Brett Hundley has been decent-to-good over the last three games, after a very difficult stretch in the middle of the season. It's probably not a coincidence that, in the last two games, UCLA has been able to generate a significant amount of yards on the ground. Teams, at least to start games, haven't been able to tee off on Hundley and blitz him as much, which has allowed him more time to throw, which has, in turn, given him the opportunity to throw deeper more.
Against Washington, he had a good first quarter and then, once Washington started to pressure him more, the offensive scheme went much more toward the run. He did have some accuracy issues, but he also wasn't assisted by his receivers on a couple of throws. On the deep ball to Jalen Ortiz, for example, where Hundley had to roll out and throw while running, he actually threw the ball near-perfectly, but Ortiz didn't complete the route.
Arizona State, this weekend, probably has the best defense UCLA has faced since Oregon or Stanford, so it's going to be interesting to see if Hundley and the offense can apply some of the lessons they've learned over the last few weeks to a game against a high-quality defense.
Running Backs: A-
Myles Jack's performance on Friday was arguably more impressive that his 120 yard explosion against Arizona the previous weekend. Even with Washington's defense knowing what was coming virtually every time he was in the game, and even facing a stacked box on nearly every run, Jack was able to grind out 60 (alright, really 45) yards on 13 carries, displaying the power to go with his lightning strike touchdown run from a week ago. On his first touchdown run, he was hit at the line of scrimmage, and then really stacked up at the four yard line, but still managed to push a couple of defenders all the way in the end zone. That was probably his most impressive touchdown run, but each showed that he has the power to be a virtual guaranteed first down on 3rd and short.
Heck, even his fumbles gain him an extra 15 or 20 yards. So, there you go, that's Jack's one flaw: he should probably work on his carrying style. He had one fumble and, with Pac-12 refs being Pac-12 refs, probably could have had another called on his first touchdown. That minor complaint aside, he was sensational on Friday. At this point, especially with the potential injury to Malcolm Jones and the status of Jordon James, Steven Manfro, and Damien Thigpen questionable, it's obvious that Jack will need to play a considerable role on the offensive side of the ball. The question is simply how many snaps he can play. Even though he is needed on defense, since he brings a certain versatility to the equation that no one else has, it's pretty clear that when he is in the game, he changes the dynamics for the offense, giving a credible running game to an attack that has lacked one for the previous four or five weeks.
Malcolm Jones also ran very well on Friday, looking shiftier and more explosive than at any point previous. It's a complete shame that he missed his junior season, since it'd be interesting to see where he would be in his development if he had stayed in the program and bought in a little earlier. It's also a shame that, after clearly one of his best games, he suffered what appeared to be a head injury on the field. Hopefully, he'll be OK for Saturday, but if he's not, UCLA could be down to just Paul Perkins as a scholarship running back. Perkins had a decent game Friday, but having just one scholarship running back would be a very difficult obstacle to surmount.
Who knew Cassius Marsh had those kinds of hands? That ball from Hundley on the first touchdown pass was a complete rocket, thrown from about five yards away, and Marsh caught it as if he's been catching passes every day of practice for the last four years. Hundley said on Monday that he thinks Marsh could be a dominant tight end in college, and after watching that play, we don't doubt it.
It was very nice to see Devin Lucien have a big moment after struggling through the early part of the season. Lucien was arguably the best receiver on the team his freshman year when he played on the scout team and, before he got hurt last season, looked like he was poised to become a big play threat for UCLA. If he can start to generate some confidence again, which that touchdown play may have given him, he could provide UCLA with a deep threat downfield.
We haven't yet received information on the extent of Devin Fuller's injury from Friday, with Mora not providing injury updates, but if he can't go against Arizona State, that would be a big loss for the Bruins. Fuller is rapidly becoming UCLA's best receiver and most dynamic threat with the ball in his hands. Ortiz, his backup, didn't have a great day against Washington, stopping his route too early on a potential touchdown pass from Hundley.
Offensive Line: B-
Considering everything that's gone on this year, you have to give Adrian Klemm a good deal of credit for getting even decent play from the offensive line through the last four games or so. With three true freshmen in the lineup, all three of his best tackles out with injuries, and a center that has struggled to snap the ball at times this year, the offensive line has, amazingly, held together pretty well. Against Washington, the unit again had an altogether decent day, even with a few breakdowns.
