Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 5: UCLA vs. California Game Recap

What I thought would happen:

The Bears wan't this one badly, but so does UCLA.

Cal will come out with a sense of purpose on offense, with big plays from Allen and Harper. The ground game however will be all but absent. Meanwhile, Franklin will have another big day, and Hundley will keep the chains moving, keeping the ball away from Maynard and co. A couple of late stops will give the Bruins a chance to put the game away. They'll squander a couple chances before capitalizing on a Cal turnover to end this one for good...UCLA 30, California 21

What did happen?

UCLA started fast on offense, capitalizing on a Cal turnover for a 7-0 lead. Then, driving with a 7-3 lead and the game in control, Devin Fuller dropped a backwards pass that oppened up the floodgates. UCLA couldn't stop the run a lick, while Hester and Price were Hester and Price, allowing countless big plays and comitting numerous mind-blowing penalties. UCLA stayed in it and moved the ball with decently well but could not finish drives, ending too many crucial trips in turnovers. Hundley had a season high four interceptions, his final one all but sealing the game.

The Good:

-Whatever UCLA might be, wherever it might be, Johnathan Franklin will always be somebody to tip your cap too. He only got the ball a mind-boggling 15 times, but ran with great effectiveness and toughness.

-That's it. Even Jeff Locke didn't meet his season punting average, netting 39.3 yards a punt.

The Bad and the Ugly:

-It's time to stop sulking and whining when a big pass play is given up, or when the corners are missing tackles and committing penalties. It's time for the fans, and especially the coaches, to recognize Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester for what they are: bad. They weren't good when they started as freshmen, they weren't good as sophomores, they weren't good as juniors, and they aren't good as seniors. With no exaggeration,  these two probably would not start for at least 3/4th's of division 1 football teams. The big problem for the UCLA coaches is that there aren't many other bodies the Bruins can plug in; Ishmael Adams already had season ending surgery. The backups right now are Marcus Rios, a true freshman, and Andrew Abbott, who starts and safety. The secondary, and specifically the corners, isn't an issue that looks like it can be fixed this season. It's time to start recruiting some CB's.

-The offensive line was once again awful. Torian White and Simon Goines, the two freshman tackles, stunk, and consistently allowed pressure from the edges. Jeff Baca struggled mightily as well, and you have to wonder if his injury is still bothering him. This is a young unit that will be the strength of the team one day, but it sure wasn't Saturday. The Bruins surrendered five sacks and eight TFL's.

-Come on, Noel. You have one of the best backs in the country. You are playing against one of the softest defensive fronts in the country. Your running the ball with good success. When the going gets tough, hand the ball off to your workhorse and let him bring you back. Yeah, the Bruins fell down by double digits, but the game was still in the balance, and UCLA wasn't out of it till about the 6 minute mark in the fourth. In the third quarter alone, UCLA threw a remarkable 24 times.

-Brett Hundley had a better game than his numbers showed. Two of the interceptions weren't really his fault, one on the tipped pass, and another on a miscommunication where Shaquille Evans ran the wrong route. More than that, the coaches and the defense didn't do the best of jobs in putting him in a position to succeed. With all that said, he isn't at the level yet where he can consistently stretch the field vertically. He is a big time talent, he's already one of the better quarterbacks in the conference, and he'll likely be one of the best if not the best in the conference very shortly. But for right now, he isn't hitting the deep balls consistently enough. In both losses, Hundley missed some big vertical throws that were there for the taking.

-What happened to the d-line? The play-dough Cal offensive line was able to shove around the Bruin front four with relative ease. C.J. Anderson and the Cal backs were consistently in the second level, while Maynard had ten days to throw at a time. Of all the developments in the game, this one is the most alarming and the most dangerous, only because its the only one that wasn't expected. The corners are terrible and the line is young, everybody knows that. But if the d-line that was such a strength through the first few games begins to struggle, then its time to worry. If UCLA can't stop the run, and if it can't rush the passer, it'll be in for a long conference season.

-Get a -3 turnover differential, you lose the football game. Hundley had a career high 4 picks, two coming deep in Cal territory, while the dropped swing pass and the fumbled punt were absolute killers. This was a very Neuheisel-esque performance in the discipline department, with balls flying around for no reason, and the Bruins doing everything in their power to lose.

-The penalties just don't seem to be going anywhere. UCLA had just 30 less yards in penalties than it did rushing. If you put a freshman quarterback with an offensive line that starts three freshmen and a sophomore consistently in 3rd and long, forget it.

Looking Ahead:

Its time to worry again. But is it time to panic?

This was a pathetic performance, but remember, Cal was much better than its 1-4 record entering the game showed. The corners were shredded, abused, and dismembered. No shocker there. The offensive line consistently allowed too much pressure, a cause for some concern, but remember, this is still a unit that starts three freshman and a sophomore. That said, if the defensive line begins to get pushed around the way it was tonight, then forget it. Now, for any hopes of a south crown, and to avoid a complete tanking the rest of the season, Utah could be a must win next week at the Rose Bowl.  More than that, the Bruins need to get their confidence back. All the good work that was done in the beginning of the season is just about undone now, and UCLA must prove itself once again. The sky isn't falling, the Bruins are still 4-2, and there still isn't a team left on the slate that UCLA absolutely positively cannot beat. The offense still works, it just needs to finish drives better. The defense has to stop the run better, and the secondary, at the very least, have to just not allow yards after the catch.

Its time to show what Jim Mora Jr. and this staff is really made of.

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