Stanford: Unit by Unit Analysis

After another look at the game tape, here is further analysis of UCLA's loss against Stanford. The offensive line and running backs are easily the silver lining, while the coaching on both sides of the ball is suspect...

OFFENSIVE LINE: B

Another good effort and performance from the best unit on the team. O-line coach Bob Palcic has to get a lot of credit, after losing so many potential starters to injury, Mormon mission and whatever else. But, on the other hand, as we've maintained for years, in college football experience is just as vital as talent, and the UCLA offensive line consists of five seniors.

Darius Savage was, again, an animal. He not only sealed his player almost every time, quite often he pummeled him into the ground. Center Ryan Taylor had many sealing blocks that created big holes. Micah Kia was better against Stanford than Kansas State.

There were a few breakdowns, particularly in picking up rushers in pass coverage. But most of the time the pressure on Kevin Prince came after he held the ball too long.

RECEIVERS: D+

Not a lot of fire among the wide receivers. It could very well be how the group comes off since both Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree aren't exactly fiery guys. Rosario led the team with 5 catches, but they were pretty mild, and he had a couple of passes where he just didn't go up aggressively to get it, particularly on one of the go routes where he simply allowed the defender to knock the ball away. Ricky Marvray was a detriment due to the two penalties on two critical plays that very much contributed to UCLA not being able to get in the endzone. The one holding penalty was a bit ticky-tack, but the late hit wasn't. Randall Carroll also really hurt the team with his fumble, allowing a tackler to easily rip the ball out of his hands on a reverse. UCLA tried to utilize the F-back more, with Anthony Barr and Morrell Presley getting three catches, but Barr dropped a catchable touchdown pass and Presley looks ready to fold up when he catches the ball.

RUNNING BACKS: B

It's pretty clear that the combination of Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones has the potential to be pretty effective. Two <i>were</i> pretty effective, actually, running for a combined 125 yards on 18 carries for an average of 6.9 yards per carry. Even to the amateur fan, it seems pretty obvious that Franklin should be the guy over Derrick Coleman. At least part of the reason for UCLA's slow offensive start – which always seems to get the Bruins in an initial hole – is because of Coleman having to start and get the first couple of series. Jones made a few nice runs, finding a seam along the sideline for a big gain, but also moved the pile an extra six yards on one run to get a first down.

QUARTERBACKS: D

Another very poor performance from Kevin Prince, in just about every aspect. He threw some errant incompletions, one in particular to Rosario on a simple throw for a critical third down in the second half when he was un-pressured. He held the ball far too long; on one third down, Embree hitched and, with Prince looking right at him, the quarterback held the ball a second too long, which allowed the defender to close (luckily for UCLA it resulted in a PI). It was a common theme throughout the night. Then throw in a strange interception in which, on one drive when UCLA was actually threatening, on a scramble, off balance, he tried to throw the ball into endzone and badly hung it up, in front of two Stanford defenders. Also throw in the fumble – or, more accurately, having the ball stripped from him – while there were also a few sloppy exchanges of the ball. His stat line has to be one of the worst for a quarterback in recent memory – 6 for 12 for 39 yards and 1 interception.

Richard Brehaut, coming in for the fourth quarter, looked like he had more accuracy on his passes, but take into consideration he was doing it against Stanford's subs.

OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN: D

As we said in the game review, there is a conservative bent in the UCLA program that manifests itself the most in the play-calling. We've heard contrary reports from different sources that invariably blame Neuheisel or blame Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow. No matter where it originates from, it's a strong force in the UCLA offense. In fact, the play-calling got quite a bit more conservative from week one to week two, and it was pretty conservative in the first week. There was a very limited package of pass plays. Less movement of the pocket. More repeated use of the same routes, particularly the go route, which they went to 4 times while not utilizing any other route over 12 yards. It's amazingly unnerving for the offense, on third down, to utilize a route that doesn't even make it to the first-down marker. The one flat route to Derrick Coleman behind the line of scrimmage on the third and one was a particular example. With the running game doing well, is there no thought about utilizing play action?

