Throwing for 204 yards on 12 of 22 passing, Watts was steady throughout the game. "He kept us out of very bad plays (through audibles)," Franchione continued. "He did have the unfortunate interception, but it was touched by two of our players, so it's hard to be down on him about that one. He played well."
Heading into the game, Alabama's O-Line was a major concern. For the night the front five did yield three quarterback sacks, but they also led the way for 186 yards rushing. "None of them graded what we would call a winning performance," Franchione revealed. "But they were very close to it. We had eight missed assignments, three penalties and three sacks, but their effort was good. They played reasonably physical. They had 56 knockdowns, and our goal is 75. So we came up a little short of that."
Added Franchione; "(Redshirt freshmen) Justin Smiley and Wesley Britt played very well in a lot of respects. They made some first-game-of-their-career mistakes, that I think they will correct and improve. They'll have things to build on."
With only one athlete that started on last year's unit starting this season, the line was very inexperienced. And later in the game the lone veteran was often replaced by another redshirt freshman. "Evan Mathis did get a lot of snaps," Franchione said. "Dante (Ellington) had a couple of mental errors with penalties, and I think he got a little fatigued. We needed to get Evan in, and we probably should have played him a little bit more. He has played well enough in practice, that we trust him to play even more than he did."
Continuing his assessment, Franchione noted; "Our wide receivers had three penalties and only five knockdowns. I thought our running backs, Ahmaad (Galloway), played very solid. Ray Hudson gave us a spark."
Facing one of the most talented offenses in the nation, Alabama's defensive unit played reasonably well throughout the game. "Defensively we gave up eight explosives (plays over 11 yards), which is too many," Franchione explained. "We had 13 total missed tackles, which is something we want to improve on. We did not get a takeaway.
"But on the good side our third down conversion rate was very good. We reacted well to sudden change by holding them to a field goal after (Tyler's) interception. We held them to 291 yards."
Bama's front seven was supposed to be a strength, and Franchione was generally satisfied with their performance. "I felt like our D-Line and linebackers played OK. I think Kenny (King) played pretty solid, above average. He made some things happen. Anthony Bryant played 15 snaps, and I think he'll get more and more. He certainly did not play badly, and I think he'll get better and better. The game experience he got last night is going to help him grow."
Before the season Bama's secondary was identified as a potential problem area, and many Tide fans frankly feared what might happen when the inexperienced unit faced UCLA's stellar group of wideouts. "I don't believe their great receiver Poli-Dixon caught a pass last night," Franchione noted. "That was a plus for us. But we gave up the big play on third and long for a touchdown (a 53-yard touchdown pass to the Bruin's Tab Perry), and that just can't happen."
Starting strong safety Shontua Ray was lost in the second quarter to a knee injury. "Shontua has a fragment floating around in his knee," Franchione related. "And there has not been a decision rendered as to exactly what direction we'll take with that."
On special teams Franchione was satisfied with placekicking and punting, but the punt coverage groups missed several chances to make big plays. "We were solid in many ways in the kicking game. But what hurt was we had the ball on the ground a couple of times and we didn't come up with any one of them. And just one of those plays in our behalf might have changed the game around."
Franchione was clear in stating that the mental errors that led to numerous off-sides and procedure penalties would not be tolerated. But he also noted a startling discrepancy between the two teams. "Not very often do you see a game where it's fifteen-to-zero in (penalty) flags. That's kind of unusual. I'm certainly not diminishing our penalties at all.
"We did have a couple of calls (we questioned). Jason McAddley's block down field--on film, if that's an illegal block then we've got to get a better interpretation of the rule, because it has not been explained that way to us. There was obviously another play or two that were controversial. I think, if you're an Alabama fan you probably feel like maybe they should have gone our way. But if you're a UCLA fan, I'm sure you don't agree with that. But that's going to happen from game to game. I certainly don't blame our loss on the officials."
However, one official's decision did have a great impact on the game. On the third series of the second half, the score stood at 10-7 Alabama, when the Tide was forced to punt. Bearden's 44-yard kick to midfield touched a UCLA man and was recovered by a Crimson jersey. Had the play stood, Bama would have been only two first downs away from Neal Thomas field goal range, and the complexion of the game may very well have changed.
"The punt was a difficult call," Franchione acknowledged. "We felt like our guy was being blocked into the situation rather than entering the two-yard halo on his own accord. But it was a bang-bang call, and it certainly was not an easy one to make."
The UCLA coaches said afterwards that they had studied film of Texas Christian (Franchione's previous team) to try and get an idea for what Bama would try to do on offense. But Franchione said that would have been only partly beneficial. "I'd say probably about 50 percent of our offense are changes that we made to benefit the personnel that we have (at Alabama) and the situation that we're in. Our offense will be varied. The four-wides in the shotgun is an important part of what we'll be doing, but there are other aspects that we did not have in for this game plan."
And Bama's head coach also pointed out that UCLA's outstanding punter was a real weapon for the Bruins. "I think any time you start backed up like we did last night, in order to score points you're going to have to have some big plays. We did have an advantage in possession time. We just were not able to convert it into the points. And that happens to teams that are new. And we ended up doing it two or three times where it hurt us."
The squad spent yesterday afternoon correcting mistakes made during the game and identified by the staff from watching game tapes. "The coaches can choose to grade the film either (Saturday night) or (Sunday morning)," Franchione explained. "We meet shortly after noon on Sunday. They can handle their schedule however they see fit.
"I was still up late (Saturday night) just coming down after the game."