UCLA Football: The 2012 Offense Vs. The Oft-Maligned 2011 Offense

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11.4 Average First Quarter Points (2012; #7) vs. 4.1 (2011; #93)

What most defined UCLA’s offense in 2012 is a trait that it sorely lacked in 2011: Fast starts.

UCLA has thrived on building leads early on in games and though they’ve faltered in later quarters, the Bruins dig holes for their opposition right at the outset. Most notably, UCLA scored 19, 21 and 24 points in the first quarter against Rice, Arizona and USC, respectively, in 2012. It’s how UCLA has kept its opponents at arms’ length, and when UCLA doesn’t get to a fast start in the first quarter, the Bruins don’t fare well (in fact, only once has UCLA scored more than 14 points in one quarter and lost the game: Against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game).

In 2011, UCLA’s offense was markedly slower, running Rick Neuheisel’s sorry-ass excuse for the pistol, an offensive formation that is now considered a joke in Pac-12 circles, mainly because UCLA ran it right to the ground.

In addition, the 2011 UCLA Bruins were markedly conservative (that’s diplomatic; let’s say that they were sackless because that’s a more apt description).

81.4 Plays Per Game (2012; #14) vs. 66.1 (2011; #104)

As stated previously, UCLA installed a new offensive scheme, philosophy and formation in 2012 with the arrival of UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Mazzone’s spread offense earned a lot of praise at Arizona State and has essentially turned UCLA’s offense from one that, in 2011, was laughable to legitimate threat to score at any given time.

UCLA ran at a much faster pace and often tested opposing defenses with their ability to spread defenders across the field at every level. It largely attributed to Johnathan Franklin’s explosion in 2012 (by far the best season of his career at UCLA) and made Brett Hundley’s job at QB astronomically easier. No more 32409344-second-long zone reads and no more “punting is winning.”

271.6 Passing Yards/Game (2012; #36) vs. 198.3 (2011; #79)

UCLA boasted a decent run game in 2011 (the Bruins only ran 25 more yards per game in 2012 and even had a lower yards-per-rushing attempt average this season as opposed to last). The problem with the offense back then was its one-dimensionality. UCLA was entirely unable to consistently gather a passing game and passing almost became an afterthought, with just 40 percent of all plays going through the air (in 2012, that was 46 percent).

In 2012, the emergence of Brett Hundley as the second-best QB in the Pac-12 (behind fellow freshman Marcus Mariota) contributed to the impact that Noel Mazzone’s offense had on the Bruins. Sure, Kevin Prince had a bunch of intangibles but watching him pass was cringe-worthy and almost always frustrating. Perhaps Prince performs better in Mazzone’s spread, but that’s hard to believe, considering Brett Hundley has proven to be a legitimate playmaker rather than a quarterback playing within a system.