It has been said year in and year out that the UCLA Football team has a tendency to play down to their competition when facing a “lesser” opponent. Over the years it has had a tendency to come back to bite the Bruins. Hawaii cannot be one of those teams and they will make UCLA pay if it is overlooking them.
Now you may be saying to yourself “I saw what the UCLA Football team is capable of, no way they lose to Hawaii”. You’d be in the hefty majority. The Bruins, after spotting the Aggies a 34 point lead, roared back to win in dramatic fashion typically reserved for a Michael Bay film.
Despite the win however, the holes in the UCLA Football team were on full display for any of their eleven other opponents to take notice of. First off the Bruins still are struggling to run the football. While they found occasional success they were still woefully inefficient in yards per play and in whole line execution. Yes guys like Michael Alves and Najee Toran had solid days the line as a group left a lot to be desired.
Blame it on play calling, scheme or inexperience, this group has time to pull it together and will have a great opportunity to fine tune some elements of the run game against a quality opponent.
The run defense was also a glaring weakness. The Bruins chose to play predominantly in the nickel paid the price for it when they were unable to bring enough numbers into the box to match the powerful Aggie offensive line. It wasn’t until late in the game that adjustments were made to counter the run game and the UCLA Football defense had any luck in slowing the ground game.
There is plenty of youth on this defensive line and it showed against A&M. Jaelan Phillips played well but not without a rough start. Boss Tagaloa had a difficult time anchoring against double teams but was solid one on one. Matt Dickerson was okay but has consistently struggled to keep his pad level down which is paramount for such a tall player in the interior of the line. Keisean Lucier-South actually looked very good, displaying more power and ability to shed blocks than in previous outings. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, the veteran of the group was steady but came on later in the game.
While I don’t believe the Bruins will have a great deal of trouble moving the ball against Hawaii however they chose to, they may encounter some fierce competition stopping the Rainbow Warrior run game.
Hawaii RB Diocemy Saint Juste rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2016 at 5.9 yards a clip. Two games into 2016 he’s already piled up 280 rushing yards at 5.8 yards per carry. Built low to the ground with powerful legs, Saint Juste is the player this offense runs through. The Bruins will be one of the most talented teams he’ll face all season but if they can’t improve their run defense he will shred them.
He’s not the only threat on the ground either as Hawaii QB Dru Brown ran for over 300 yards last season and four scores. Should the read-option come into play for Hawaii it could be a long day for the Bruins.
It will be a battle of the UCLA Football weakness vs the strength of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. I do expect that the Bruins will pull out the victory but if they’re looking past this game and onto Memphis they could be in for a rude awakening.