Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Week 4: UCLA vs Oregon State Recap

What I thought would happen:

This is Oregon State's big chance, and they know it. They'll come out with a sense of urgency and purpose, on defense. Franklin for the first time won't have much room for a couple quarters, while Brett Hundley will gut out a couple of scoring drives in the first half. The Beavers however won't have much fire power to keep up. Oregon State will look to establish a run early, and when that fails, Mannion will be forced to go to the air more than 35 plus times, resulting in him getting a good view of the Arroyo Seco Mountains on his backside. In the second half, Franklin will pull out a couple big runs, and the Bruins will put the game away in the fourth quarter with a late stop...UCLA 31, Oregon State 20

What did happen:

The UCLA offense couldn't move a lick in the first half, with nothing of substance outside of two big plays. Oregon State meanwhile took advantage of its two big plays, and had a long drive to start the game.To start the second half the Bruin defense forced two turnovers, only to see them result in zero points. Sean Mannion stayed poised while the Beavers were able to successfully run the ball and control the clock in the second half. Brett Hundley and the passing game got going eventually, but it was too late. A missed Kai'mi Fairbairns field goal just about put the game away for good.

The Good:

-Brett Hundley had a shaky game in the first half, but was able to stay poised and nearly brought his team back. He was hurt by drops and shaky line play, but still finished 27-42 for 372 yards and a TD. Through four games, Hundley has shown that the future of UCLA football is in safe hands.

-The UCLA defense has shown the ability through two games to force turnovers, something it couldn't really for the last few years. The Bruins are winning the turnover battle, currently at 25th nationally in turnover margin.

-Things really aren't as bad as they might seem. To look at the glass half full, this isn't a typical case of UCLA getting hopes up and then squandering them. The passing game looks a lot better than anybody could have dreamed of before the season, even with some big drops. The running game still can by dynamic. The pass rush is leaps and bounds better than it was at any point over the last few seasons. The linebackers are solid and are tackling well in space. The only concerns really at the moment are with an offensive line that starts three freshman and a sophomore and is missing a starter, and the secondary. It just depends what we're comparing things to. UCLA is clearly head and shoulders ahead of where it was last season, and people would have been fools to not take a 4-1 start to begin the season.

-Jeff Locke once again was a weapon, consistently keeping the Bruins in the field position game when they couldn't move the ball. Yes after a loss, sometimes you have to go to punters as positive signs.

The Bad and the Ugly:

-I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Sheldon Price has shown no improvement over his four years at UCLA, and his benching in the second half was clearly addition by subtraction. With two big pass plays in the first half resulting in 14 points, it isn't a complete stretch to say he might have single handedly lost the Bruins the game. Of course, that's not the case, as there were some key drops and the o-line couldn't push the Beaver front a lick, but at some point, enough is enough. It'll be interesting to see where the staff goes with the secondary moving forward.

-The offensive line after such a strong start to the season has had a miserable last two games. Jeff Baca's absence really has seemed to hurt, but that's sort of the point. The lack of depth has been glaring in the last two games, and for an offense that will run 70+ plays a game, that could spell danger down the road. Franklin and the backs never had any room to move, and the Beavers were able to stop the run consistently with six and seven guys in the box. Hundley is still a redshirt freshman, and its clear now that the Bruins won't be able to beat the cream of the PAC 12 without Franklin and the ground game rocking.

-The dropsies have returned to UCLA football. Of course, its still not nearly as bad as the past few seasons when half of the students in the den could have caught some of the balls dropped, but some very catchable balls by Kenneth Walker and Stephen Manfro among others cost the Bruins. Manfro seems to still suffer from freshman excitement, wanting to do too much every time he touches the ball.

-Jim Mora Jr. had his first curious decision of the season. On the 4th and 2 late in the game, the Bruins lined up in field goal formation, spread out for a possible fake, spent a timeout, and then missed the field goal. Having confidence in your kicker is one thing, but it was two yards to go, and your kicker has had issues for much of the season. More than that, it was a timeout wasted that would have added an potential 40 seconds at the end. I hate to second guess coaches, I feel they have a better grasp for what goes on than we as fans do, but I couldn't help but scratch my head at this one.

-Kai'mi Fairbairns... okay maybe it was a bit unfair to expect Fairbairns to make that last kick considering his youth and struggles this season, but it still doesn't change the fact that his missed kick effectively ended the game. I have been consistent in saying that if this continues, Fairbairns will cost the Bruins at some point. That point was week 4.

Looking Ahead:

Well that was fun. Okay, so UCLA was a bit overblown, but lets not get too ahead of ourselves. Oregon State looks to be a solid team with the second ranked defense after two games against two teams with a combined record of 6-2. The concerns are in the secondary and on the offensive line. Everything else from the quarterback to the defensive line, seems fine. With all that said, this still was a big loss to start conference play against a beatable team at home. The momentum from the beginning of the season is somewhat gone, as is a 5-0 start, but thankfully Colorado is next to stop the bleeding. A good performance on both sides would do wonders for the teams confidence going into what now looks to be a make or break game on October 13th in Berkeley.

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