It was a rough game for Richard Brehaut, even before the broken leg. He missed badly on two third-down throws on his first two drives, got popped on a zone read, and had one fairly exceptional deep ball slip through the fingers of Randall Carroll. He looked like he was finally building a rhythm at the start of the second quarter just before he suffered the fracture. Kudos to Kevin Prince, though, for shaking off some rust and putting together one of his better-looking games. After the adrenaline and possibly boo-fueled deep, play-action toss to Rosario for the pseudo-touchdown, it seemed like some jitters set in. He proceeded to miss badly on a number of throws (the ball into quadruple coverage that was both a bad throw and a bad decision, the underthrown interception to Rosario in the end zone, and the ugly miss on Joe Fauria's seam), but he rallied nicely, both with the zone read and through the air. His 15-yard scramble, when he beat the linebacker to the corner to set up a first down from Wazzu's 15 when the score was 22-14, was something Brehaut probably couldn't have pulled off.
Running Backs: B+
Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow. But someday, someday we're going to see Johnathan Franklin break a long touchdown. Once again, Franklin seemed like he was just a couple of shorter shoelaces away from breaking a couple of long touchdowns. After a quiet start to the game, Franklin really seemed to come on after the Brehaut injury, picking up the slack of a potentially reduced passing game. His run down to the 30, combined with Prince's run to the 15, when the Bruins were down 8, seemed to set Washington State's defense back on its heels. Derrick Coleman did what was asked of him on the goal line runs, plowing ahead and getting into the end zone. If we have one complaint, it's the quirky decision to keep running Jordon James laterally when he's probably the best open-field guy on the team, but we'll get to that more later.
Washington State's corners were pressing the UCLA receivers almost the entire game, regardless of who they were lined up against. It's hard to say that the pressing really worked, though, considering the amount of times the Bruins got open. Randall Carroll and Nelson Rosario both spent good portions of the day open and it was really just an unfortunate combination of inaccurate passing and some dropsies that prevented UCLA from getting this game back in hand earlier. While Rosario could teach a master class on making the dramatic catch, his focus on other plays is sometimes just head-scratching. On the pick at the end of the first half, he really didn't give a good effort knocking the ball down, and on two different occasions (one for the first 2-point attempt) he had the ball knocked away after getting his hands on it. Still, it was nice to see Carroll get thrown to early and fairly often, and it was equally nice to see the discovery of a New World: the underneath route.
Offensive line: B
There was nothing too egregious from the offensive line. It was mostly what it has been for much of year: average in pass protection, decent in run blocking. Alberto Cid got a little abused early on Franklin's first run, getting shed pretty badly by the defensive tackle, but aside from that, there were only a few instances where you could pinpoint some issues. Greg Capella was blown back a couple of times by bull rushes, but to little ill effect. With 4.9 yards per rush attempt, it was a pretty solid day from the hogs and the quarterbacks were never really under much pressure.
Offensive Coaching, Scheme, Play-Calling: B-
We'd probably take this most weeks. The first throw of the game went to Randall Carroll on a pass that didn't travel 40 yards in the air, which was nice to see. The Bruins changed the launch point for the quarterback a few times, with a designed roll-out to the left side being a key component of Prince's touchdown throw to Josh Smith in the back of the end zone. Hey, we even got a slant off a pseudo-blockout on that Shaquelle Evans touchdown. Passing-game wise, it was one of the better days for play calling.
It wouldn't be UCLA if there weren't some head scratchers, though. Jordon James, at this point, has to be wondering when he's going to be allowed to run toward the opposing team's end zone and not the sideline. It's a curious decision to make arguably the team's most elusive ball carrier run low-reward end-arounds 2 to 4 times a game. Mark these words: When James finally gets the ball in his hand in open field facing the endzone something big is going to happen. There were also two bizarre timeouts, one coming 1:30 into the second half (which appeared to be called since UCLA had just 10 men on the field), and the other coming after Washington State's missed field goal, but that's about par for the course at this point.
Once again, Joseph Fauria was curiously absent from the game plan, only getting one look on a poorly-thrown ball from Prince. The two Coleman touchdown runs were conservative, but they worked, and it's hard to argue with results.
Overall, it was an incremental step forward for the offensive play-calling, even given the fact that Washington State's defense is pretty poor.
Defensive Line: C+
We've had our first Datone Jones sighting of the year, which was nice. He had a nice coverage sack in the red zone in the third quarter, but that was more due to some good DB play. He made a great play later in the game off a bull rush against Wazzu's left tackle after the Cougars returned it to the 40. Jones pushed the left tackle all the way back into Lobbestael's leg, forcing an incompletion that really should have been picked off. Damien Holmes also came away with a decent-looking sack, working his way around the right tackle in the third quarter. Still, aside from a handful of instances, there was very little pressure from the front four, mostly giving Lobbestael all day to throw. Sealii Epenesa had a few good stuffs in the running game, but Nate Chandler balanced that by getting blown up a few times and also with a personal foul on the opening drive that helped give Wazzu the early lead. Overall, the line did a decent job stuffing the run, with a little help from the whirling dervish Eric Kendricks, but failed to provide any kind of consistent pressure on Lobbestael.
