UCLA Football Beats ASU: Going Behind The Box Score

This is a new feature that gives you about as in-depth analysis of the most recent UCLA football game as I can possibly give you. It’s taken from Kelly Dwyer’s “Behind the Boxscore” because the man is an inspiration. 

Coming into the game, UCLA fans were worried. They were worried that this squad had fallen victim to the same damn tendencies that have plagued the football program for the past ten years. They were worried that the offensive performances against Rice and Nebraska — in which the Bruins hung 600 yards of total offense like it was no biggie — were simply anomalies and that the Bruins’ offense was a hell of a lot like the offense everyone saw struggle against Utah and lag behind Cal.

This game, though? Against an ASU defense that ranked top-25 nationally in every defensive category that mattered? Against ASU defense that led the nation in passing yards allowed per game, and that was damn close to tops in the nation in yards per pass? They made it look easy.

The Bruins nabbed nearly 500 yards of total offense against a defense that allowed half that all season. They were throwing slants over the middle, and letting Johnathan Franklin do what Johnathan Franklin does, encouraging him to run outside the tackles and make moves in open space. They were completing those annoying-as-hell behind-the-line-of-scrimmage passes into the flat, while those speedy-ass receivers were able to make defenders miss. Brett Hundley was staying in the pocket and not getting antsy to leave at the first possible moment. And finally, that offensive line got a good push against a Will Sutton-less Arizona State defensive front, letting Hundley work for just long enough back there, although Hundley was forced to make plays out of his bum, for damn sure.

This is how these 2012 UCLA Bruins are going to win games: Being faster, savvier and more disciplined than you are on offense. They won’t ever force you to cover the field vertically, but everywhere else is a problem because this team doesn’t mind sustaining long drives nor do they mind busting open for big plays off of short passes and draws.

The defense? That’s a different story.

To start the game, that defense was maddening, letting Cameron Marshall essentially walk all over that UCLA defensive line, letting him bang his way for six-yard carries. The big guys up front looked listless and those linebackers weren’t looking very useful either in run support. They looked as if ASU hadn’t entered this game running 79 plays a contest and entirely unaware that Cameron Marshall’s a pretty damn good back. As a result, the Bruins fell behind 14-0 early, causing a catastrophic meltdown in the UCLA Twitterverse and causing your humble narrator to have a nervous breakdown.

But then that defense adjusted into what we knew it would be all season: One that was excellent in stopping the run but was pretty useless against the pass due to a hapless secondary.

And everything evened out: ASU ran the ball for nearly 220 yards, sure, but they also needed 59 carries to do so, an average of 3.7 yards per carry. True to form, though, was that UCLA secondary, which allowed freshman QB Taylor Kelly to torch them like it was no one’s business to the tune of four touchdowns and 315 yards. These things tend to happen when your corners can’t consistently keep up with opposing wide-outs, especially when they come into the game helping the opposition average 251 yards passing.

We’d like to say that things are all better because the UCLA defense got stops when it was supposed to, but allowing the Sun Devils a touchdown while you’re only up 42-36, late in the game, in the fourth quarter, on the road? A stop would’ve been nice.

Instead, that UCLA offense re-emerged and Brett Hundley became the savior that everyone had touted him as (albeit quite a bit tongue-in-cheek, given the state of UCLA football at the time). Driving 60 yards with 90 seconds left in the game down one point isn’t something your older brother could pull off against a Pop Warner team, no less against a Sun Devils defense that was ascribed the “pretty good” label that has damned defenses that, in all honesty, weren’t actually very good.

And they came away with a win because they could keep up in a shoot-out. Hundley finally had his moment of courage and composure and Noel Mazzone redeemed himself by calling a hell of a game on offense.

These Bruins, for the first time in seven years, are bowl eligible in October due to ballsy play and ridiculous grit.

Not bad for a day in the desert, eh?

Tags: Arizona State Sun Devils Football UCLA Bruins

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