Immediately after the game, we would have called it about a "C" performance from Brett Hundley, given the degree of difficulty of the game, the missed throws, and how often he missed open receivers downfield. The second viewing, though, was more favorable. Hundley made several really good throws, and he was pressured a bit more than it appeared live.
Because it happened so early, it might not get the emphasis it deserves, but his first throw of the night was a beautiful deep ball to Jordan Payton, possibly his best deep throw of the season. Payton had to slow down just a touch to get to the ball, but Hundley threw the ball just about where it needed to be. The one imperative when throwing to Payton in single coverage is to not overthrow him—with his size, physicality, and hands, anything he can get to he'll have a good chance of catching. Hundley also did an excellent job hitting his receivers and running backs on the dumpoff swing passes. Only one of those passes was a poor one, with the ball hitting Perkins below the knees on a play where Perkins was dropped for a loss.
Where Hundley struggled was vision and decision making. Several times during his statistically impressive first half, where he went 21 of 25 passing, he elected to scramble when there were open receivers on routes crossing the middle of the field. Much of that may have been the pressure, or perceived pressure, coming from the right side of the line, but, really, Cal didn't start to aggressively move guys into the box until the latter part of the first half and into the second half.
Torian White's absence may have played a role in Hundley feeling the pressure a bit more. It's a virtual guarantee that Stanford is going to put some real pressure on Hundley and the young right side of the offensive line, so he'll need to gain some comfort quickly.
Running Backs: C
Paul Perkins got the start, and really didn't get much room to work with on the interior. Early on, he seemed to be running with some confidence, but as the game wore on and the holes remained closed, he grew more tentative, which you might expect from a young running back. With the way that Cal stacked the box and the offensive line played, it would have taken a truly spectacular performance to gain any real traction moving forward. On the few runs where he had some grass in front of him, Perkins did a nice job of turning up field and hitting the hole. There just simply weren't many opportunities.
Perkins wasn't the only one who didn't have much success running the ball. Both Steven Manfro and Malcolm Jones were stymied on handoffs, with Jones in particular looking like he reverted to old running ways when not given a hole to work with.
UCLA's running backs did play well in the receiving game. Manfro, early on, had two excellent catches on swing passes, and in Mazzone's system, many of those swing passes are meant to act like long handoff running plays. Manfro can be a weapon when he gets the ball in space on the edge.
Damien Thigpen made his return to action, and had an excellent sequence where he showed the same explosive talent as last year. First, he caught a swing handoff for a first down, and then a play later, he nearly caught what should have been an 80 yard touchdown on a wheel route that Hundley underthrew. Thigpen could provide this offense with a deep threat it hasn't really had this year, if he's fully healthy.
Wide Receivers: A
For degree of difficulty, we might have downgraded UCLA's receivers, given how depleted Cal's secondary was, but really, this was an excellent performance from almost every receiver who ran a pattern.
Shaquelle Evans, on a slant thrown slightly behind him, made one of the most incredible catches of the season, somehow keeping the ball off the ground while catching it essentially underneath his legs. Jordan Payton used his big body to make a great snag on Hundley's 43 yard bomb to open the game. Thomas Duarte had his big, break out game, playing significant minutes for the first time this season and doing the most with them. Duarte, actually, could have had another couple of touchdown catches if Hundley had shown a bit better touch on one pass and had seen him over the top on a roll out.
But really, the biggest impact in the receiving game came from Devin Fuller. Fuller has the uncanny knack for getting open quickly off the snap, and on Saturday, Hundley seemed to focus on him for the first time this year. Based off what we've seen this year in terms of how easily Fuller gets open, those kinds of numbers could become regular. At this point, he's leading the team in receptions, and you still get the impression that UCLA is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Offensive Line: C-
Offensive line cohesion is a tricky thing, and even one injury can throw things off. On Saturday, it was pretty clear that Torian White's absence gave UCLA's offensive line some real problems. Alex Redmond, who's been pretty close to flawless most of the year, had a generally below average game in both run blocking and pass blocking. Caleb Benenoch, on the right side, wasn't awful in his first game as the starter, but there were a few plays where the defensive end was able to easily get inside of his arms and push him backward. As a run blocker, he did well blocking his man, but Cal did a nice job of putting too many guys to block on the right side of the line.
