One week after the UCLA defense turned in the best defensive effort of the Mora era, the Bruin offense got in on the act, obliterating the very good but shorthanded Washington defense. The offense had been sputtering through 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 Beat OSU, Wazzu, and Arizona and Then Get Thrashed by Oregon), turning in blasé performances against the awful Cal and Colorado defenses and making an all-time great defensive game against Arizona way closer than it should have been, but Brett Hundley and company woke up and dropped a 44-point anvil on a Washington team that, besides the 45 points they gave up to Oregon, hadn’t given up more than 24 points to FBS competition all year. The Bruin defense had their first off game in several weeks, but it was still more than enough for a comfortable win.
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
The offense was absolutely fantastic. They were elite in the efficiency and taking advantage of scoring opportunities measures, and very good in the explosiveness measure. Washington played most of the game without their three top defenders, but the Bruins were unable to have such a double-barreled romp against even the awful Cal and Colorado defenses, so this is a fantastic sign.
For the season, the Bruins are now back up in the solid 26-50 ranking tier on the offensive stats. This was the first of three consecutive tough defenses that the Bruins will face, and if UCLA can somehow replicate this effort against the tougher Southern Cal defense and the toughest-in-the-league Stanford defense, they will be 10-2 going into December. The last great offensive performance (ASU) wasn’t exactly a predictor of future success (it immediately preceded the Utah and Oregon games), so don’t go chalking those wins up just yet.
We acknowledge that the defense was playing heavily bend-don’t-break in the second half, but it still should have played better against a Washington offense that was admittedly much better due to full-time Shaq Thompson. Given the chance to dominate the second worst offense they will see in league play this year (Utah having been the worst), the Bruins started fast but gave up too many drives.
Actually, UCLA allowed the same amount of points as they did to that bad Utah offense, they just got more of an assist from the offense on in Seattle. The Bruins were mediocre at preventing efficiency and scoring, though they did an ok job at keeping the Huskies from being explosive. All of the numbers, however, were well over what Washington had been averaging for the season, so if we are going to give the defense good grades for holding Cal and Colorado underneath their averages, we must ding them for letting the bad Washington offense play well over their averages.
All is not lost, however. Overall, the Bruins crept into a dead heat with Utah for second in the Pac-12 in fewest Yards Allowed Per Play, and jumped Washington to enter the top half of the league in fewest Yards Allowed Per Stop. It wasn’t a very good defensive performance, but things are still trending in the right direction for Eric Kendricks and company. The Bruin defense next faces a solid Southern Cal offense that is very similar statistically to Arizona.
The Bruins won the field position battle for the third straight game, earning a very healthy +5 average starting field position over the Huskies. Here we break a little from Tracy and David, who thought that Ka’imi Fairbairn had a tough day kicking off. We believe Fairbairn was instructed to kick a little short to let the UCLA coverage team get a shot at John Ross; four of the five kickoffs before the touchdown resulted in the Huskies starting inside the 25 yard line, and both kickoffs after the touchdown were deep in the end zone and unreturnable. For all his field goal issues, Fairbairn has proven himself to be a fantastic kickoff specialist (including onside kicks), and we have full faith that he can bang it out of the end zone whenever asked. Matt Mengel punted adequately and we hope UCLA will continue to accept the fantastic field position it automatically gets whenever teams kick away from Ishmael Adams.
We wrote in the preview that turnovers were probably Washington’s best chance to win, and the Bruins did a fantastic job of taking care of the football. Washington is still second in the league in turnover differential, yet UCLA was +1 on the game, showing a much improved commitment to preventing turnovers.
The Bruins have now survived four knockout rounds of their Personal Playoff, and are officially playing for much more than pride on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. If UCLA can somehow find a way to combine the defensive performance against Arizona and the offensive performance against Washington they can beat anybody in the country (yes ANYBODY, SEC-blinded BROs). After a few weeks off the radar, the pressure of expectations will return to Westwood and the Arroyo Seco. Can UCLA handle it better this time? Pressure is a privilege, Bruins.
For the bye week, this space will give a stretch run conference statistical rankings update.
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