UCLA Football soared last weekend, and after cracking down on Nevada by a score of 58-20, they moved into 18th in the AP Coaches Poll. You can check the rankings out here, and a game recap here. They showed dominance – particularly in the second half – but thats the biggest issue in and of itself. A team like UCLA shouldn’t be entering the half leading Nevada by only four points. Now, thats not all on the Bruins. Nevada put up quite the fight offensively. The score may not have been the best representative of Nevada’s play in the first half, though. At times the Bruins seemed lost on defense; running zone that was was exploited early on by Nevada QB Cody Fajardo – who completed six of his first seven passing attempts.
So the Bruins have to improve defensively – as was shown out of the gates saturday.. Come the second half it was lock down coverage that was impenetrable. After seeing the Bruins preform at such a high level through the third and fourth quarters, its a shame that Lou Spanos couldn’t get them fired up during their pre-game rituals. Veering away from the defense, which, when starting so many young guys, is understandably going to take a while to acclimate, there are three main areas for improvement – all of which stem from similar issues last season.
1. Tuck it, and just go! There’s no question that Brett Hundley is a top tier quarterback, but even the Andrew Lucks and RGIIIs have room for improvement. After bulking up and spending necessary time in the weight room, Hundley would logically be keen on the idea of running more – he is a dual threat quarterback, anyways. Again, though, Hundley showed a reluctancy to scramble. After going through all his progressions with no luck, it was waiting and waiting as long as possible just to throw a tipped pass or take what little yardage was offered to him. Jumping back to last seasons opener, on Hundley’s first play at the colligate level, he rushed for a 70+ yard touchdown. The man is a beast on his feet, and yet he doesn’t aways utilize them the right way. Brett has got to make his decisions faster. Tuck it, and just go!
2. Tackling is one of the biggest focuses for any football team out there – yet UCLA seemed disoriented; particularly in the first half. If the Bruins had been able to bring down the ball carrier in one, maybe two, tackles, this game would have been a whole new story. 58- 20? Try 72-14. Poor tackling just wont fly in the rising PAC-12, not to mention against a tough, grounded Nebraska team. You’d better believe they are going be practicing it during the bye week; and they are going to improve.
3. Finishing the 2012 season at 9-3 could have looked more like 10-2 had the Bruins not shot themselves in the foot time in and time out. Unnecessary penalties are not acceptable – but a couple false starts or pass interferences in a game just means your playing with intensity. Regardless, it wasn’t “just a few” issues for the Bruins on Saturday. 12 penalties for 93 yards is absurd, unruly, and as disciplined as this team is, a sign of their imperfections. There is no doubt second year head coach Jim Mora has altered the culture for the better at UCLA, and their is no doubt that this team is significantly more disciplined than in years past – but as everyone has said, they’ve got a ways to go before they can reach greatness.