One of the narratives surrounding UCLA football was the transition of a highly-talented group of offensive players from the awful pistol offense to Noel Mazzone’s explosive and versatile spread attack.
Oh yeah, and Brett Hundley.
We caught a glimpse of this offense, notably during the Spring Game which saw a fast-paced, no-holds-barred aerial attack coupled with a speedy ground game.
Against Rice, though, in Jim Mora’s debut as a college head coach? The offense friggin’ exploded.
Forty-nine points for these Bruins, against a Rice team that looked, for the most part, listless on defense.
So let’s go ahead and rate them out of ten, position by position and overall. You know our overall score, as stated in the post title. Let’s continue with the rest.
Overall Rating: 8.7/10
Hundley started the game like a friggin’ quarterbacking god. On his first snap as a collegiate athlete, the dude took one to the house on the ground off a 72-yard touchdown run, which displayed the reason why UCLA fans have tabbed the dude “the savior.”
And not too soon after, Hundley was back at it again. On the second pass attempt in his collegiate career, on his second drive, Hundley threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Johnson.
Then the offense became stagnant for awhile, as a result of things settling in for Hundley. Over the next two drives, Hundley went 2-for-4 for six yards while also being tackled for a loss. Both those drives were three-and-out for the Bruins.
Because Hundley became a tad jumpy in the pocket, and that was partly due to the offensive line not protecting him the way it had for the short drives prior. His throws became erratic after the pressure started to mount on him.
He did settle in, though, and while he never did throw a legit bomb to any of his wide-outs, Hundley was sort of relegated to dropping off passes and work within a move-the-chains type of offense for the rest of the half, and for most of the third quarter. He wasn’t making the big plays he was prior, and he largely acted as the offense’s control man.
And that’s fine, because it worked. Hundley wasn’t spectacular with his decision-making, and there was obvious discomfort for a good chunk of the game. He did what he was supposed to do, when he was supposed to do it.
For that, we’ll give him a solid 8.0 out of 10.
We know that being super reactive to great games is a dangerous thing. We know that this game was against a bottom-feeder in the Conference-USA, and we know that Rice’s defense doesn’t even compare to the worst Pac-12 defense.
But my lord, Johnathan Franklin was an animal.
Franklin’s 214 yards (OFF OF 15 ATTEMPTS, DOUBLE YOU TEE EFF) doesn’t do justice to the game he had. Dude was churning, playing with a solid pad level, and looked far more patient for blocking assignments to get picked up than he ever has. Franklin was so gosh damn shifty and looked dozens of miles faster than any Rice defensive player.
His performance was so inspiring, that select fans on Twitter — and some college football analysts — began to give him a tiny bit of consideration for (wait for it … waaaaaait for it) the Heisman.
Everyone else? They were good, but who cares, because Johnathan Franklin.
The receiving corps had their fair share of mistakes.
OK, we’re being diplomatic. In a word, the receiving corps was disappointing. Given all the talent they possess, watching the amount of dropped balls by the likes of Jerry Johnson and Shaq Evans (namely Shaq Evans) to go along with a massive drop by Steven Manfro was maddening.
They were OK, though, average at best. They made mistakes, but none necessarily made people miss and no receiver clearly stepped up to have a breakout game.
This isn’t entirely their fault, though, because the ball was spread out evenly by Brett Hundley. Ten receivers caught the ball at least once and five receivers caught at least three passes.
Still, for a group that was supposed to be pretty deep, this time out was disappointing.
Surprisingly, this is a good score.
Because this offensive line was supposed to be the weakest aspect of not just the offense, but likely the entire team. The group is supposed to be one laden with potential, but hindered by inexperience, with Jeff Baca being the sole “veteran” of the group.
But it did well, compared to what we feared. Although they faltered between the second and third quarters, they were largely decent, letting Franklin run between the tackles and giving Hundley enough time to dump it off to his targets.
They did keep Hundley on edge, though, and were terribly inconsistent. Overall, though, a 7.8 is much better than the 5.0 that we feared.
We know, we know: It’s cheap to give the coach a higher score than the score his offense received.
But Noel Mazzone and Jim Mora were friggin’ brilliant, offensively.
Because this offense wouldn’t let Rice take a breath. It was fast-paced and intelligent. It moved the chains consistently and the philosophy was clear: Be aggressive as hell.
And that’s what this Bruin team tried to do. The squad ran 70 plays, and on its first four touchdown drives, the team only used seven plays, meaning when they were scoring, they were doing so fast and off huge plays.
And let’s not forget the multiple times that UCLA went for it on fourth down, as well as the pair of two-point conversion attempts (although the latter was likely as a result of an awful special teams unit, more on that later).
This coaching job was ballsy, and the adjustments at the half proved to be largely effective.
Overall, this was a nice offensive showing for the offense, and one that’s going to get us excited.