The running game, too, got a bit more conservative, running between the tackles the majority of the time. No pitches, no options, and very little misdirection. When misdirection was used it was effective. Most of the time the success of the running game isn't due to anything schematically, it's just a matter of the OL blocking well and the running backs finding the seams well.

What's killing the offense, and has been for some time, is to start the game, in the first couple of series, with conservative play-calling. UCLA typically goes three-and-out in its first couple of offensive series based mostly on those play calls, and it puts UCLA in a quick hole in every game.

The Pistol, inherently, is a deception offensive scheme, but leave it to UCLA to make it predictable.

OFFENSE OVERALL: D

Giving the offense a D is pretty phenomenal if you're giving the offensive line a B and the running backs a B. Overall, there are just too many mistakes – both big and small – that limit the offense. Penalties that kill drives. Unforced interceptions. Sloppy fumbles where a defender rips the ball out of a ball carrrier's hands – twice. Mishandling exchanges. Running a route out of bounds. Dropped balls. The combination of conservatism and this level of sloppiness and a lack of discipline would hold back the New Orleans Saints.

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-

The D-line, for a second straight week, basically got manhandled. It wasn't quite as bad as the performance against Kansas State, but you probably have Stanford's bad play-calling to thank for that (Why wouldn't you run the ball more against a UCLA team that clearly struggles to defend it?).

We know that defensive tackle Justin Edison is working hard, but he got crushed for most of this game. David Carter played better than he did against Kansas State, holding up his blocker better and getting penetration on a number of running plays, on one, in fact, almost causing a safety. The back-up DTs didn't fare very well; Donovan Carter got pushed back, freshman Cassius Marsh was blocked out of the play most of the time. Reginald Stokes, playing DT, actually looked stronger in holding his blocker at times.

The defensive ends generally were pretty poor. Damien Holmes actually improved from week one to week two, while Nate Chandler didn't. Holmes might have played a little better since he played less, with Keenan Graham getting more plays, even though Graham generally struggled. He got sealed a few times, but at least there are glimpses of talent there where he gets off his man quickly. Iuta Tepa, really, was the best defensive end, in his limited time. He looked very active and aggressive.

Freshmen Owagbe Odighizuwa and Seali'I Epenesa played, mostly in the after-its-over fourth quarter.

Fifth-year senior Andy Keane broke his dubious streak of having never played in a game, and registered a tackle for loss.

LINEBACKERS: C+

Akeem Ayers got less tackles in this game than Kansas State but probably played better. He played almost exclusively at linebacker and not defensive end, and did fairly well, staying home quite a bit better and putting himself in the position to make a play.

Sean Westgate also had a much better day than against Kansas State. He led the team with 10 tackles, and was slicing through seams to make plays. He did get blocked out of a few plays, but not nearly as badly as against KSU.

On the other hand, Patrick Larimore wasn't as good as he was last week. It appeared that he chose the wrong angle and filled the wrong gap a few times, and didn't seemingly have the energy he had in the first half of the KSU game. Perhaps the amount of effort to play the middle linebacker spot is sinking in? Still, he wasn't bad, by any means.

True freshman Jordan Zumwalt played one series at strongside linebacker to give Ayers a blow, and looked confused. Larimore had to put him in the right position, and when he got run on to his side he got blocked pretty decisively.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: C

You really can't give them that much credit for holding Andrew Luck to 151 yards passing. Luck himself mostly held himself – making many poor throws to wide open receivers when he wasn't pressured.

Cornerback Aaron Hester had a couple of good break-ups, as did his counterpart, Sheldon Price. Hester blew coverage on the first touchdown pass. It's curious why Stanford didn't run more at Price while Price actually made some tackles in run support. When Hester got hurt, Andrew Abbott took his place and also was inserted as the nickel, and actually did okay, making four total tackles.

