UCLA vs. Oregon State: Unit by Unit Analysis

Nov. 9 -- UCLA shut out OSU 41-0 on Saturday, and the grades reflect that dominant performance...

Quarterback: A

This was a nearly flawless performance from Josh Rosen. He was poised, calm, decisive, and, despite wet conditions, extremely accurate. He had some easy throws where the receivers were wide open, sure, but he also got through his progressions well and made some tough plays look almost simple.

The play just before the bomb to Kenny Walker down the left sideline was a very impressive play. The pass blocking wasn’t perfect, and Rosen, backed up into the end zone, was forced to move around in the pocket quite a bit to avoid the sack, which was a good demonstration of Rosen’s underrated athleticism. After a few seconds of this, Rosen, still keeping his eyes up, found Nate Iese for a solid 10 yard gain, which set up the beautiful throw to Walker (which was fitted perfectly above Walker’s shoulder). That two-play sequence might have been Rosen’s most impressive this season.

Everything was going right for Rosen in this one. Early on in the game, he once again rolled right and threw across his body, but this time he got everything he needed on the throw and, thanks to a good route from Darren Andrews, completed the pass for a first down. Also in the first quarter, he had a great bullet throw to Walker for a first down that was called back by an Alex Redmond false start.

About the only thing Rosen doesn’t do well at this point is throw the fade into the back corner of the end zone. He once again under-threw one to Jordan Payton in this game. Of course, he followed it up with a perfect throw to Thomas Duarte in the back corner, so we’re sure UCLA will take it. He also made a perfect throw after the Johnny Johnson interception, rolling right to find Thomas Duarte for a big gain.

Heck, the best throw he had all night was probably the incompletion to Payton that went 40+ yards in the air and hit Payton in the facemask. This was one of Rosen’s best performances of the year from a decision-making standpoint, and if it hadn’t been so wet, he might have had a 400+ yard day with another touchdown or two.

Running Backs: A+

Paul Perkins is really good at football. His stat line wasn’t the best it’s been in this one, but if you actually watched the game, it was silly how many times he should have been dropped for a loss or no gain and ended up with a four-ish yard gain. He has that knack of making guys miss without actually moving a whole lot, and despite not being gifted with huge holes in this one, he made the most of basically every opportunity he had. He’s just an incredibly patient runner. His touchdown run to put UCLA up 24-0 showed off his great toughness and balance.

Sotonye Jamabo benefitted from some better blocking, but he has also made significant strides in recent weeks. He looks more decisive in general, and has run with more toughness. He also showed off some patience of his own on his set of downs in the third quarter. Maybe he should have gotten a penalty for it, but we like the style of the high-stepping touchdown.

Nate Starks had two of his best runs of the season as well. His touchdown run also showed some Perkins-esque patience, and then his other impressive run was an open field scamper where he finished it off with a powerful hit on the Oregon State safety. Hopefully he didn’t injure his leg too badly, because he’s really starting to flash of late.

Bolu Olorunfunmi got some time late and looked good as well. It was great to see him catch that ball so cleanly on the rollout, because catching has never been his strong suit. He also had a few tough runs up the middle.

How about the hands and reflexes from Nate Iese on the Rosen fumbled snap? He was rewarded with his first catch in many moons, which was good to see.

We still contend that Roosevelt Davis could start at a lower level FBS school, and if he were three or four inches taller, could probably be a significant Pac-12 contributor. He has good vision and is quick and decisive.

Wide Receivers: A-

We always kind of thought of Thomas Duarte as a mismatch at this level with his combination of size and speed, but it’s now becoming absolutely apparent thanks to his budding connection with Rosen. Duarte ran some picture-perfect routes on his two touchdown catches, and Rosen found him at the precise right moment in each of those routes. Duarte had almost 100 yards receiving in the first half. In a really cool development, he also had two nice blocks to spring Darren Andrews a couple of times.

Jordan Payton didn’t have his cleanest catching day. He had one Rosen pass go right off of his finger tips early, which we’ll give him a pass on since it was so wet. The second drop, though, was all on him, with Rosen throwing that beautiful deep pass that hit Payton right in the helmet. Honestly, it was such a perfectly thrown ball it might have surprised him a bit. In any case, Payton still found a way to have a good game despite those drops, with one nifty bouncing catch where he showed off his impressive concentration to reel the ball in.

Darren Andrews is maybe the best story of the season, with Andrews going from being injured for most of the last two years to now being the third-most reliable receiver on this team. He’s getting basically all of Devin Fuller’s former touches and is making the most of them. He has been really reliable catching the ball, and when he gets some blocking, has gotten basically everything you could ask in terms of yards after the catch.

Kenny Walker had a couple of nice moments in this one. First, it was great to see him catch the deep bomb down the sideline. Second, though it got called back, he ran a really nice route to seemingly convert a first down in the first quarter. He has made some real strides as a receiver this season, going from just a deep option to being somewhat reliable on intermediate routes.

