Photo by Steve Cheng

UCLA vs. Stanford Statistical Review

Oct. 19 -- How did UCLA stack up against Stanford from a statistical perspective last Thursday?

For the second week in a row, the UCLA offense was unable to take advantage of a vulnerable defense, and this time the defense was completely unable to deal with the elite Stanford offense. For the second year in a row, the Bruins followed a surprising loss to a good-not-great foe with a wipeout at the hands of the best team in the Pac-12 North. As a result, it’s time to dust off last year’s UCLA-Only-Single-Elimination-Pac-12-Championship-Tournament, as the Bruins must win out to be conference champions for the first time in 17 years. Statistically, the Bruins actually played a little better in this game than the 2014 Oregon game, but that’s about the only semi-positive thing we can say. 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

Ranking Buckets

Stanford Game Report Card

Offense

In the 2013 game, these numbers might have been good enough to beat an elite Stanford defense, but in 2015, the performance just wasn’t nearly good enough against a not-at-all-elite Stanford defense. The Bruins were unable to be efficient against a defense that had allowed a solid level of efficiency throughout the early part of the season to offenses that for the most part had far less offensive talent than UCLA. UCLA was actually pretty explosive in this game, mostly thanks to that perfect 70 yard touchdown pass (the YPP drops into the 5s if you take out that play), but it was unable to have more long touchdown plays that might have kept it in the game even as the defense and special teams melted down. The Bruins also reverted to their bad old early season scoring form, only averaging a mediocre, Top 100 level 2 points per drive and an also-mediocre 4 points per scoring opportunity. This year’s Stanford team is an offensive juggernaut—teams must be able to hold serve when they have scoring opportunities to beat the Cardinal, and UCLA was broken like it was Mario Sharapova against Serena Williams. Just as last year’s too-little-too-late offensive flurry against Oregon came well after the game had been decided, the two late Bruin touchdowns came well into garbage time, and do not count in our calculations. Halfway done with the regular season, and the best offensive line in over a decade, Peyton Manning 2.0, and Paul Perkins (who looked more like Barry Sanders, Sr. on Thursday than Barry Sanders, Jr. did) are only at the just-ok Top 50 ranking level in most of our stats. That’s not good enough, but the upcoming schedule of Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington State coming up give the offense an opportunity to feast and play up to its talent. Defense

If the reader will allow us a quick moment to venture into the intangibles, we have the depressing thought that the injuries have left a huge leadership vacuum on the UCLA defense. After the opening drive, where the defense executed bend-don’t-break to perfection, the defense let Austin Hooper all alone in the end zone after the long kickoff return (Ka’imi Fairbairn can run though!), then ughhhhhh that drive where the Bruins allowed 4 3rd down conversions, 2 of which came on 3rd and more than 10, and bent right into the end zone. After a punt, the defense allowed 3 straight touchdowns, and the rout was on. The backbone just wasn’t there, and it really seemed like nobody on the defense was stepping up to vocally rally his teammates. The defensive stats were terrible, even if the offense and special teams did them no favors. 127 Yards Per Stop means the defense isn’t preventing efficiency at all—it’s bending and breaking. 8.5 Yards Per Play means the defense is getting gashed for huge plays, which is how Christian McCaffrey ends up with the Stanford single game rushing record and Jaleel Wadood gets stuck in a Vine that will be seen until the end of time. 4.67 points per drive is bad, and 7 points per scoring opportunity is as bad as it gets. This was the best offense the Bruins will play all year, but if they play like this again, they should make plans to spend the holidays in El Paso. General

As mediocre as the offense played and as thoroughly as the defense was overwhelmed, the special teams were just horrific. While Ka’imi “Wheels” Fairbairn was still able to put 4 of his 7 kickoffs for touchbacks, the 2 that were returned went for 96 and 26 yards (a third put the Cardinal on the 25). That 96 yarder was a killer, as it meant the Stanford offense could set up shop at the 4 yard line for a 14-3 lead. The Bruin defense was really never able to recover, and the UCLA return team was unable to break a big one of its own (Ishmael Adams just has not regained the vision and balance that made him special, and Devin Fuller has been better than he used to be but isn’t close to an elite returner). That combined with Matt Mengel’s complete inability to flip fields and the offense’s inability to sustain drives meant that the Bruins finished a whopping -12 in Average Starting Field Position. That is really awful, and it is how UCLA gets blown out in a game where it actually pretty comfortably outgained the Cardinal (though only if you include garbage time). The pick 6 was another killer, and ugh Jordan Payton could have probably avoided that offensive PI call that led to the 3rd and long if he hadn’t looked as awkward as humanly possible when executing the rub. At least Randall Goforth had a pretty nice interception. Just like last season was not over after the disappointing Utah loss and the awful Oregon loss, this season can still end in a January home game. The UCLA-Only-Single-Elimination-Pac-12-Championship-Tournament begins on Thursday, as the Bruins break out the black alternates against Armpuntin’ Jared Goff and the 210 and 134 literally grind to a halt and hopefully there is some municipal law where we can put Larry Scott in jail for holding up traffic or being incompetent or something. Questions? Comments? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.


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