Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 2: UCLA vs Nebraska Game Recap

What I thought would happen:

Maybe one day, but Saturday is not that day.

Martinez and the Husker attack will start fast, pounding the Bruin D in the mouth on route to a double digit lead. Hundley will be forced to go to the air, resulting in a couple drives that display his potential and what might be coming for the Bruins, and a some others that will show that he's just a second game starter. Franklin will gut out a tough 100 yards, but the Huskers will bottle up Hundley in the ground game. 70 yards of penalties later, UCLA will show that while its on the right track, its not quite there yet. Martinez will have yet another efficient day throwing the ball, while Kenny Bell will have 100 yards receiving...Nebraska 31, UCLA 21

What Happened:

After an absolute shootout in the first half in which neither offense could really be stopped, the UCLA defense came out and made the adjustments necessary. Nebraska was held to three points and had no rhythm on offense whatsoever. Taylor Martinez ended his short lived Drew Brees impersonation from last week and showed why he is so heavily criticized despite having such dynamic playmaking ability. The co-stars of the show however were Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin. A Datone Jones safety finally put the Bruins ahead for good. Only penalties and missed kicks kept this from being ugly. 

The Good:

-This ones for real. After UCLA beat Texas, questions remained about quarterback play and the absolute lack of a passing game. When UCLA beat Tennessee, the consensus was that while it was a big win for the Bruins, Tennessee wasn't going to be all that good anyways, and the Bruins hid behind their defense to cover many of their flaws. When UCLA beat Arizona State last year at the Rose Bowl, there were still lingering questions about the football team as a whole, and how competitive would it really be against an upper echelon team. This time, the only questions remaining are regarding penalties and field goal kicking. The UCLA attack moved at will, while the defense put the clamps in the second half. Only missed field goals, penalties, and a brief Brett Hundley injury kept UCLA from hanging over a half-hundred. 

-Enough. Johnathan Franklin takes a back seat to nobody. Not to Montee Ball, not to Rex Burkhead, not to Kenjon Barner, not to Le'veon Bell, not to anybody. There are better pro prospects out there, but in terms of production and what a back is capable of night in and night out, there really are few if any better. It's time to start talking Doak Walker, and if the Bruins keep winning, maybe bigger things. Franklin has consistently not gotten the credit he deserves nation wide, and now after 273 yards of total offense against the "blackshirts," it really is time to start paying homage. Through two weeks Franklin leads the nation in rushing yards.

-As Joseph Fauria said after the game, "some guys just have that aura to them." Brett Hundley has only played two games in his UCLA career, and he's already put together the best performance by a UCLA quarterback since Cade McNown. What makes Hundley so special is that unlike what people might believe, he is a pure pocket passer who can run.  Hundley made good decision after good decision, while ocassionaly taking off and getting good yardage. His ankle was of some concern for a brief moment in time, but that was about the only sour note for him on this night (although, falling on his butt while trying to take a knee was a good laugh). For now, it seems the Bruins have finally found the quarterback they have been yearning for since 1998.

-Sure, Hundley and Franklin were special, but do you want to know why UCLA won this game? UCLA won because it not only won the battle of the lines, it dominated it. The Bruins o-line that starts three freshman gave up just two sacks, and hardly ever allowed much pressure on Brett Hundley. The defensive line meanwhile controlled the tempo in the second half, bottling up the Husker ground game and putting pressure on Taylor Martinez consistently in passing situations, garnering a sack and 9 TFL. Datone Jones seems to have finally shown up, and NFL scouts will begin to take notice if more performances like this are had in the future. Jim Mora Jr. and co. deserve major credit for once again storming out of the gate after their halftime adjustments. 

-The Bruins are beginning to find other fringe play makers as well. Devin Lucien showed flashes of brilliance in the open field, while Steven Manfro overcame his freshman jitters from last week and showed that Manfromania was no fluke. Of course, there's still the walking mismatch in Joseph Fauria Jr. In the redzone, any ball thrown near his head standing at 6'7 off the ground will have a chance to be brought down. Franklin is special, and Hundley looks like oozing potential as well, but for the team to succeed as a whole, these players will have to continue to perform. Another fun fact: Hundley hit eight different receivers on the day.

-Out goes Sheldon Price, in comes Andrew Abbott, and at saftey goes Randal Godforth the freshman. And what a game they all had. Abbott had 5 tackles, a pass deflection, and an interception, while Godforth had nine tackles and saw two picks float right through his hands.

The Bad:

-Kai'mi Fairbairns will hurt the Bruins at some point this season if this continues. Of course, there was some improvement, he made his PAT's this week, but when 20 and 30 yard kicks aren't automatic, there are major issues to be addressed. 

-11 Penalties for 126 yards is just not acceptable, and very nearly cost the Bruins the game. Of course a couple calls were questionable, but that's football, that's just how it works. This is still a young team, and you could see it at times last night. 

-The run defense was gashed in the first half, and while they improved dramatically in the second, Nebraska still finished with 260 rushing yards. Tackling in space still seems to be an issue, as the Bruins missed several tackles that resulted in big gains in the first half. 

Looking Ahead:

Bruin fans, this one was for real. This looked like a real, live team with a good quarterback, a dynamic running game, a plethora of options to throw to, and solid line play on both sides. Now the team must not lose focus, as a 5-0 start is there for the taking (though Oregon State looks tougher now). With a top 25 ranking for the first time since 2007, UCLA now will have to show that this wasn't a fluke. Critics will say that while this was a big win, it was still against Nebraska, who has struggled to get the passing game going and has consistently looked bad when the run is shut down. Houston is awful, and the Bruins must avoid any let down and come out looking like the 22nd best team in the country. As good as this win was, a bad performance against Houston would undo it all in a hurry. All in all however, it's a good day to be a Bruin.

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