Really, UCLA's offensive line tends to break down, understandably, when it has to deal with a significant amount of pressure. Against Washington, that pressure started to come in the second quarter when the Huskies realized that they would have to start aggressively pressuring Hundley. Even then, it's not a complete sieve like that offensive line became at times a year ago. Typically, Hundley had just one man to avoid when the pocket breaks down rather than several.
It's going to be interesting to see how everything shakes out if Simon Goines comes back healthy at any point over the next two weeks. Right now, with the way the running game actually seems to be working a little, there's an argument to be made that UCLA shouldn't necessarily mess with what appears to be working. We'd have to anticipate, though, that if UCLA does get a fully healthy Goines back, he'd slot back in at left tackle simply to get Xavier Su'a-Filo back on the interior where he can give UCLA the ability to get outside on runs again.
Offensive scheme, play calling, and game plan: A-
You have to give some credit to Noel Mazzone and the offensive play calling—it has been increasingly dynamic over the last few games, culminating with a brilliant first quarter against Washington Friday. It wasn't just the first quarter, actually, although that's when most of the points came. Throughout the game, UCLA used a variety of looks it hadn't used much this year, including a significant amount of pistol in the early going that helped to jumpstart the running game.
Running Jack out of the pistol is also a smart move, because it allows Jack to build up a head of steam on his way into the line of scrimmage. In fact, with how slow developing some of the runs have been this year, you could make an argument that UCLA should run much more of its running game out of the pistol—and wouldn't that be a fun little full circle return to the Neuheisel years?
Against ASU, UCLA is going to have to generate a significant running attack from somewhere, and if we had to guess, that "somewhere" is named "Myles Jack". Kudos to the offensive staff for showing that they're willing to increase his load going forward.
Defensive Line: A
UCLA's defensive line was shifted slightly to account for Bishop Sankey better than the Bruins did against Ka'Deem Carey the previous week, and it seemed that the adjustment helped greatly in stopping the run. Cassius Marsh, aside from another one of those nagging offsides calls that he's seemingly had in each of the last five or six games, played a really solid game. He was in the backfield seemingly as much as Keith Price in the first half, and did an excellent job disrupting the timing of Washington's offense. Ellis McCarthy also had another very good game, looking more and more like he's becoming the player that his billing indicated he would be.
Kenny Clark has turned into a real playmaker from the nose tackle position, which is just a complete bonus. He has very good strength, and can get his body so low that he can push back virtually any offensive lineman he's matched up against. It's to the point where it's becoming very difficult for offenses to account for him with just one blocker. UCLA has gone though, essentially, four starting nose tackles since the beginning of spring, but Clark, the true freshman, looks to be the one for the gig.
Nothing is more fun than seeing a 300-pound man run with the ball, so it was really great to see Eddie Vanderdoes recover the fumble in the first quarter and generate a nice return. He actually has a nice set of wheels for a big guy, so we're probably a year away from seeing him get some carries on offense.
UCLA's linebacker play has suffered a very tiny bit in the past few weeks, and you'd have to say some of that is the amount that Myles Jack is having to devote to offense. With the rotation tightening up now that UCLA is deep into the conference season, each of the starters is playing a considerable amount of snaps, which is leading to some wear and tear.
You have to give a ton of credit to Eric Kendricks, who has to be playing through a considerable amount of pain with the variety of injuries he has. Having him in the center of the defense gives UCLA a significant security blanket, and he was very good again on Friday. Jordan Zumwalt, his fellow inside backer, forced a fumble in the first quarter, but had a relatively quiet game otherwise, aside from his interception late in the game.
Anthony Barr obviously broke out after a pretty quiet game against Arizona, generating a sack and seven other tackles. He was playing a more natural role for him, coming in off the edge rather than playing a lot of the 4i as, essentially, a defensive end.
Defensive Backs: D+
This was easily the worst game for the defensive backs this season, with each of Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams, and Brandon Sermons getting toasted by Washington receivers throughout the game. It wasn't even that the Husky receivers were burning past UCLA's defensive backs—oftentimes, it just seemed like UCLA's secondary didn't have a great idea of where it needed to be to defend certain plays. It seemed like Washington went a bit more vertical than UCLA may have been expecting.