People have gone over this to a greater extent than necessary, but my last job involved viciously beating dead horses so here goes: Sean Westgate playing over Kendricks to any real extent is bizarre. Especially with a club for a hand. Westgate was taken out of almost every run play, and the Cougars were running to his side of the field. It's not Westgate's fault that he's overmatched at this level, but it is affecting the overall play of the unit. Kendricks is by no means a world-beating linebacker- yet. But there's just so much more positive that he brings to the table. On one sequence in the 3rd quarter, he was involved in 6 straight tackles. Yes, he was completely fooled by Galvin leaking out for the touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but you almost have to accept the occasional big freshman mistake in exchange for the death from a thousand cuts that comes with playing physically overmatched players.
In other news, Patrick Larimore did not have a good read out of the zone on the first touchdown for Wazzu, and Jordan Zumwalt was largely a non-factor in the game.
Defensive Backs: B-
No increase in grade for circumstances, but that was a really impressive performance given the injuries. Aaron Hester played one of his best games as the coaching staff finally started to take advantage of some of his strengths. It was really interesting to watch -- when Hester was played up in press coverage on his man, he not only covered far better but he was able to make a few plays in run support. When he wasn't pressing, and was stuck basically standing on an island, he didn't look as good, missing tackles and allowing his man to get open. Tevin McDonald should have had that interception in the end zone, but made up for it with two excellent open field stops in the fourth quarter. Safety Dalton Hilliard also had perhaps his best game of the season. On the two back-to-back red zone series for Wazzu, where they got the extra series thanks to the phantom Fauria foul, it wasn't so much pressure as excellent coverage that kept the Cougars out of the end zone.
Defensive Coaching, Scheme and Play-Calling: C
I'd guess that this game is more or less the best-case scenario for a bend-but-don't-break philosophy: Opposing team moves the ball at will with a huge cushion between the 20's, but in the red zone, when there's no more green field behind you, step up and limit to a field goal. Overall, it worked, and Joe Tresey even dialed up a few more blitzes than usual in the offing, to account for the limited secondary. Sure, most of the blitzes were ineffective and ill-disguised, but it's the thought that counts. On the first Wazzu drive, the Bruins blitzed three times, and only one of those netted a loss of yards. The one maddening thing is still the third down play calling, where invariably the Bruins line up with three or four down linemen and everyone else 5 to 15 yards off the line of scrimmage, even when the first down marker is just a few yards away. Toward the end of the third quarter there was a perfect example of this. The Bruins had pushed Washington State to the UCLA 30-yard line for a 3rd and 14. Naturally, Lobbestael completed a 15-yard pass against the 4-man rush and a baby-soft cushion. The defense's inability to get off the field outside of the red zone severely limited UCLA's chances to put more points on the board and make this a more lopsided game.
Special Teams: C
It was a fairly ho hum day for special teams. At this point in the season, it's fairly obvious there's not going to be much playmaking from the return men. Taylor Embree has learned his lesson about fair catching, and Josh Smith was in little danger of breaking any big ones yesterday. Give walk-on and former soccer team manager Tyler Gonzalez credit for effortlessly nailing PATs. The big negative was Kai Maiava's personal foul on field goal team, but that was offset by the big blocked extra point from Owamagbe Odighizuwa. So, overall, about an average day.
Just another day at a Pac-12 conference game. It seems like these guys never overturn calls, but naturally they did so on the feel-good Nelson Rosario touchdown where there didn't appear to be any conclusive evidence that he didn't get in. Even more egregious was Joe Fauria‘s leaping penalty. Fauria jumped straight up and down, but had one of his own linemen pushed into him on his way back down. Somehow, the referee saw this as vaulting over their backs. Or maybe he was just penalized for being 6-8. Finally, the false start in the 4th quarter, where the Cougars lineman jumped offsides and Greg Capella did the right thing and tapped him on his shoulder, was abysmal. I'd give them an F, but I want to save a lower grade for later in the year when there's inevitably a more poorly officiated game.
Fans Who Booed Prince: F
Tracy's mentioned it, but it bears repeating: the booing of Prince after walking into the game to replace an injured Brehaut was extremely weak. Boo a guy after a pick? Sure. Boo a guy when he fumbles? Why not? But booing a guy replacing an injured starter who pretty clearly could use all the confidence he can get is low class and a new low for UCLA fans. On the other hand, the fans that have continued to come out to the games and support the team -- and shushed the fans that booed Prince deserve an A.
WSU: Unit-By-Unit Analysis
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