As always, we use:
- 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
After two consecutive weeks in which the Bruin offense couldn’t blow away the bad Cal and Colorado defenses, the offense was again dormant against a better but still not particularly good defense. The struggles to take advantage of scoring opportunities, with Stanford-level Points Per Drive and Points Per Trip Inside the 40 numbers, were the most surprising part of the game, as even in a relatively disappointing offensive year the Bruins had been doing well at finishing drives with points.
The offense has not played unreservedly well since the ASU game, and unless the Bruins want to rely on incredible defensive performances every week, Brett Hundley and company need to get in gear.
We brought several friends to this game who were SEC or NFL fans. Just our luck—the nailbiting shootout we had promised was replaced by a defensive struggle that looked like it belonged in the SEC or NFL, and the best defense on the field was UCLA. In fact, that may have been the best defensive performance in the Rose Bowl by any team in some time. The Bruin defense absolutely obliterated a very good offense, holding the Wildcats to fewer than one third of their normal Yards Per Stop, less than half of their usual Yards Per Play, and an incredible 0.5 Points Per Drive.
This was the UCLA defense that we hoped for before the season started when we set the goal of Top Ten-level numbers, and that is reflected in this week’s stats—all of which indicate a Top Ten performance (one made even more impressive due to the high caliber offense the Bruins shut down). We had been waiting for weeks for the Bruin defense to break out—it performed well in holding Cal and Colorado below their season averages, but this was the truly dominant game that the defense needed.
The Bruins seem to have rebounded from decisively losing the field position battle against Utah, Oregon, and Cal, posting a very good +9 average starting field position differential against the Wildcats. As the Bruins face the more defense-oriented final quarter of the regular season schedule, they will need to keep this upward trend going.
UCLA finally forced a home turnover, but it was offset by another Hundley fumble (although at least this one finally didn’t turn into an immediate touchdown). Continued focus on takeaways and preventing giveaways will be very important in the coming weeks, as Washington and Southern Cal have two of the top three turnover differentials in the league.
Three rounds into the Personal Pac 12 Championship Playoff (Even if it Might in Fact be Almost as Good for the Bruins to Win Out and Have ASU Lose to Notre Dame, Beat OSU, Wazzu, and Arizona, and Get Thrashed by Oregon) and the Bruins are still alive. This week: the last true road game of the year against a Washington team with a bad offense and a good defense.
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