This was probably the most man coverage that UCLA has played this year, though, so the degree of difficulty was fairly high. Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson mostly played OK at the safety spots, which helped to keep Washington from going deep on every play.
Defensive scheme, play calling, and game plan: B-
UCLA did a much better job against the run on Friday against Bishop Sankey than it did the previous week against Arizona State and Ka'Deem Carey, and much of that had to do with slight adjustments made along the defensive line which helped to close running lanes. Anthony Barr was also shifted out into more of his outside linebacker role again, which helped give UCLA better containment on his edge.
Where UCLA struggled, though, was in pressuring Keith Price, especially early in the game. Price, and later, Cyler Miles, both were given a long time to throw on most downs, which led to some long completions in man coverage. When UCLA did blitz, it often generated good pressure, with the Bruins combining for four sacks on the game. We'd like to see some different blitz packages as well, since all too often the interior blitz will get picked up with ease at the line of scrimmage.
Special Teams: B-
When grading UCLA's special teams, it's extremely difficult to judge it because it truly is such a mixed bag. In general, UCLA's coverage units on punt and kick returns are excellent. In general, UCLA's blocking on punt returns and kickoffs is excellent, even if Shaquelle Evans hasn't been particularly good on returns lately. And, in general, UCLA's kicking game has been good this year, with Sean Covington playing very well for a true freshman and Ka'imi Fairbairn looking more solid as the season wears on. Heck, the Bruins are even at or near the top of the Pac-12 in blocked kicks and punts.
That said, when teams can extend drives by using fake punts deep in their own territory twice in four weeks, there's something wrong. The look UCLA used on each of those two punt fakes leaves no one on the interior to cover a potential runner, and Washington's punter was essentially able to scamper about 30 yards before being brought down. The number one goal of special teams is to hand the ball back to the offense or defense without something going horribly wrong, and when something disastrous like that happens, it tends to wipe out a portion of the good.
Not to go all sartorialist on you, but we generally liked the L.A. Midnight uniforms. If we had two suggestions, though, it'd be to give the helmets a matte finish rather than a shiny finish. It's funny that there was at least one poster on the message board who actually thought the helmets were gold because of the glare.
Second, the chrome or reflectors around the numbers seemed to detract a bit from the overall look and feel of the uniform. We'd have preferred something simpler, like just a painted gold outline for the numbers rather than that chrome strip.
That said, the uniforms were some of the better black ones we've seen, and certainly better than those for Utah or Nebraska earlier this year.
Honestly, it's amazing that UCLA was able to get nearly 70,000 people out to the Rose Bowl on a Friday night. Actually, let's rephrase: it was amazing that 70,000 people came out to watch UCLA on a Friday night at the Rose Bowl. Despite some pretty horrendous traffic, about 30,000 people arrived well after kickoff until about halftime, when the stadium looked pretty full.
What was more amazing was that, despite a lack of marketing efforts from UCLA, fans managed to put together something that looked pretty close to an actual blackout. We'd guess that there was about a 60% participation rate with the blackout, which still looked pretty cool given that black is a dominant color. So, fans, give yourselves a big pat on the back.
Washington Unit by Unit Analysis
Bruin Report Online Top Stories
UCLA Prospects In Games This Weekend - Week 5Sept. 30 -- Check out where UCLA prospects will be playing this weekend throughout the country...
Bruin Report Online1:25 PM
UCLA vs. Arizona Statistical PreviewSep. 30 -- What do the stats tell us about UCLA's upcoming game against Arizona?
Bruin Report Online1:05 PM
Arizonan Rush End Breaks Down UCLA OfferSept. 30 -- Back from his first official visit, Tempe (Ariz.) defensive end My-King Johnson breaks down his recruitment, looks ahead to more trips and mulls his new offer from UCLA…
Bruin Report Online11:55 AM
Three-star DB Elijah Hicks Talks Future PlansSept. 30 -- La Mirada (Calif.) defensive back Elijah Hicks visited Northwestern last weekend and he talks about his trip plus plans for future visits...
Bruin Report Online3:25 PM