Monday, September 17, 2012

Week 3: UCLA vs. Houston Game Recap

What I thought would happen:

This has letdown game written all over it. But Jim Mora Jr. has brought the no-nonsense approach the Bruins have needed for a long time. UCLA hasn't had many chances to do the playground bully act this past decade. Here's their chance. 

The Bruin offense will come out and march up and down the field, doing whatever it pleases by land or air. Franklin will have another spectacular evening, while Hundley will continue his march towards the Freshman All-American team. The Bruin defensive line meanwhile will put up 5 sacks. The UCLA secondary however will struggle in the first half, as Houston attack will have its fair share of success in the first two quarters. After that, it'll be all Bruins. Richard Brehaut will see some action in the fourth quarter...UCLA 45, Houston 21

What did happen:

After the second play from scrimmage, in which UCLA picked up a backwards lateral and returned it for a score, it was clear that the bench would be emptied in the fourth quarter. Houston was never competitive and never showed much threat. The UCLA offense sputtered and was inconsistent for much of the night, and yet, it put out 567 total yards. The Bruin defense meanwhile put on the clamps, only allowing one big play late in the fourth quarter.Franklin didn't quite explode, but still ended up with 168 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, it was Kevin Prince, not Richard Brehaut, that saw action in the fourth quarter.

The Good:

-The defense, much maligned nationally due to its slow starts in the first two games, allowed next to nothing in the entire game, literaly. If not for a long qb run late in the fourth, the D would have pitched a shutout. Of course, people might say its Houston, and to be fair, it is just Houston. But Houston still put up godly numbers last week, and people would be lying if they told you they expected what they saw from the Bruins Saturday night.

-Stephen Manfro is slowly turning into a play maker the Bruins can rely on. He came up with some key plays on third down and has shown several ways to contribute in the early going. He has shown the ability to catch out of the backfield, as a receiver, and now has shown that he can run it with authority too.

-Who is this #22 and what have you done with Sheldon Price? David Piland still targeted several passes in Price's direction, only to see them on the field or in Price's hands. Price had 3 interceptions, while Tevin McDonald and Randall Godforth recorded picks of their own. The UCLA defense had six turnovers total on the night, one for a touchdown.

-A kicker! Yes, going 3-3 on field goal attempts was big, even if they were all from within 35 yards. Good decision by Jim Mora Jr. early in the game to bring his kicker out on 4th and 1 and get him some confidence rather than keep his offense on the field to get a meaningless touchdown in a blowout. With the inconsistency the Bruins showed Saturday night, Fairbairns might be needed to put points on the board at crucial moments. He has shown some improvement every week.

The Bad and the Ugly:

-It has to be a bit concerning that an awful Houston defense was able to fluster this Bruin attack some. UCLA found little rhythm throughout the evening, and when the Cougar D sold out on the running game, Hundley wasn't quite at the level he needed to be to call them off.

-Brett Hundley put up some good numbers on the surface, but often locked on to one reciever several times resulting in some key drive killing interceptions. His performance was inconsistent at best, as the Bruin offense sputtered far too much for much of the night. The game served as a reminder that while Hundley really is a big time talent, he still is a 3rd game starter and is still very inexperienced.

-The offensive line that was so good in the first two games was absolutely torched. The running game never really got going to the explosive level it was at in the first two games largely because Houston was far too efficient in its gap penetrations. Freshman tackles Torian White and Simon Goines were especially miserable allowing far too much pressure from the sides. Like Hundley, while this group has a ton of upside, it is still one that has three freshman and one sophomore.

-The Bruins really do seem to be doing a good job of cleaning up what they did badly in the game before and improving upon it in the next game, for the most part. That statement does not hold true for penalties. UCLA had 8 penalties for 62 yards, and while the yardage is far less, eight penalties is still a big number, and something that will hurt the Bruins once conference play begins.

Looking Ahead:

The freshman were going to play like freshman at some point, so it might as well come against Houston. Conference play begins next week against an Oregon State team that looks a lot tougher than it did at the beginning of the season thanks to its win over Wisconsin. The key moving forward will be to continue to improve and become more consistent on offense, while keeping the defense at the level it was at this weekend. Next Saturday's game looks to be an especially good opportunity as it will be a nationally televised game, and yet another opportunity to show the nation that UCLA football really is on its way back. The flip side however is that with the country watching, a clunker will convince the naysayers that UCLA was indeed an early season wonder. Beat Oregon State, and 5-0 is virtually guaranteed with Colorado the following week. 

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