UCLA Football: The Bruins’ run game is picking up speed

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi /

After finishing with some of the worst rushing stats in the nation last season, the UCLA Football team is finding ways to make the run game work in 2017.

84.3 yards per game. Even with five talented running backs, this was all the UCLA Football team could achieve on the ground last year.

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It was one of the factors that forced a change in offensive leadership. With new Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch taking over, getting the ground game going was essential for an turn around with the offense.

In their first game, the Bruins matched their average from last season with 84 yards (subtracting plays going backward). Yes, this was bad as the offense did not seem to wake up until the second half, but also consider UCLA went pass-heavy with Josh Rosen in that comeback against Texas A&M. Without the urgency, it can be argued  that the Bruins could have done more on the ground.

Things were a little more balanced against Hawaii. With Rosen slinging the ball around, it opened up the offense for more runs and it was some of he best we have seen in over a year.

UCLA ran for 132 yards (5.1 yards per carry, very good), but if you take away the negative yards from QBs Rosen and Devon Modster (sacks and a safety), the Bruins carried the ball forward for 155 yards (6.7 ypc, very, very good).

Six Bruins ran the ball and all of them averaged over 3.3 ypc. Four Bruins that had at least three carries, averaged more than 5.3 ypc.

With their committee effort, the Bruins almost evenly spread the yards around as Nate Starks (42 yards), Demetric Felton (37), Bolu Olorunfunmi (32) and Brandon Stephens (28) all had a hand in imrpvoing the run game against UH.

But let us put this into perspective, it was against Hawaii. Not a powerhouse, but a team the Bruins could afford to try and implement their run game against, which brings us to another topic… how Fisch is using the players in the run game.

With no clear stand out, Fisch is using any and all RBs to his advantage and the disadvantage of UCLA’s opponents. Against Hawaii, we saw a lot of wrinkles which leads us to believe there will be more.

To start the game, FB Giovanni Gentosi got a hold of the ball and had a solid 6-yard run. Mostly used as a receiver, Felton gave the Bruin back field a different look. But Fisch is also relying on his veterans to step up, which we saw from Starks and Olorunfunmi who both had key runs in this contest.

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It is not pretty, but it is prettier than last season. With Rosen putting up big numbers, this will allow the run game to open up. If that happens, we should continue to see the rushing yards increase, and that is always a good thing, considering what happened in 2016.