The UCLA Football team seemed to find new life on the ground behind a maligned offensive line and the defense made some stops. Would it be enough to stop the Colorado Buffaloes?
The first half was really a half of firsts. The UCLA Football defense, after getting an earful all week about their porous run defense, came out with their hair on fire and actually played very well against the run.
The Bruins also showed a revitalized commitment to the running game feeding the ball to RB Soso Jamabo 11 times in the first half. He gained 51 yards on those carries and had a long of 16 but was held out of the endzone. RB Jalen Starks on the other hand bulldozed for first downs and even a goal line score. Clearly the Bruins want to use him as a hammer in short yardage situations even though I believe him a capable bellcow.
The offensive line not only protected well but created some really solid running lanes especially behind the left side of the line. They did however have to make an adjustment when Najee Toran went down with an injury. That forced an entire shift along the line with Andre James moving to RG, Michael Alves to LG and Poasi Moala to RT. This was also the same lineup that finished the game and to be honest they weren’t horrible. Moala was decent out at tackle and James is a natural guard to me.
Rosen was up and down tonight. In the first half he didn’t seem sharp and was barely above 50% but did have one touchdown through the air. He also had a bad interception where he stared down his receiver allowing the single high safety to cheat over and make the pick. He’s going to have to clean those things up but then there were times where he was absolutely masterful. His accuracy, his placement and his arm strength were on full display tonight.
What cannot be understated was the playcalling. The Bruins were committed to the run to the tune of 95 yards on 35 carries. Not a great percentage but the fact that the UCLA Football offense continued to run the ball gave this offense balance. They didn’t ask Rosen to throw the ball 60 times and it helped them keep their defense as fresh as they could hope it to. That may have made all the difference in the end.
Speaking of that UCLA Football defense, yes they played much better in the front seven but really struggled with the read-option calls that Colorado went to often. The Bruins seemed to have a hard time with fundamentals and gave up some big runs to QB Steven Montez who took a beating as he beat up the UCLA defense.
It wasn’t just the front seven though that took a beating. This UCLA Football secondary, once thought to be one of the best in the PAC-12, continued to look average. It didn’t help that early in the first half CB Darnay Holmes was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of the Arizona game in two weeks. They’ll need that time to get some guys healthy as CB Nate Meadors was injured towards the end of the game.
It isn’t their fault alone though as the Bruins have really struggled to get after QB’s in the past few weeks and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. This team was willing to go with a three man rush most of the night but continually lost contain against Montez and with no one spying him till later in the game he was able to either run or keep the play alive and run the scramble drill with his receivers. Oh by the way, that scramble drill was apparently the green light to hold receivers and boy did the UCLA DB’s do that.
The Bruins kept this game much tighter than it needed to be much later than they needed to but with the game on the line and only leading by one point with about six minutes left in the game this offense went to work. They had a long drive punctuated by a chip shot FG by JJ Molson to essentially ice the game. Colorado on their final play of the game launched a Hail Mary that went out of the back of the endzone to end the game.
So what needs to be cleaned up? The penalties are killing the Bruins. They racked up nine for 85 yards in what seemed to be a race to 100 yards. What doesn’t show up in that statline are the points that boneheaded penalties can rob from you. There are also questions from the coaches as well. The Bruins were hit with an illegal substitution coming out of a time out. How does that happen? Finally at the end of the third quarter the Bruins went up tempo and ran a quick play instead of allowing the quarter to come to an end and select a better play and run it without urgency. Some point to it as a call by Rosen on the field but is still a highly questionable decision.
Like I mentioned before the Bruins have plenty to clean up and hopefully they take full advantage of their bye week to get healthy and gameplan for what should be a winnable game when they go visit the Arizona Wildcats. Head coach Jim Mora might have turned the flame down on his seat for another week but a loss to fellow hot seat coach Rich Rodriguez in two weeks might just re-ignite that flame.