The UCLA football team’s defense got worse as the 2018 season progressed, but there are signs that the Bruins will make improvements in 2019.
I believe that most of the UCLA football-loving world is in agreement that the offense got exponentially better last season. We here at Go Joe Bruin have analyzed the offense on countless occasions and have concluded (by the eyeball test and numbers) that the Bruins were a better offensive team by the end of the season.
The same cannot be said for the defense. In analyzing the numbers from the beginning to the end of 2018, UCLA’s defense got worse. Before we look at the trends for the season, let us look at the season averages, where there is a beacon of shining light.
UCLA’s 2018 Defensive Averages
- Points per Game: 34.1 (36.6 in 2017, 2.5 decrease)
- Rush Yards: 199.4 (287.4 in 2017, 88.0 decrease)
- Pass Yards: 245.5 (196.3 in 2017, 49.2 increase)
- Total Yards: 444.9 (482.7 in 2017, 37.8 decrease)
Let us first look at the good. Compared to the 2017 season, the Bruins made considerable improvements. The biggest has to do with rush defense, which had been atrocious in the final three years of the Jim Mora era.
To be able to lower the season average by 88 yards is a vast improvement. The Bruins were able to limit movement on the ground with a more aggressive style brought in by defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro. In previous years, UCLA’s defense had a conservative approach that allowed small yardage gains to prevent substantial gains downfield. It did not work.
The new approach under Azzinaro is meant to attack the offense, but there were some growing pains. We have to consider the fact that the Bruins had a tremendous amount of turnover with injuries, exits from the program, an abundance of youth and newbies getting playing time and a limited pass rush.
That last point had directly led to the increase in passing yards allowed in 2018 as opponents had all day to throw against the defense. Still, it is good to see that among the chaos, the defense decreased their rushing yards, total yards, and points compared to the previous season.
But what is frustrating about all of this is the fact that the numbers could have been better if the Bruins maintained some consistency, but according to trend calculations, they got worse as the season went on.