Ugh. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. By now, you have watched the game, read Tracy’s recap, read David’s Unit-by-Unit Analysis, read HereNowUCLA’s tactical review, and read countless despairing message board posts. Somewhere, in some other life, your penitence will be rewarded, but hopefully this will be the last thing you have to read about that awfully familiar first-week-of-class letdown. Before this game, we called this an important opportunity for UCLA to prove it was a bona fide national contender. That…did not happen. Prepare yourself—it ain’t pretty.
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
That was so so so so SO bad. Literally one week after one of the best offensive performances in the Mora era, the UCLA offense had one of its worst performances. The offense was in the lowest tier in our efficiency, explosiveness, and scoring efficiency stats, and that still-sparkling taking advantage of scoring opportunities stat doesn’t mean much when only 4 Bruin drives reached the ASU 40 yard line. UVA had better efficiency and explosiveness stats in the season opener (which was another game in which UCLA faced a team that put a ton of people in the box yet that time ugh forget about it we’ve suffered enough).
When you take out the sacks, the Bruins still ran for a whopping 3 yards per carry. That is not good! New Mexico averaged more Yards Per Play against ASU. The Bruins went 3-and-out 7 times, and that doesn’t include the first safety. That’s half of all drives the Bruins had in the game failing to get one measly first down. That’s how you lose the Time of Possession stat by 15 minutes to a team that usually couldn’t care less about dominating TOP. After being incredibly lucky to go into the half down only 5, the Bruins had the chance to come out in the second half and take control of the game against a very emotionally shaky ASU team that absolutely quit at home against Southern Cal. Here are the first four drives of the second half:
Ok that’s all we feel about saying about that offensive effort. Yuck.
The defense wasn’t as horrific as the offense, but being mediocre-to-bad isn’t exactly something to crow about. The defense was in the Top-50 tier in preventing efficiency thanks both to a moderately successful bend-don’t-break first half that saw the Sun Devils only scoring one touchdown despite numerous opportunities and 4 consecutive stops between the mid-3rd and mid-4th quarters that had the Rose Bowl as loud as it’s been…probably since that final Utah drive. Hmmm.
The Yards Per Play Allowed number of 6.8 really tells the story, as the Bruins just allowed too many explosive plays to really shut down Arizona State, which is a pretty bad sign considering that the defense is set up to prevent explosive plays. Mike Bercovici ran untouched up the gut for a 34 yard touchdown. That really happened. Had the defense kept up its first half bend-don’t-break tendencies, the Bruins might have actually won even despite the horrific offensive effort. Unfortunately, they allowed two consecutive touchdowns to start the second half and one final touchdown to ice the game (after a 3:25 drive that felt like it took 10 minutes), and that was that.
It was a comprehensive loss—the Bruins were bad and unlucky. They were unlucky that ASU fumbled twice and recovered them both (generally, we expect half of fumbles to be recovered by the defense), and that only one of the nine tipped passes was intercepted (the numbers are a little murkier here, but a little over 20% of tipped balls are intercepted on average, leaving the Bruins with an Expected Interceptions number that rounds to 2).
The Bruins’ poor play really shows in the field position. The Average Field Position Margin number for the game was -7, which puts the Bruins in the lowest tier, but that number isn’t really powerful enough. For that, we have to look at cumulative field position margin (that is how much this game broke us—we’re talking about Total stats!). There were 33 total possessions in the game, so multiplying 16.5 (half of 33) by -7, we get a cumulative field position margin of -115.5. In a game where the Bruins already were horribly outgained on Yards Per Play and total yards, that is an extra hidden 115.5 yards the Bruins needed to travel to put points on the board. No wonder the comeback fell short (and was necessary in the first place).
The Bruins limp into the Bye Week 1-1 in the weak but now wide-open Pac-12. Stanford looms, but for now the rest should do some good for sore limbs and wounded pride. The next couple of stats columns will take a look at how the rest of the conference looks after the first month of the season.
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