OFFENSIVE LINE: B+
Jeff Baca entered the game on the Bruins' third series and on his very first play since the 2009 season he was called for holding, adding a little levity to a tough night for UCLA. Baca played well, and got more snaps than he was expecting. His return would appear to give the Bruins a solid combination up front, though appearances can be very deceiving considering San Jose State was tiny up front. The Spartans starting tackles went 295 and 278 pounds, the starting ends 255 and 240 pounds. The Bruins should have gashed them and they did often enough, with Derrick Coleman running hard downhill and putting together a strong game. The Bruins rushed for 272 yards and had only two of 42 rushing plays (one of those was a 3-yard team loss) that went for negative yards. Greg Capella, playing in place of the suspended Kai Maiava, didn't have any issues with his snaps, which was a plus. Sean Sheller also did a solid job, switching between the quick tackle and quick guard. In the locker room after the game, when asked how his offensive line did, offensive line coach Bob Palcic said, "272 yards rushing and no sacks."
Richard Brehaut got the start, played start to finish, and did some good things in the run game. His action on the zone reads is getting better, though there were a couple of times when he should have handed the ball off when he kept it and vice versa. But for the guy who is supposed to be the better passer of the Bruins' two quarterbacks, he left a lot of offense on the field in the passing game, looked indecisive at times with where to go with the football and didn't take full advantage of San Jose State dropping a safety down in run support most of the game. He flat missed some throws in completing 12 of 23 passes and his one touchdown pass, to tight end Joe Fauria, was made a lot easier by a horrible bust in coverage. The Spartans presumably did watch tape of the Bruins' loss at Houston, the game Fauria had six receptions for 110 yards. On 3rd-and-11 from your 14-yard line, that's not the place to lose a 6-foot-8 tight end that comes into a game as the opposing team's leading receiver.
There were no glaring drops, like the ball Nelson Rosario had go through his hands at a critical juncture in the loss at Houston. But Taylor Embree did have a ball stripped and fumbled after a reception, killing a UCLA drive at the San Jose State 19-yard line in the fourth quarter when the score was tied at 17. Rosario led the Bruins with four receptions for 74 yards including a nice play at the end of a 43-yard catch that pushed the Bruins into the San Jose State side of the field and helped set up their second touchdown. The position group has to bear some responsibility for the Bruins' lack of success on third down, though. UCLA converted only 4 of 13 third-down plays into first downs and the Bruins were 2 of 7 when they threw the ball on third-down, one the touchdown to Fauria and the other a 3rd-and-6 when Brehaut hit Rosario. Not a lot of plays were made there.
RUNNING BACKS: B+
Coleman is a senior now, which means the Bruins have been waiting for a while for him to consistently put together games like he had against San Jose State. In rushing for 135 yards on only 14 plays (9.6 per play) he showed a little burst and bludgeoned the Spartans' smallish defense. Whether he can keep that up against bigger and more physical teams remains a question, because he has had flashes like this from time to time, all of them seemingly coming against poor teams. His career high, 185 yards, came last season against a Washington State team that ranked last in the Pac-10 and 115th in the bowl subdivision in rushing defense. It was good to see, though. It would be better to see it against Texas or Stanford. Johnathan Franklin also had a productive game, averaging 5.1 yards on 16 plays and making a couple of nice blitz pickups to help give Brehaut time to throw the football. But he did lose another fumble at a critical point in the game, which takes a lot of the shine off his performance.
OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN, SCHEME, COACHING: C
Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson called a good game, taking advantage of a San Jose State defense stacked against the run. The grade comes down to this, though: On their first series, on 4th-and-2 from the San Jose State 37-yard line, the Bruins punted.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D
This is not all on the defensive line, because there were some pretty bad fits from linebackers and safeties and more missed tackles. And, San Jose State did have some experience up front, with three seniors starting on its offensive line. But the Spartans rushed for 202 yards and averaged 7.0 per play and that's just a crazy number for a team that was held to 0.8 yards per rushing play in its first game, a 57-3 loss at Stanford, and last season ranked 119th among 120 teams in rushing offense. The Bruins also struggled to get any pass rush for much of the game against a fairly mediocre offensive line. Two games in, the defensive front is far from physical enough to be hugely effective even in what is looking like a bad Pac-12 and the personnel is giving few signs that will turn around. Datone Jones was more effective than he was in the opening loss at Houston and Cassius Marsh made a couple of nice plays, including a big hit on quarterback Dasmen Stewart. But much more is needed. It appeared that Donovan Carter got quite a bit more playing time, and Justin Edison less, which seemed to help with stuffing up the inside. Damien Holmes had the hit and tackle of the night – when he tattooed a referee and actually wrapped him up.
