The Bruins’ rickety national championship hopes evaporated in the Pasadena heat on Saturday afternoon, as the team was thoroughly dominated by Oregon. It takes a lot to make the Ducks’ already flashy offensive statistics rise, but those numbers sure took a leap yesterday.
As always, we are using:
- Yards Per Stop to measure efficiency
- Yards Per Play to measure explosiveness
- Points Per Drive to measure scoring
- Points Per Trip Inside the 40 to measure drive finishing
- Field Position Margin to measure field position
- Turnover Margin to measure turnovers
UCLA’s offense wasn’t particularly efficient or explosive, but where it really suffered was scoring and taking advantage of scoring opportunities. 3.33 Points Per Trip Inside the 40 is a Stanford-type number, and you don’t want to have anything in common with the Stanford offense this year. 1.11 points per drive is absolutely abysmal and the second worst performance of the year behind the Virginia game (yes, even Jerry Neuheisel playing against a Texas defense that is far superior to the Oregon defense did better).
With that performance, UCLA’s season numbers drop precipitously. After closing in on the top tiers of offensive stats, the Bruins’ offense plummeted back to the pack, and it now ranks no better than sixth in the league in any of the statistical categories that we cover. Through 6 games, this offense has been as mediocre as it gets. We’ll see if it can get in gear in the next two weeks against the generous Cal and Colorado defenses before the game against a Washington defense that is now challenging Utah for second in the league.
The defense started well, forcing two quick punts from Oregon to start the game. Then they gave up a touchdown on Oregon’s first play after the Hundley fumble, then gave up four more touchdowns in a row, then allowed Oregon to get to the 2 yard line before making a goal line stand, then gave up another touchdown. It was a pyroclastic flow of points, though at least the defense can say they did about as well as Michigan State.
The defense’s overall numbers are now all in the mediocre 51-100 ranking tier, and that seems about right after the first six games. We don’t even know if it’s fair to say that the talent is there, because against an Oregon offensive line that had been 118th in the country in Adjusted Sack Rate Allowed, the Bruins could not even muster one.
And yet, bad as the defense and mediocre as the offense played in this game, the Bruins would have had a shot to win it if not for two awful turnovers that turned directly into 15 points in a game UCLA lost by 12. Oregon got a little lucky to recover both of their own fumbles and the Hundley fumble (one normally expects the offense to recover around 51% of all fumbles, though when the entire team guesses wrong on a zone read Marcus Mariota can probably fumble a couple more times and still walk into the end zone), but ball security is becoming a legitimate concern for this UCLA team. Turnovers played an immense role in both losses so far this season, and having a turnover differential of exactly 0 through 6 games is not where the Bruins want to be.
For the second straight week the Bruins decisively lost the field position battle, with the turnovers being a big part (though the Oregon kickoff coverage team also deserves a lot of credit).
The Pac-12 is still a big bundle of chaos right now, so despite the back to back losses the Bruins still have a chance to win the South division. The margin of error has disappeared; the Bruins probably must sweep the rest of the year, including the November Arizona-Washington-Southern Cal-Stanford stretch that will define the season.
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