OSU: Unit by Unit Analysis

There are some signs of improvement, but the grading probably must be done on a curve since it was done against a poor Oregon State team...


Side note: Oregon State was ranked 117th of 120 FBS teams in passing efficiency defense, its opponents completing nearly 69 percent of their passes and that includes Sacramento State. Yet, Richard Brehaut did not get many opportunities, throwing only 11 passes. The Bruins didn't necessarily need to throw the ball, given the success they were having against an undersized defensive front. Then again, they also didn't need to turn into a turtle the last two minutes of the first half, which completely changed the tenor of the game. With tougher opponents ahead, though, it would have been instructive to see Brehaut get more rope – he did not make any crazy mistakes; in fact there were a couple of plays where he made very good decisions that he might not have made a year or two ago. Brehaut still needs to work on his zone reads and he missed some passes pretty badly, but he managed the offense and didn't turn the ball over and that apparently is all the offensive staff was comfortable asking of him.


Derrick Coleman always had this in him and it is good to finally see him pound the football with an abandon he previously had only hinted at. Coleman took over when Johnathan Franklin went down and gained 100 yards on 20 plays in a very strong effort. Franklin racked up 36 yards on just six plays before he was banged up and with the Bruins' 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago sidelined Malcolm Jones was able to get some meaningful carries, gaining 38 yards on nine plays. Jones could keep his leg drive going a little more consistently through contact, though. It was promising to see the use of Jordon James, who made some nice runs on sweeps as the F-back. The Bruins need to get him more involved in the offense than he has been to this point – he had only four carries and one reception in the first three games. It wouldn't hurt, also, to push harder with their playmakers when opportunities are there instead of going into a shell like they did in the last two minutes of the first half.


The ball was not in the air a lot, which is unfortunate considering the space the Bruins' receivers were able to create in the Oregon State defense. There was room to make plays and some were made – Josh Smith hauled in a 62-yard pass, Nelson Rosario worked his way open quite often and ended up with four receptions for 48 yards, even though he was a yard away from the first-down marker on one third-down and went down like a house of cards. Taylor Embree also caught a 22-yard touchdown pass, making a nice move to the ball in the air, though he and Brehaut are fortunate that the safety somehow lost the ball on that play. Randall Carroll was open a couple of times, too, once on a deep ball, and Brehaut just flat missed him. The outside receivers were decent blocking downfield, though tight end Joe Fauria completely whiffed on a block on a critical 3rd-and-short play in the third quarter and Cory Harkey was called for a false start in the red zone. That penalty didn't end up costing them, the Bruins continuing on to their final touchdown in the game on a 1-yard run by Anthony Barr.


Grading on a curve, this could be a C. Oregon State was not big, nor strong, nor particularly quick or fast in the front seven. UCLA pushed them around pretty good and should have, churning out 211 yards on the ground and doing a solid job in protection. Three holding penalties (one declined) stand out, mainly because they didn't need to be holding anyone in a black jersey. The Beavers came in ranked 69th against the run, just 95th in scoring defense and tackles for loss and as mentioned previously 117th in passing efficiency defense. They're pretty bad. Sacramento State, from the FCS, passed for 296 yards against these guys. But the line was solid enough, and probably, like the rest of the team, just lost a little steam when Coach Rick Neuheisel decided to take a pass when given an opportunity to put the game away by pushing just a little in the final two minutes of the first half.


So UCLA is leading 21-3 late in the second quarter, the clock still on the plus side of 2:00 to play in the half, when the Bruins force a punt by stopping cold a 3rd-and-10 run. The defense has played well following a 17-yard field goal drive on the Beavers' first possession, allowing only 22, minus-1, minus-8 and 18 yards on the next four drives. The offense has scored on three of its previous four possessions. Do the Bruins call a timeout there to get the ball back with more than two minutes to try and deliver a knockout blow? No. Do they go 2-minute when they do get the ball back? No. How about pushing a little? They end up punting the ball back to the Beavers and Jordan Poyer ends up returning it 85 yards for a touchdown to get Oregon State life when they could have been down for the count. In a sense, Neuheisel seemed to deflate a team that was playing as well as it had all season in that final two minutes, then made a point on TV of saying that he wanted to punt to go out of bounds, laying the blame at the feet of punter Jeff Locke.