The left side of the line didn't have a much easier time, so you have to give some credit to Cal for designing an effective gameplan against UCLA. The Bears spent much of the second half stacking the box, which UCLA continued to pound against to little avail. Generally, the offensive line was able to protect Hundley adequately, but there were a few times where Hundley was forced to scramble early because of breakdowns. Deandre Coleman gave the interior of UCLA's line fits at certain points, using his strength to bull rush into the backfield.
Heading into the Stanford game this week, it's imperative that UCLA gets the line figured out quickly. Stanford will be able to put more pressure on UCLA's offensive line with just its defensive line than Cal was able to put with the many players it put in the box. Benenoch and Redmond will have to adjust quickly.
Offensive scheme, playcalling, and game plan: C-
It was generally just a bizarrely called game. Through the first half, you could justify the many times that UCLA attempted to run inside zone against Cal's front, but in the second half, when it was clear that it hadn't worked for the entire game, it was baffling that UCLA continued to run so much into the strength of Cal's defense. Our only explanation is that UCLA's offensive coaching staff didn't want to adjust the game plan against such a poor team, and wanted to give the offensive line practice in a live game situation doing the things they'll need to do against better teams this year, like run blocking.
Still, it doesn't really explain the lack of counters and runs to the outside with Xavier Su'a-Filo as a lead guard. It seemed, again, that UCLA went into the game with a certain plan of attack and didn't deviate as the game developed. Against Cal, you can win doing that. Against Stanford, or Oregon, that'll get UCLA quickly in a hole.
We know you have to call running plays, at the very least to keep the defense honest. But on 3rd and 2, when you've shown no ability to run the ball between the tackles all game, it just seems ill advised to try again, especially when the swing pass and short passing game was working so well. As Mazzone said after the game, he never really got into a rhythm with play calling on Saturday, and you could see it on the field.
Also, on 4th down, UCLA had another conservative game, electing to kick the field goal early on a 4th and short within the 10 yard line and then not going for it on 4th and inches around midfield. At this point, it's probably fair to say that UCLA doesn't make particularly rewarding decisions on 4th down.
Defensive Line: B+
Even with the loss of Ellis McCarthy, and the early departure of Cassius Marsh, UCLA's defensive line played well. True, most of the game, UCLA played in nickel, so only two defensive linemen were on the field for a good portion of the contest, but still the Bruins were able to generate some pressure. Eddie Vanderdoes looked very good in his first career start. It's amazing that a guy who hasn't really had a college offseason can be as strong as he is, and it really makes you consider how good he'll look next year once he's been in the strength program for a year.
Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark both played well throughout the second half, and Kylie Fitts, who we've heard has been nursing his wrist a bit, made one of the better plays of the day for the defensive line, getting the big stop near the goal line in the 4th.
We had to downgrade the line a bit simply because of the play of Marsh. Taking 25 yards of penalties in two plays is one thing, but to be ejected for not being able to control your temper is quite another. The Cal player may have swung first, but Marsh has to know that, at this point, he has a reputation as a bit of a hothead. The two offsides penalties alone were bad enough, especially given how much difficulty Cal had sustaining drives. The lone Cal touchdown came in large part because of Marsh's meltdown.
Keenan Graham registered another key sack, this time using his bull rush again to get to Jared Goff. Graham is now leading the Pac-12 in sacks, which would have been shocking to think this time last year when he was riding the bench at outside linebacker. Graham doesn't have the bulk to play every down, but he can make a huge impact in limited time.
At this point, what can you say about UCLA's linebackers that hasn't already been said? The Bruins went to a bit of a new wrinkle after Marsh went out Saturday, dropping Jordan Zumwalt closer to the line of scrimmage and using him as more of a pass rusher. That was just as effective as basically everything the linebackers have done this year.
