Kevin Prince had a tremendous game running the zone read, and showed a great deal of moxie by running for some tough yards. It was truly bizarre, however, especially on watching it again, seeing Cal's defensive ends repeatedly pull inside on the handoff. It was like they'd never seen a zone read before. Prince also showed some pretty good pocket presence, getting one nice scramble in the 3rd quarter, and also not throwing anything particularly poor under pressure.
The bad news is that he had a pretty bad game throwing the football. There were no more than a couple well-thrown balls on the night. He missed Jerry Johnson badly on a deep post in the third quarter, and was generally just throwing the ball way too high to receivers. Of course, he wasn't asked to do too much in the passing game, but it's doubtful that UCLA will play another game against a team that defends the zone read that poorly.
Running Backs: B
We'll also throw some of Prince's grade in here, since he was so effective running the ball. Derrick Coleman had another good game, gaining some tough yards for a couple of first downs, and also breaking out for a pair of 20+ yard touchdowns. Coleman actually looks like he's gotten a bit faster, and a bit quicker hitting the hole, this year. Johnathan Franklin looked ok in just thirteen snaps. He made a good cut on his touchdown run, but also showed some poor awareness on the draw play in the second quarter, missing the hole to his left and getting stopped for a loss. Still, it was good for the Bruins to get untracked in the running game this week after not being able to do much running in the blowout to Arizona.
Wide Receivers: B-
The wide receivers were not asked to do much (considering the suspensions), and in general, they obliged. Jerry Rice Jr. was effective, playing somewhere between 15 and 20 snaps. Jerry Johnson ran a nice route on his post pattern, but the ball was thrown way behind him. Nelson Rosario showed some nice effort going up high for Prince's high pass in the first quarter that easily could have laid him out. Once again, though, Joseph Fauria was simply an after-thought in the passing game and there was little utilization of the F-back. It's nice to see a guy like Josh Smith, though, do some blocking on the zone read. There were a couple of plays where he actually was the receiver making the key block to spring Prince for his 12-to-15 yard runs. On a day when the receivers were going to be depleted, it was a luxury that the offense didn't have to rely on them.
Offensive Line: B
Wade Yandall might have been the true star of the running game on Saturday. His blocks sprung Franklin on his first touchdown run, and Coleman on each of his first two touchdowns. He showed some great mobility, especially on Franklin's run, getting out to the outside. Jeff Baca also played really well in the running game, repeatedly helping to seal off the edge on Prince's runs, and also on Coleman's final TD.
There were some issues in pass coverage to clean up. It seemed like Yandall was a little unsure of who to block on a couple of plays, one being where he chose to double Mike Harris' man and allowed D.J. Holt to come in free on a delayed blitz. Harris himself had some trouble earlier handling Trevor Guyton on a bull rush, so Yandall might have had reason to bring the double. In general, not a perfect day for pass coverage, but the run blocking was good enough to make up for it.
Offensive Coaching, Game Plan: B
It was a day that called for a conservative game plan, with 4 of the top 6 receivers on the team out, and the coaching staff delivered. The coaches either clearly saw in the film that Cal did a very poor job containing the edge against the zone read, or just had the stars align, but in either case, the game plan certainly worked. If there's anything to nitpick, it's the weird clock management at the end of the first half. With the way Cal was reeling at that point, you could have easily seen UCLA try to put another 3 to 7 points on the board. Not going for it on the 35 was defensible, given the lack of receivers. But the fact that the Bruins only had 8 seconds from the 35 was due to some pretty poor clock management.
Defensive Line: B+
It hit me as I was watching the replay: UCLA has finally found a way to have an effective 3-man rush. The toughest look UCLA gave Cal all day, and there were a variety, was the 3-man front with Aramide Olaniyan, Datone Jones, and Damien Holmes across the front. But UCLA actually threw a fair amount of looks at Cal, which was good to see. It's clear, as Tracy pointed out in the post-game, that Jones needs to be playing inside consistently. Not just because he's more effective in there, which is obvious, but because he's so much more effective than any of the other defensive tackles. The reason this grade is not a straight A is because Justin Edison and Nate Chandler still got too many snaps in this game. Jones and a combination of Sealii Epenesa, Donovan Carter and Cassius Marsh should be seeing the bulk of the snaps inside for the rest of the season.
