Last season was not good for the UCLA Football team in terms of ‘time of possession’. To avoid what happened in 2016, the Bruins need to dominate the time in 2017.
The UCLA Football team has made various changes to the way they will operate in 2017. After their disastrous 2016 season that saw them finish 4-8, Head Coach Jim Mora ripped apart the offensive coaching staff and hired Jedd Fisch to put it back together.
It is going to take a while for Fisch to solve the offensive issues, but as Go Joe Bruin has observed in spring practice and fall camp, the changes, though slow and steady, look to have the Bruins heading in the right direction.
But how will they perform in an actual game? Though the offense should be better, there are still several parts of the Bruins’ game that need to be tended to. One of those is a big issue: how long can UCLA hold onto the football?
Time of possession was a big concern last season, especially after starting QB Josh Rosen was out for the season six games in. T.O.P. was not great before Rosen was injured and got even worse after.
Time of Possession/Point Differential before Rosen’s injury
- T.O.P. – time of possession (the total amount of time the offense has control of the ball)
- Time diff. – the amount of time (more or less) UCLA had the ball compared to their opponents
- Point diff. – the amount of points UCLA won/lost by
With Rosen in, the Bruins did okay controlling the time of possession. In four out of their first six games, the Bruins had control of the ball more than their opponent. That resulted in 3 wins (and it could be debated that UCLA could have defeated Arizona State, the game Rosen was injured in, if he was not injured). UCLA also averaged a point differential of +4.3.
That changed after Rosen went down for the season. In the last six games, time of possession — and subsequently their points — dropped significantly.
Time of Possession/Point Differential after Rosen’s injury
Mike Fafaul had replaced Rosen in the final six games and though he did as well as he could, Fafaul and the offense were not able to control the ball as Rosen did.
UCLA did not control time of possession in any of their final games. Their opponents controlled the ball for ten or more minutes in five of those contests. The only game the opponents controlled the ball for less than 10 minutes was their win against lowly Oregon State. UCLA also had a point differential of -9.5.
Losing Rosen was huge, but it is not the only reason UCLA had such dreadful results in the second half of 2016. It has been well documented that former Offensive Coordinator Kennedy Polamalu’s system did not work with the Bruins’ personnel.
The offensive line was not prepared to play a more power-based style which disallowed the running backs to run. The receivers were also plagued by dropped balls. Add in the Rosen injury and that led to an offense that more often than not went three-and-out, especially late in the season. That was the biggest culprit, mainly because it forced the defense to stay on the field longer than they should have.
Tom Bradley’s defense is solid, but they were gassed at the end of games and eventually the season.
So essentially, UCLA had an offense that could not move the ball downfield or control time of possession which led to the defense trying to keep games close, but eventually burnt out. That is why the balance between offense and defense is essential. The offense not only needs to put points on the board, but they have to chew up the clock in the process. That will allow the defense to operate with maximum effort.
In summary, if this UCLA Football team can control the time of possession, we could quite possibly see a very dangerous Bruin Football team this fall. If they don’t, then there will be even more turmoil at the end of the season.