It's not always a good sign when your safeties are making most of the tackles, but Tony Dye and Rahim Moore had seven each. Dye made a couple of big-play saving tackles, as he did the week before, and Moore was better in his pursuit and tackling.

The secondary, though, had a couple of breakdowns, particularly on the two touchdown passes, even though it's tough to blame them for the last one when it looked like it was a bungled zone blitz.

True freshman safety Dietrich Riley made a bg-time play on a tackle for loss at the five-yard line. His quickness and athleticism allowed him to duck inside a would-be blocker to make the tackle. Redshirt freshman Dalton Hilliard continues to look like a talent and a heat-seeking missile.

DEFENSIVE COACHING: D

UCLA was conservative in its first week against Kansas State and went even more conservative in its second week. Bullough stayed in the base defense for a vast majority of the game, occasionally going to a nickel (at a strange time, too, on a third and three) and very rarely going to the 3-4. Blitzes were called probably less than 25% of the time. We saw them be effective almost every time they were utilized, except maybe once when the D was burned for a first down on a run blitz.

But the defense, with its conservative play-calling, as we said, was very lucky that Luck was not sharp. Without putting much pressure on him, Luck had a great deal of time to throw, but just missed a considerable amount, to open receivers. Bullough chose not put much pressure on him and it was very fortunate the quarterback was off. You could count on one hand the amount of times UCLA even touched Luck – with Moore putting pressure on him from a safety blitz one time. UCLA didn't record a sack.

There were a number of blown coverages, and the coaches at least get some blame for those, and game managmenet was poor, with the coaches not being able to get their subs on the field in time in a number of instances. Neuheisel was seen chewing out linebacker coach Clark Lea one time and talking pretty disgustingly to defensive line coach Todd Howard.

DEFENSE OVERALL: C-

A number of players improved from last week, and it could very well be that getting them more rest is a factor. But it's hard to tell if it's worth it if the defensive coaches can't figure out how to sub without getting called for a penalty for too many players on the field or instituting mass confusion.

Doesn't everyone know that Luck is a threat to run with the ball? It didn't seem like UCLA's defensive mind trust knew that, letting him scramble without anyone shadowing him for most of the game. His scrambles for a number of first downs were the difference in the game.

The defensive play-calling got more conservative, and it appears that Bullough thinks that playing the base defense more often is more appropriate with so many inexperienced players. Get ready for more bend-but-don't-break. But, in watching this game, the defense was so much more effective when it was aggressive and blitzing, and trying to put pressure on the quarterback.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

Kai Forbath missed a field goal, and Jeff Locke had a brain freeze on what should have been a pooch punt inside the 20, booming it out of the endzone.

The biggest brain freeze of the night came from Josh Smith, who thought it was fourth down and went out for punt return, forcing UCLA to use a second consecutive timeout in the first quarter.

While kick-off and punt coverage were solid, UCLA's kick-off return and punt return teams were anemic.

COACHING OVERALL: D

We've been over it a number of times, but the conservative streak on both sides of the ball is almost mind-numbing.

Then there are all the mistakes and penalties and it's clear that this isn't a very disciplined program right now. The details, too, are adding up. In this game, one little mistake created a bad situation, which created another little mistake. UCLA had a few drives that took them within the Stanford 40-line, but through a number of mishaps pushed themselves back and out of scoring range.

OFFICIATING: D

If what Neuheisel says is true about the officials not going by the book in terms of what they need to do when the offense subs, then it's a pretty egregious issue that should be addressed by the Pac-10.

Combine that with a number of clearly missed calls, like the phantom PI on Price, the holding on Marvray, and even the PI on Hester. Then there were some strangely inaccurate spots. On one of Luck's scrambles he easily went out of bounds at least a yard before the first-down marker but was given a spot a few feet in front of it. The refs didn't even know where to mark the line of scrimmage after a kick-off went out of bounds.



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