There were some encouraging signs, maybe not so much in the results. More Iuta Tepa was a good thing. More Seali'I Epenesa helped, too. The Bruins were much better against the run, though the Beavers had not been particularly strong on the ground to this point. Given that, those rushing numbers should be discounted a tad. In a game that Oregon State put the ball up 40 times, though, there was an alarming lack of pressure on quarterback Sean Mannion. The Bruins had no sacks, few pressures. They were able to heat up Mannion a time or two on blitzes, but not nearly enough pressure was applied to the redshirt freshman quarterback. To emphasize that point, Oregon State came in ranked 95th in sacks allowed at 2.5 per game. But given a lot of time to throw, Mannion was able to complete 24 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown and move the chains when facing some third and long situations, hitting passes for 10 yards on a 3rd-and-6, 31 yards on a 3rd-and-11, 17 yards on a 3rd-and-12. Yeah, some of this is that UCLA's coaches aren't sending additional pressure, but UCLA's front four should be talented enough to put pressure on a weak Oregon State OL.


As a group, the Bruins were more active in this game, but still have trouble in coverage and could make more of an impact when blitzing. Mannion was able to work short crossing routes under the linebackers with ease, something defensive coordinator Joe Tresey and his staff need to find an answer for. Sean Westgate was able to pick off a pass when the Oregon State quarterback simply did not see him drifting back into coverage, and Patrick Larimore (1.0), Jordan Zumwalt (1.5) and Glenn Love (1.0) all accounted for tackles behind the line of scrimmage, something that they have sorely been lacking this season. Love had a nice game, returning to the lineup following a shoulder injury, and Eric Kendricks led the group with seven tackles (three unassisted) and continues to push for more playing time. He really needs to see more of the field. Zumwalt made a couple of very athletic plays in pursuit and wrap up.


If there is one player on the defensive side of the ball that UCLA really cannot afford to lose, it is field corner Sheldon Price. But in their first win in a conference opener since 2007, Price suffered a sprained knee knocking down a 4th-down pass that effectively ended the game. Well, he might have actually injured it in post-play jumping around. Even when they win, they might lose. If Price misses any time or even if he is just limited, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to find a corner that can cover receivers on the wide side of the field. Aaron Hester plays the boundary for a reason, and none of the other candidates have made much of an impact. Jamie Graham isn't ready to play following knee surgery. Brandon Sermons, like Hester, is better suited to the boundary. The Bruins could have to try to mask a major deficiency – without much in the way of a pass rush to help out. Against Oregon State, the Bruins again lost coverage far too often. Hester did a nice job in run support (he led the team with 11 tackles) while nickel back Alex Mascarenas also was beaten a few times.


There definitely was improvement – the defense was much better against the run, gave up only 13 points. But the Bruins yielded a 17-play field goal drive, didn't bring nearly enough pressure on a redshirt freshman quarterback that made plenty of physical and mental errors and again were pretty poor on third-down plays, the Beavers converting 8 of 16 into first downs. Oregon State is the least physical team the Bruins have played to this point, though, and probably will be the least physical team they will play all season. That has to be taken into account. But Tresey and the defensive coaches seem to be willing now to make some personnel changes, which is a good thing. It'd be nice to see more, but they are limited at some positions because of a lack of depth and injuries to some key personnel.


Jeff Locke averaged 50.2 yards on four punts, two of them ending up inside the 20-yard line. That was the good – that and a couple of nice kickoff returns from Josh Smith. The bad included the field goal and PAT kicking. One week after nailing a couple of long field goals in the loss to Texas, Locke struggled to get the ball in the air. He had a 39-yard field goal blocked and a PAT knocked down in the fourth quarter, which kept it a one-score game instead of making it a two-score game. And both of those kicks weren't as much blocked as they were kicked into the line. And, just before the end of the first half, the Beavers were able to return a punt 85 yards to get back into the game. Neuheisel said that he wanted the ball kicked out of bounds – a smart move, actually. But afterward the Bruins' coach said that the message didn't get to Locke, which should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone given some pretty glaring communication issues the past three-plus seasons.

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