UCLA has allowed 48 points through two games in the first half. The second halves of those games? Six.
This UCLA defense has messed up pretty bad in first halves of games, but much of that can be attributed to UCLA scoring too fast (seriously), evidenced by the fact that UCLA ranks in the low 80s when it comes to time of possession percentage in the first half, in stark contrast to their top-10 ranking in that respect.
So with that, let’s grade this Bruin defense, yeah?
The Defensive Line: B-
So we’re being a little harsh on the defensive line here, especially when Taylor Martinez was pressured constantly by the line, especially in the second half (despite defensive coordinator Lou Spanos calling off the dogs and spying Martinez instead). However, the Nebraska offensive line opened up enough lanes for Ameer Abdullah and Taylor Martinez to run for a combined 231 yards off a measly 29 carries, while also allowing three rushing touchdowns and a 92-yard run from the freaking quarterback.
While we’re not entirely upset at the defensive line, we are disappointed since this group had the potential to totally take over this game. And to a degree, they did, but when 260 yards are allowed on the ground, something’s up. The first half was atrocious in this respect, but the defense adjusted well and the line made up for the lack of aggressive blitzing as a result of Martinez torching the team in the secondary.
We like this squad, though, with Cassius Marsh and Datone Jones being the two anchors here, and it should get better as the season moves on.
The Linebackers: B
The linebackers had it the roughest; the defensive play-calling forced this unit to be more aggressive than it should have been in the first half. And as a result, Martinez was able to throw everywhere while taking advantage of the over-aggressiveness of the linebackers, thus being able to run for big gains.
This is a fast-ass core, though, and it’ll need to reign in all that aggressiveness and stop over-pursuing sometimes. The mindset isn’t bad — attack, attack, attack — and that’s exactly what Spanos and Jim Mora dialed up.
When UCLA changed the plan, spied Martinez and dropped back into coverage, it was a thing of beauty.
The Secondary: C
Taylor Martinez had a dreadful second half, and part of that was because the UCLA secondary buckled down and played well after the linebackers laid off and dropped into coverage.
The secondary in the first half? They struggled, giving Martinez’s options far too much cushion and, at one point, were beat by Martinez himself when he ran for a 92-yard touchdown.
They were painfully torched all the first half, and it’s why Nebraska hung 24. This secondary has potential, mind you, and it needs to work on getting better, but just as much as it is their fault that the defense allowed those points, the scheme that UCLA’s coaching staff used wasn’t the correct one. Thus, the secondary adjusted.
Overall Grade: B … UCLA adjusted like motherfreaking bosses again, against a squad led by a dude who was receiving Heisman chatter at the QB position.