The California Golden Bears held UCLA to just 17 points on Saturday, the lowest single-game point total of the season for the Bruins.
The UCLA offense struggled mightily against what many thought coming into the season would be a top-tier California defense. While the six turnovers hurt the Bruins, it was the season-low 382 yards of total offense that doomed UCLA; Cal exceeded this number by over 100.
Here’s a look at how we might grade UCLA’s offense against the Golden Bears.
Brett Hundley turned in one of the worst performances of his short career, throwing four interceptions to just two touchdowns and averaging 5.4 yards per completion.
Hundley, to his credit, was pressured constantly by a relentless Cal defense which consistently exploited youngsters Simon Goines and Torian White, the latter of which was taken out mid-game after UCLA head coach Jim Mora observed that White was not able to move due to “bad knees.”
However, Hundley seemed to lack poise in the pocket and often held the ball for far too long. Moreover, Hundley oftentimes forced passes into tight coverage, and did so more than once while on the run.
Brett Hundley is just a freshman, and the expectation is that he’ll get better as the season progresses, but turning in a four-pick game against California was a step back.
Running Back: B+
Senior running back Johnathan Franklin ran for over 100 yards for the fifth time this season and for the second game in a row.
However, Franklin was shut out of the endzone for the fourth game in a row. The last time Franklin earned a touchdown — either through the air or on the ground — was September 8 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Franklin received just 15 carries, however, averaging nearly seven yards per carry. While Franklin has carried the ball as many times or less in three of UCLA’s previous five outings this season, two of those games were a result of Franklin being pulled in fourth quarters of blowout games at Rice and at Colorado. The third game was against Oregon State, in which Franklin was held to a season-low 45 yards on the ground.
Franklin seemed slightly underutilized in Noel Mazzone‘s gameplan against California, and as a result, the star running back had his second-lowest single-game yardage production — both receiving and rushing — of the season with 111 yards.
Still, Franklin managed to earn big gains in his limited touches and has proven himself to be the cornerstone in UCLA’s offense.
Wide Receivers: B
Eleven UCLA players received passes from Brett Hundley on Saturday, the fourth consecutive time this season that eleven different Bruins caught passes.
All but three of UCLA’s wide-outs — Damien Thigpen, Darius Bell, and defensive end Cassius Marsh — caught more than one pass. Most notably, however, was Shaq Evans’ seven passes for 68 yards, tying a season-high for catches in a game by any UCLA player (Steven Manfro caught seven passes against Houston last month).
Unlike weeks past, UCLA football was not a victim of egregious drops and lapses in concentration (save for a costly fumble by QB/WR Devin Fuller which turned the tide of the game thoroughly in California’s favor). Although the Bruins’ wide-outs were not spectacular and did not have much of an impact on the game, they seemed to have done their job.
Offensive Line: D+
As previously mentioned, the UCLA offensive line turned in a forgettable performance. While the offensive line has been a concern since the start of the season, UCLA’s loss to Cal made such a weakness more salient, forcing Brett Hundley into bad decisions and stifling any momentum in the Bruins’ favor by allowing five sacks on the game, over one-fourth of the total sacks allowed on the season up to this point.
To the line’s credit, however, run blocking looked solid, allowing Johnathan Franklin workable holes up front and getting good pushes when Noel Mazzone called for plays to be run down the middle.
Of course, much of the play-calling was focused in getting wide-outs and running backs in space with a plethora of throws into the flat on screens, much to the fortune of the California defense. Thus, although the offensive line failed to perform, much of the offensive play-calling rendered the line useless.
OVERALL GRADE: C-
The UCLA offense looked well below average, but the skill players — save for the quarterback — did what was expected of them. However, these blue-collar performances go largely unnoticed if the offensive line and quarterback have an off-game.