Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Week 7: UCLA vs. Utah Game Recap

What I thought would happen:

Now we slowly start to see who UCLA really is. 

The offensive line will have few answers to Star Lotuleilei and the Utah d-line, but the offense will eek out enough drives to make a difference. The Bruin front seven will have a tough time stopping the run, but will use the bend-not-break model for much of the afternoon. Hundley will have a solid bounce back game, while Franklin will carry the load and pull the Bruins through...UCLA 28, Utah 24

What did happen:

The offensive line held up for the most part, and UCLA was able to put together some drives. But once again, as has been the theme for much of the season, the Bruins couldn't always finish. Yet another Stephen Manfro miscue on special teams kept the Utes in the game, but the Bruin defense was able to get enough stops and enough pressure to keep the game at bay. Hundley had a nice day, and while the running game wasn't flashy, it was enough to keep the offense moving.

The Good:
-Brett Hundley was able to bounce back strongly after a four interception performance. There's still improvement to be made, as he needs to be able to stretch the defense vertically on a more consistent basis, but he showed his other dimension on Saturday, running on some key third downs to keep the chains moving. Keep in mind, he is a freshman, and thus far has gone 167-251 for 1916 yards with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. As he continues to improve, who knows where he and the Bruins could eventually go. 

-The run defense put the clamps after a very mediocre showing last week. John White and the Utah backs hardy had any room to move, garnering a total of 87 yards rushing on the day. 

-The offensive line was just about spectacular, using constant double teams on Star Lotuleilei and effectively neutralizing him. The running game wasn't at full speed, but if there's anything Utah does well, its that it clogs the middle, so its no complete shocker. Even still, the line toughed it out and the running game was effective enough to keep the defense honest. 

-Are the Bruins finally finding some big play threats in the passing game? Shaquille Evans had another long touchdown, and Joseph Fauria also found some big plays. For a school that has long desperately needed somebody, anybody, to scare people in the opposing secondary, the Bruins might finally be finding some. 

-I guess if secondary isn't giving up 70 yard touchdowns, its a positive. To keep things in perspective, Utah has already lost its starting quarterback from a passing game that isn't any good anyways, and were able to move pretty consistently through the air. That said, I'll give credit where credit is due for this week. However, on't mistake this as trust in Hester and Price all of a sudden.

-It sounded like coach speak when Coach Mora said it, but this was a nitty gritty tough win that the Bruins desperately needed. A loss would have started to plummet the season, with a bowl game even in doubt. Now a south crown is still alive, as is the chance for an 8 win season. 

The Bad and the Ugly:

-The offense just can't seem to finish drives. The team got away with it this week, but with the schedule about to get real hot, the Bruins can't keep leaving points on the field be it by drops, turnovers, penalties, missed kicks, anything. 

-Special teams is just a hot mess right now. Outside of Jeff Locke, the kick return unit can't create any big plays, while the punt return unit has just found ways to mess up. Stephen Manfro has had two crucial dropped punts in two straight weeks. Mora seems to be pretty consistent with the guys he plays, but it'll be interesting to see what he does with Manfro going forward. 

-Slowly we're starting to find out who the Bruins really are. UCLA is not a top 25 team, that has become obvious. You can't get blasted by Cal, and then come back and squeak by a strugling Utah team and continue to express that you are one of the 25 best teams in the country.

Looking Ahead:

UCLA isn't a top 25 team, that is almost certain. However, there is no shame in that. This is the first year of a new regime, and some considerable steps have been taken. With all that said, the meat of the schedule is about to kick in. The road trip to Tempe will tell a lot about the direction the season is headed. If another performance like Cal is had, then watch out. The only surefire win left on the calendar is the trip to Pullman; every other game looks to be a crapshoot. A win over Arizona State would go long ways towards solidifying the regime as legitimate in its first year, as UCLA still hasn't beaten a real team on the road in a very, very long time. To have a chance, the offense will have to finish drives, while the defensive line will have to control the tempo against a quick strike Arizona State attack.

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