Deon Hollins didn't play much, if at all, against Cal, and you can likely attribute that to the lack of zone read in the Cal offense. Hollins has largely been used as a designated zone read defender throughout the first four games of the year. You'd have to imagine he'll have a big role again when UCLA takes on Oregon in a couple of weeks.
Myles Jack and Anthony Barr once again competed for the most valuable defensive player title. Barr consistently got pressure on Goff, including the big sack in the first quarter where he showed a great dip against Cal's offensive tackle. But Jack once again showed his versatility, making several big tackles and also tipping a punt on special teams.
UCLA's linebackers are clearly the strength of the defense at this point, with the ability to play stout against the interior run, range against stretch runs and swing passes, and rush the passer. It'll be very interesting to see how the battle of strengths goes between Stanford's offensive line and UCLA's linebackers.
Defensive Backs: A
This was one of the best performances from a UCLA secondary in a long, long time. Before the season, we were concerned that the secondary would have issues as the season wore on simply based on the lack of experience (heck, before camp, we thought two or three true freshmen had a chance of starting). Now, five games into the season, it's probably fair to say that UCLA's secondary is better than last year—which is incredible, considering that the Bruins have an entirely new starting secondary this year.
Fabian Moreau, who switched from running back to cornerback last year, has been unheralded this year, but it's time to give him his due. Against Cal, he blanketed the Bears receivers, either covering them so well that the pass couldn't come anywhere near them or putting good enough coverage on them to make the tackle immediately after the catch. Considering what we've been used to as Bruins' observers, we almost expected the flags to pop out on some of those deep passes, but Moreau did such a good job of not putting his hands on the receiver and instead using his body to shield the ball from the receiver. His ability to run stride for stride with Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper a few times was really impressive.
Randall Goforth made a great play on the interception, and continues to play under control this season. He's been excellent in run support this year as well as the pass game, and might be one of the bigger surprises in an already surprising secondary. Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams also played well.
Brandon Sermons didn't have a great game as the third cornerback, struggling at times to pick up receivers in the open field. He got burned deep once in the end zone but luckily the ball was overthrown. We have to imagine that as the season wears on, Priest Willis will get some more playing time.
Defensive scheme, play calling, and game plan: A
This was kind of the game we've been waiting for this year, where UCLA's defensive staff didn't have to wait until halftime to make adjustments to a game plan. Instead, UCLA had a very effective gameplan to start the game, and if it hadn't been for some boneheaded penalties from Cassius Marsh, the Bruins might have held a very potent Cal offense to a field goal or two for the entire game.
Instead of starting out the game with base defense, Lou Spanos went primarily to nickel for the majority of the first half, and it worked very well. The Bruins were able to generate a pass rush with just the front while also providing adequate back end help for the corners and safeties. In the second half, UCLA used more of its base look to mix things up, but also shifted Zumwalt down to outside linebacker which gave them another pass rushing threat.
It probably helped Spanos and the defensive staff that Cal is much less of a zone read, option running team than any of the other opponents UCLA has faced this year. Whatever the case, it was easily the Bruins' most effective gameplan going into a game this year.
It has to be mentioned—the fact that UCLA has held opponents scoreless in the 3rd quarter this year is nuts. The Bruins have outscored their opponents by an average of 14 points in the 3rd quarter, which is largely a credit to the defensive adjustments that Spanos and company have been able to make at halftime.
Special Teams: B
Return coverage wasn't excellent, but other than that, it was a pretty good day for UCLA's special teams. Ka'imi Fairbairn was perfect on field goals, even if he didn't have to kick any deep ones. Sean Covington's punts were mostly OK, and he made a nice saving tackle on a big return.
On the flip side, UCLA's returns were generally good. Steven Manfro again looked like he was close to breaking one but got tripped up just before he hit open field. Shaquelle Evans had a couple of good returns, one of which was negated by a block in the back from Ishmael Adams.
Thigpen, who was the kick returner last year, hasn't gotten a look there yet, but made an impact on punt coverage. With his speed, he's an ideal special teams gunner.
Cal Unit by Unit Analysis
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