Eric Kendricks got a lot more plays in this game and that proved to be a good thing. The redshirt freshman led the team with seven tackles, including five unassisted and one of only three tackles for loss made by the Bruins. But there again were some issues with getting off blocks and poor tackling, which played a part in a kind of ridiculous 16-play touchdown drive on which the Spartans converted a 3rd-and-10, a 3rd-and-7, a 4th-and-4 and another 3rd-and-7. Sean Westgate had an interception on a ball that was thrown right to him, but also missed some plays, getting caught up inside or just missing opportunities at tackles. Patrick Larimore, who was just in bad matchups seemingly all game in the opener at Houston, was in on only three tackles in this game and was run through on one play. The same issue in the front – a lack of physicality – also is a problem for this group and that has to be a concern considering two of the next three games are against Texas and at Stanford.
Sheldon Price has had two pretty solid games to start the season at the field corner, coming up with a big interception early in the fourth quarter three plays after the Bruins had turned it over on the Embree fumble. That pick, the first of his career, came at the San Jose State 37-yard line, setting up a go-ahead field goal. Price also was in on five tackles, four solo. Andrew Abbott, who replaced Alex Mascarenas in nickel with the No. 1 defense, played a solid game. He had a nice pressure on a blitz to wreck a play. The Bruins covered fairly well, considering there wasn't a lot of heat up front. San Jose State quarterbacks completed only 16 of 34 passes for 115 yards. Tony Dye missed part of the second half because of a stringer, which forced some shuffling at the safety spots. He was beaten on a big 3rd-down pass in the second quarter, setting up the Spartans' first touchdown. Dalton Hilliard again had some tackling issues, but he was far from alone on that front.
DEFENSIVE GAME PLAN, SCHEME, COACHING: C
In the opening loss at Houston, UCLA just had a bad plan or the wrong plan going in and didn't adjust. But in this game, coordinator Joe Tresey had his defense blitzing more than it did at Houston, played some three-man fronts and spent a lot of time in nickel. But the effectiveness of some of that was not always evident, particularly the blitzes. The Bruins sometimes have difficulty getting home, which obviously leaves them susceptible. UCLA has allowed scoring drives of 16 plays in its loss at Houston and its victory over San Jose State and it needs to find ways to get off the field. At the end of the day, San Jose State gained only 317 yards and scored 17 points, but that drive and the 202 rushing yards allowed is telling and it can be a scary story. The last time San Jose State had more than 200 rushing yards in a game? It had 242 in a game in 2009 – against Cal Poly, a championship subdivision team. Whether by scheme or better fundamental play, the Bruins need to get that fixed.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Kip Smith obviously has struggled since the start of fall camp, but he hit the ball well against San Jose State, converting three PATs and hitting field goals from 38 and 20 yards. There were some issues, though, on special teams starting with the first possession of the game. UCLA had to call a timeout because it had three too many players on the field, the defense coming off the field and the punt return team going on. Don't know what they were thinking; It was 4th-and-1. UCLA never goes for it on those, why would they think San Jose State would? Jeff Locke also did not have a particularly good game. His first punt was a touchback – it was from the 37-yard line, so a tough one to stick – but he also hit punts of only 30, 35 and 32 yards and averaged 33.5 yards on four kicks. His kick-offs, too were short, with one being field at the 13-yard line. Against San Jose State, who had a very poor special teams showing against Stanford, UCLA couldn't keep a kick-off return behind the 20-yard line, and couldn't get a return beyond the 20-yard line. lThe kickoff cover team gave up returns of 27 and 36 yards, and while Embree had a 17-yard punt return, he had another shot at a good return but didn't get into the return fast enough to take advantage of the opening. If it had been a returner with some speed he would have had a great deal of time and space to run. But, it's not Embree's fault, since the guys who have speed and moves can't consistently catch a punt in practice.
SJSU: Unit by Unit Analysis
OFFENSIVE LINE: B+