Cactus Bowl 2017: UCLA Football post game wrap up and notes

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Bill Snyder of the Kansas State Wildcats greets Tyler Burns
AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Bill Snyder of the Kansas State Wildcats greets Tyler Burns /

It was a tale of two halves for the UCLA Football team in the Cactus Bowl Tuesday night. What started out as a very promising night for the Bruins quickly turned into a mad scramble to stop the bleeding.

The first half of this game couldn’t have gone much better for a UCLA Football team that had relied so much on the arm of Josh Rosen. With him out for the bowl game there were plenty of questions about what the offense would look like and how ready was backup Devon Modster going to be after splitting first team reps in practice.

Those worries were eased in the first half with Modster finding his footing after a few drives. Early on the Bruins chose to attack the edges of the K-State with Demetric Felton but eventually found their way downfield with quick out score to Jordan Lasley and a dime of a throw to a wide open Theo Howard.

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Defensively the UCLA Football defense was able to make life very difficult for K-State QB Skylar Thompson and the Wildcat offense really struggled to move the football and at one point had three and outs on three of five offensive drives. He was replaced by former second string QB Alex Delton and the results were immediate with his legs. Still the offense looked good. The traditional ground game was ineffective but with the Bruins able to strike downfield, it didn’t seem to be quite such a big issue. It was only the beginning of the end.

The Bruins received the kickoff to start the second half but that was about the best news they would be able to brag about the rest of the night. The offense came to a screeching halt as the boom or bust results of the first half were almost all bust. Passes were inaccurate, there were drops, and the ability to adjust at halftime (or not adjust) reared their ugly head for the Bruins. It wasn’t just drops. There was a very costly turnover by Bolu Olorunfunmi who had the ball ripped from his hands by a Wildcat defender following a K-State score. That turnover was quickly turned into more Wildcat points.

K-State decided Delton was their best option going forward and he didn’t disappoint. His ability to be patient and allow for the play to develop instead of pressing like Thompson was in the first half made life incredibly difficult for the run defense. The K-State offensive line also began dominating the battle up front and wore down the UCLA Football front seven causing them to load the box much to no avail.

K-State RB Alex Barnes was a load to bring down and was often untouched before hitting the secondary. There was no greater embodiment of the Bruin defensive troubles than on 4th and one at the UCLA 41 in the early fourth quarter. The UCLA defense could have forced a turnover on downs but instead loaded the box, trusting that they could stop or at least slow any rushing attack. That trust, just as it had been for most of the season, was misplaced and Barnes basically went 41 yards untouched for the score.

It was the complete worst case scenario for the UCLA offense with Modster at the helm. K-State continued to roll on the ground, eat up clock and score points forcing the Bruins to try and match without success. The passing game wasn’t sharp and the run never materialized. It wasn’t as though the Bruins made it easy on themselves though. Modster was asked to make pinpoint throws in the second half after being eased into the passing game in the first half.

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It wasn’t a good showing at all for the remaining staff but was a very poor showing by a defensive staff that frankly has nothing to lose. The Bruins rarely pressured, didn’t press much outside and there were a number of missed tackles, leading this writer to question what was going on in practice.

Of course this game will get swept under the rug as just another unpleasant memory before the Chip Kelly era begins.