UCLA bounced back against Colorado last Saturday, and part of the reason the Bruins looked so good in their 42-14 conference road win over the Buffs was an improvement on offense.
The improvement wasn’t immediate, though, because UCLA put up “only” 21 points at the half, and though three touchdowns in the first two quarters isn’t such a bad deal, Fresno State put up 55 points against the Buffs earlier this season.
The offense picked up in the second half and entirely dominated Colorado though, blowing open the game after kinda-sorta clinging to a 14-point lead heading into the third quarter.
It wasn’t UCLA’s most impressive offensive performance, but it was far and away better than the they-got-the-job-done-at-least performance against Houston and 1000 times better than how they fared against Oregon State.
Let’s break down the positions and grade how they did:
I hate giving out A+’s, because like UCLA professors, I think grade inflation is ruining everything.
That said, when your QB accounts for 66 percent of your touchdowns in a game where you score 42 points, it’s hard not to be impressed.
Brett Hundley was 25-for-38 against Colorado, while throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, he was also running the ball for scores, too, punching in two rushing touchdowns.
Hundley has been a huge surprise for UCLA, because he hasn’t looked like the redshirt freshman he’s supposed to be. Had Hundley stayed in for the final 10 minutes of the game, we’re sure he would’ve hit 300 yards passing again, and might’ve propelled UCLA to 50 points, the first time they would’ve done so since 2005 against Northwestern in the Sun Bowl.
Overall, Hundley has been one of the most encouraging things about UCLA football, and it’s nice to know Bruins fans don’t have to worry about being deficient at the most important position in football.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
I’m always particularly harsh on the offensive line, and that’s partly due to the fact that we had pretty low expectations heading into the season considering its youth, while also partly due to my own biases regarding that youth.
Of course, this o-line has allowed 13 sacks on Brett Hundley, and though that’s not entirely on them — Hundley hasn’t figured out yet how to throw a ball away when given a chance — they deserve some of the blame.
But against Colorado? The offensive line looked good, allowing Johnathan Franklin some holes on the inside — why Noel Mazzone is running so much up the gut is beyond me, but I digress — and the pass protection was solid.
There were times when the Colorado front seven was especially pesky in the backfield, and this could use some cleaning up. Overall, the crew got the job done, and considering this unit is young, they may have the most potential of any other UCLA offensive unit.
RUNNING BACKS: A-
Johnathan Franklin turned in another elite performance to bounce back from a hellish game against the Oregon State Beavers.
The line doesn’t look as flashy as games past: 111 yards off of 15 touches for Franklin, with no scores to his name. However, we’re sure Franklin would’ve had a lot more yards if he had been given the ball more because that offensive line was giving Franklin a chance to break through for nice yardage.
Also worth noting is the play of Damien Thigpen, who had nine carries for 47 yards. Thigpen is incredibly raw, it must be noted, and his vision needs to develop further, but if you watched the game, it’s hard to say the kid doesn’t have potential. Thigpen is freaky fast and likely could outgun Franklin in a foot race.
Thigpen needs to develop patience and craftiness with his feet, much like the way Franklin did this past offseason. If he does that, the running back position for UCLA will be just fine in 2013.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
It’s always hard to gauge UCLA’s wide-outs because the Bruins like to toss the ball everywhere. Against Colorado, Brett Hundley spread the ball out to 11 different receivers with only one player (senior Jerry Johnson) hauling in four passes.
Of course, this group had a good chunk of drops this week, although nowhere near as egregious as last week against Oregon State. No one had a breakaway game like Shaq Evans had at the Rose Bowl against the Beavers either, but on the whole, it seems as if everyone did their job.
A finger wag is warranted for Steven Manfro though, who has a hard time being more reliable with his hands. He is impossibly difficult to take down in the open field due to his elusiveness, and the catches he could’ve hauled in would’ve been spectacular.
He’s only a freshman, though, so we’ll expect better performance as he progresses in his development.
We might be super critical of Noel Mazzone here, but it is really maddening that, knowing his team’s strengths, he’s gone away from running more screens and dumping off more balls in the flat in favor of running up the middle. We get that the backs have to run up the middle at least some of the time, but not getting Jordan James and Damien Thigpen in open space and instead handing off the ball up the gut just seems criminal.
The pace has also cooled off since UCLA put up 98 plays against the Houston Cougars, and though 84 is quite a few ticks above the 70 plays UCLA put up against the Beavers, it’s not exactly what we’re accustomed to seeing, or what we should be seeing. At the same time, we must admit that we’re not too sure of any depth issues the offense has, and running nearly 100 plays a game has to take a toll on the offensive line.