes they can get blown out (Arizona State, Stanford), and sometimes they lose to teams they shouldn’t lose to (Washington State, Oregon State and UC Berkeley a few years ago). That’s a bit troubling since you expect college teams to get better as the season progresses.

orlandobruin: Not right now. If he beats Utah, beats Southern Cal, goes to the PAC 12 title game and is competitive against Stanford or Oregon, my expectations on the season will be met. my opinion of Mora will remain the same as it did before this season, despite the hiccups (Mora’s teams have always had hiccups). Anything less than that changes my mind for the worse about the heights Coach Mora can reach. If we beat Utah, beat Southern Cal, win the PAC 12 championship game, and go to the Rose Bowl (not win the Rose Bowl, go to the Rose Bowl), it will change my mind for the better about the heights Coach Mora can reach. If, by some miracle, UCLA wins out on this season (wins PAC 12; wins Rose Bowl), the bar will be raised for the next two seasons.

6. What do you think about the strength of the Pac-12 conference?

Minnesota Bruin: This last weekend alone I think shows how incredibly good and unpredictable this conference truly is.  In a nutshell, the Pac 12 is simply LOADED with good teams that have all had their share of misfortunes except for possibly Stanford which seemed unbeatable in Palo Alto until Oregon came a ‘callin.  You simply cannot take any opponent in this conference lightly.  To a degree, I think you’re seeing the same set of circumstances going on in the B1G.  Look at Minnesota, for example.  They had Michigan on the ropes over at TCF Bank Stadium two weekends ago and they managed to let the Wolverines off the hook.  They played Ohio State tough in Columbus and they gave Iowa all they could handle at Kinnick Stadium this last Saturday night.  Michigan had to go two overtimes this last Saturday in Bloomington to hold off Indiana.

gbruin: The potential for each team, save Oregon State right now, is very high, and that includes Colorado who is on the verge. The top teams in the Pac-12 can play with any team in the country. The problem is that at the same time, the possibility for each team to crater on any given Saturday is also very high, and that keeps any team from being dominant enough to rise to the top of the national scene and then consistent enough to stay there. It’s too bad. The conference has 4 or 5 teams that could compete just fine in the CFB playoff, but since our conference champ will have at least 2 losses, I’d be shocked if a Pac-12 team gets in this year.

Mexibruin: It’s a hard one for me because I can’t judge the Pac 12 as being any tougher than any other conference, because two of our 3 losses were very winnable, and I blame our own coaching decisions more for those defeats than to the quality of our opponents. That being said, Stanford lost to Oregon, Oregon lost to WSU and Utah, Utah lost to USC and UofA, SC lost to Stanford and UW, and finally, we lost to ASU, Stanford, and WSU. When I look at it that way, Oregon has the best quality of losses, and we have the worst.

Bruinette88: It's a very strong conference from top to bottom. There's a surprising degree of parity though, and I think that to a certain extent, parity in the conference leads some to underestimate the strength of the Pac-12.

beer&math: I’m not so high on the Pac-12 this season. I think 11 teams are all very competitive with about 6 teams that belong in the middle to bottom of the top 25. Also, beating each other up means the conference will most likely be out of the CFP. I also have this sick feeling in my stomach that because of the SPTRs I don’t really know who is better than whom.

orlandobruin: Deep and balanced, with the exception of Oregon State. Sorry Scotty. We do not have a division of South Carolina, Vandy, and Kentucky. Eight team are already bowl eligible. Two more have a chance to become bowl eligible. That says a lot.

7. The Extra-Point. What else is on your mind?

Minnesota Bruin: For me, it’s simple.  I want to see consistency.  I want to see discipline.  Maybe even more important, I want to see toughness.  Even with all the injuries we’ve suffered this season, I sadly have to question our team’s toughness at times.  Am I wrong thinking like this?

gbruin: Keeping with the question, props once again to Ka’imi Fairbairn for becoming the all-time UCLA scoring leader. His achievement got lost in the train wreck that was the WSU game, but he deserves tons of credit and applause for a great career. He probably got too much criticism early in his career because his misses were a bit more high profile (52 yds in the rain in the Bay Area for the Pac-12 title is a 50-50 shot for the top kickers, never mind a true freshman), but he was always so consistent at shorter kicks, and he has improved every year. And who knows, he may have another shot at a big time game winner before he’s done. Congrats, Ka’imi!

Mexibruin: 5 out of 10 possessions we managed to get into the Red Zone. Out of those 5 possessions, we managed only 19 points out of a possible 35. That is deplorable. And, that kind of performance is not going to cut it in the next two weeks.

Bruinette88: First, I just want to say how much I enjoy watching Jordan Payton. Week in, week out, he delivers. Second, when is Coach Mora going to give up on punting? Three punts for a total of 50 yards is an embarrassment. Even if "punting is winning" were true, it's definitely not true when you average 16.7 yards per punt.

beer&math: Since the Stanford game, I knew we were going to lose this game. I just want to say that I find no pleasure in this. I want the team to always win (even if it’s not always pretty and to UCLA’s standards), the players deserve it! I predict two more losses. Ouch. Again, I want to be wrong but I see an ominous combination of Mazzone’s continued suspect play calling, Mora’s demonstrated conservatism (punting, FGs), playing on the road, and all the other stuff (injuries, SPTRS, etc) to predict otherwise.

Let me end on a positive note.

John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn!

Clap Clap Clap Clap!

I’m so happy for him and I really loved GBruin’s blog post that paid tribute to his courage, skill, and growth.

orlandobruin: Nobody got all of the Pregame Guesses correct, but a tip-of-the-cap to Yiuh, who was oh so close. Yiuh precited Ka’imi would have 14 “fantasy points” (he had 13), that UCLA would rush under 250 (they rushed for 214), 6 offensive penalties on UCLA (spot on, UCLA had 6), and Rose Bowl attendance under 80k (the Bruins drew 76K plus).

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That’s it for the Washington State Cougars Postgame Roundtable. Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts and I welcome anyone else to share their own answers in the comments.

If you have any of your own questions, fire away in the comments as well.

GO BRUINS!