Olaniyan was a force on the outside. What's truly remarkable is that, not only was he beating Cal's offensive line with quickness, he was actually bull rushing the tackle opposite him at times. You can really see how comfortable he is playing that rush end, so it'll be interesting to see if he gets some more time there next week. Keenan Graham also played a great game on the edge, and Damien Holmes pitched in a few nice plays.
It was almost as if UCLA wasn't used to flushing the quarterback. The linebackers, as a group, did a generally poor job at containing scrambling. It was particularly apparently on one play where Olaniyan flew around the offensive tackle on a three-man rush and had Zach Maynard in the back field. But Maynard, looking to the short side of the field, saw nothing but daylight because every linebacker had already been pulled to the long side. You'd like to see the linebackers do a little bit better job staying at home, particularly against a guy having as poor a game as Maynard.
Aside from contain issues, though, the backers did a nice job. Jordan Zumwalt seems to be coming on fairly well down the stretch and had another nice showing against Cal. Eric Kendricks continues to impress, making a couple of excellent stops in the backfield and also getting some pressure on Maynard from the edge on a blitz. Kendricks finally seems to be winning the playing time battle with Sean Westgate, but we're pretty sure Westgate will still line up with the 1s in practice on Tuesday.
Defensive Backs: A
Yes, Tevin McDonald had three interceptions, but Stan McKay might have been the better safety on the day, and that's no knock of McDonald. Both played exceptionally well, with McDonald, who's been prone to taking some bad angles, only having a couple of miscues. McKay's pass coverage was fantastic. Even on the first quarter pass where the receiver made a one-handed grab down to the 9, McKay had excellent coverage. McDonald's first two interceptions were Rahim Moore specials, but his third was a really nice play, making a diving catch off the tipped ball. Aaron Hester might have had the best interception of the game, though, and it really showed off Hester's strong suit. If you noticed, Hester, in press coverage, bodied up the receiver at the line, and then was able to step in front of him for the pick. Hester is just so much more comfortable in press coverage, you'd like to see the coaching staff design a scheme where he could remain in press for most of the game.
At this point, it almost goes without saying that Andrew Abbott had a good game. His open-field tackle in the back field in the second quarter was a thing of beauty. He started off six yards from the line of scrimmage, read the play as soon as the ball was snapped, and was on Cal's running back almost before the ball was there.
Defensive Coaching, Game Plan: B
Now, this is progress. It may be progress borne of desperation, but hey, we'll take it. Moving Jones inside and unleashing Olaniyan changed the entire complexion of this game, without really doing much else. Still, Joe Tresey did put together some interesting looks, including that really undersized three-man front, as well as a couple of five-man fronts, that seemed to confuse the Cal offensive line. UCLA had also prepared a "quarter" look in practice, which we saw a few times in the game with Dietrich Riley a third safety essentially playing the role of a linebacker, pushed up the box, but we didn't see it after Riley's injury. It's clear that blitzing isn't a strong suit of this defense, so it was nice to finally see an adjustment to get more pressure that didn't involve sending three linebackers straight into the arms of offensive linemen. There's always something to nitpick, naturally, and in this case it's that it wasn't a complete gameplan. The defensive line got a lot more pressure, but the cornerbacks still spent most of the game playing 8 to 10 yards off Cal's receivers. Against a competent quarterback, it could have been a very frustrating game.
Special Teams: C+
Jeff Locke is a freaking man. This might have been the best kicking game of his career and most of it came with a sprained shoulder. Watching the replay, you could see the pain he was in on his kickoffs.
The big issue, of course, was Jordon James muffing the punt horribly. It's maddening for many fans who want to see playmaking ability back there, but James has consistently been muffing punts in practice for at least the three weeks I've been watching. While you'd like to see a better option than Taylor Embree out there (maybe Abbott, who did catch one punt?), James is probably not the answer at this time.
Cal: Unit-By-Unit Analysis
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