In the Bruins’ flattest performance of the Jim Mora Jr. era, rivaled only by the Holiday Bowl last season against Baylor, a chance to rock the national title picture slipped away. For the first time in years, the Bruins had their name easily visible on the front page of ESPN.com during the regular season – and until the game started, that was exciting. Then it read: No. 13 Stanford Tops No. 9 UCLA. That is, with much certainty, not the representation fans were hoping for this weekend. Scrolling down Facebook was almost painful; trying to reel in and make sense of what seemed like millions of posts about the Bruins was nearly impossible. We are Fansided, so lets break this down from the side of the Fans, including myself, on Facebook.
One fan, in the group “Real Fans of UCLA Football” said, “Ok seriously is it me? But did when just become soooooo conservative on offense? Come coach open up that playbook….we can beat these guys.” Quite frankly, it seemed coach Mazzone was trying to keep the Cardinal on their heels, waiting for the Bruins to do something tricky. Maybe he was gonna switch it up in the second half. Well at the end of quarter four there was still no sign of said switch up, so let’s put this on our list of what went wrong.
A friend of mine said, “We were on the 46 f****** yard line and we pissed it away.” Well, the term “Pissing it away” is certainly new to my ears, but it summarizes not just the drive he was referring to, but the whole game; that includes penalties. The Bruins didn’t did what most people would call “giving it away”, but it wasn’t kind hearted, there was no bow on top! It was angrily pissed away; that ties into what another fan had to say.
Again, in the group “Real Fans of UCLA Football” a fan mentioned that “All season long we’ve said penalties were going to kill and they finally have!” followed by: #getreadyfororegon. Well the Bruins are gonna have a lot of prep to do if they want to compete on an even bigger stage this week, as ESPN College Game Day has announced it will be traveling to Eugene. At this point though, what more could the coaching staff do to help the team? Coach Mora already brought refs into practice and the penalties been all but eliminated. Oh yeah, Mazzone could open up his play calling, and Jake Brendel could use some extra practice – which leads to my analysis.
It’s not clear what Coach Mazzone was thinking, but he’s reliable, leading me to trust his decision making, but it was poor decision making on Saturday. Let’s first establish that numbers don’t tell the full story, but a play caller of Mazzone’s caliber would usually try to exploit the Stanford secondary, which came into the game ranked 88th in the nation for passing yards allowed. Well that didn’t happen, and UCLA’s star QB threw two picks with only one TD. So aside from Mazzone’s play calling, what really stopped this Bruin team? Well of course it was Stanford, no discrediting them for the show they put on, but the Bruins also “pissed it away”.
This UCLA team parallels the Pittsburgh steelers in a mild manner. In 2009, when the Steelers won the Super-Bowl, their talented QB Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t doing it all. They could run the ball too, but they were a team that could rely on their quarterback. Roethlisberger is renowned as one of the hardest quarterbacks to bring down in the backfield – but he is also great pocket passer. The overlap there, between running and successful passing, is successful blocking. Hundley and his team are that same way – yet Hundley’s pocket passing was beyond off in Palo Alto. Why? Because of his offensive line. The Steelers, like the Bruins at the start of the season, gave their quarterback ample time without pressure, and they prospered. In the seasons following, Pittsburgh’s O-line deteriorated and the NFL’s best team isn’t so powerful anymore. This same phenomenon is happening to the Bruins not year by year, but game by game. Without an offensive line, you cant pass or run, which explains why UCLA was shutout in the first half. Now, with all due respect, the Bruins had two freshman side by side on the line, but that is never an excuse – when your foot touches the grass, it’s time to step it up and show up.
More disgruntling that that however, is center Jake Brendel. After witnessing the worst snaps I have ever seen when UCLA payed a visit to Utah, Brenel cleaned things up against Cal. Logically, it seemed as though the cold weather was the reason for nearly all snaps being below the knees of Hundley. In fact, Hundley’s fielding of those snaps is the most impressive thing he’s done all season, and thats not meant to say he hasn’t done much. He’s been very impressive despite his two week sophomore slump, but his ability to catch the ball was amazing. Anyway, going back to Brendel, he was penalized over and over again, even managing to snap the ball without Hundley looking. Hundley was looking left and right, standing straight up and down trying to relay something to his receivers when all of a sudden he felt something hit his legs. Yup, it was the ball. Hundley fell on it, maintaining possession for the Bruins, and I fell on my knees, maintaining tears in my eyes.
I could go on and on, covering injuries, penalties, and all types of things, but something has gotta change fast, because the Bruins biggest game of the season is this Saturday, and in the most uninspired, lackluster way possible, they blew the second biggest game of the season. Staying true to the teams 24 hour rule, I asked on Facebook, “Is crying manly for the next 24 hours? It better be.” Nobody really answered, but just know that is was the manliest 24 hours of my life.
Hopefully the Bruins rebound against Oregon, because I got a little too used to winning.