We got our first extended look at Austin Roberts and Alex Van Dyke, and it was good to see both of them out on the field. Roberts got his first catch, and Jordan Lasley also had one. Van Dyke should have had one, but the ball bounced somewhat violently off of his hands. He had some issues with drops at times during spring practice, but he was mostly reliable in fall camp, so that’s hopefully just an outlier.

Offensive Line: B+

UCLA changed things up on the offensive line, with Kolton Miller coming in at right tackle, Caleb Benenoch moving to right guard, Alex Redmond flipping to left guard, and Kenny Lacy moving to the bench, and the results were tough to judge, mostly because it’s difficult to figure out how to attribute all of the penalties. Obviously, Oregon State was doing some shady things up front to confuse UCLA’s offensive line, but at some point, the Bruins went with a silent count, which should have fixed a lot of those issues.

Even throwing out the false starts, Redmond didn’t appear to have his best game. He had one holding penalty where he just seemed to get beaten on a one-on-one, and then he also whiffed on a couple of blocks in the run game. He played really well two weeks ago before sitting out, but this didn’t look like he picked right up where he left off.

Kolton Miller held up pretty well on the right side, so that was good to see. You could probably attribute Rosen’s sack to him, but it was a difficult play, with the delayed blitz shooting past Miller after he was already trying to engage the defensive end. Perhaps he should have been a bit more patient and waited to account for the linebacker, but those sorts of things happen.

Caleb Benenoch seemed to do fine at the other guard spot — at least, we didn’t see any obvious breakdowns from him. Conor McDermott, as usual, excelled at pass protection on the left side and was perfectly fine in the run game. Jake Brendel had one missed block on the third and short run before UCLA’s first field goal, but that was the only significant error we saw from him.

One note: we really liked that big formation with Fred Ulu-Perry as a fullback in that jumbo package. Hope we see more of it against Utah especially.

Offensive Coaching: A-

This seemed like a really well-conceived game plan for UCLA. The Bruins were a little stalled early in the running game, so UCLA started to attack the edges of the defense in the receiver screen game and basically killed the Beavers’ corners, which forced the defense to spread out, which opened up the middle of the field for the running game as the game wore on.

We really liked the aggression on the 4th and 1 from the 25 to go for it. There didn’t seem to be any indecision about it, which was great, because we were a little worried that with Ka'imi Fairbairn’s newfound reliability, the Bruins would be all too willing to kick field goals on 4th and short.

As we said above, we liked the wrinkle of bringing back the jumbo package, with Fred Ulu-Perry in as a fullback and with offensive personnel. Yes, there’s no Myles Jack, and it’s too risky to put Kenneth Clark back there, but that formation still has a lot of value, and if UCLA can do it with offensive personnel, there’s more variation that can come from it. It’s Oregon State, so it’s tough to tell, but it looked like it was pretty effective as well.

DE Takkarist McKinley (Photo by Steve Cheng)

Defensive Line: A+

Takkarist McKinley set the tone for the entire defense in this one. Basically every time Oregon State was starting to put a few plays together, McKinley was there with a big stop, or a big sack, or just some pressure that forced a hurried throw. The game seems to be quite clearly slowing down for him, and as the game slows down, he seems to have sped up. His speed rush for the first sack was just unfair — dudes his size should not move like that. He’s so good that on his second sack, he was able to start tackling Nick Mitchell with his butt. As good as he was rushing the passer, he was arguably even better against the run, looking very disciplined against the zone read and pursuing and extending plays out the edge very well. There was a ton to like about his performance.

Kenneth Clark had a somewhat quiet day from a statistical perspective, but he was a big part of why McKinley was able to have such a field day on the edge. Clark was doubled for a lot of this game, but still managed to make Mitchell uncomfortable and blow up the pocket at times.

Eli Ankou had a great coverage sack on Mitchell in the 3rd quarter, and he has been playing well all year. Ankou might be the poster child for Angus McClure’s teaching ability, since we were unconvinced that Ankou was going to be a significant contributor as recently as last year, but he has developed steadily over his four seasons in Westwood to become a legitimate Pac-12 starter.

Linebackers: B+

This was the best game for Deon Hollins in a while. He held the edge well, extended the play on edge runs, and looked, generally, much steadier against the run than he’s looked since the first few games of the season. He also looks healthier, which is a good sign heading into the final three games of the year.

Jayon Brown was once again all over the place making tackles. He’s really decisive, and his quickness allows him to shoot into gaps that bigger linebackers would have issues with. He has clearly become very comfortable in his role, and it’s going to be difficult to take him out of the starting lineup at any point this year, or even heading into next year. He’s been that good.

Kenny Young had a few nice moments, but he’s still struggling with some things. He really struggles to get off blocks, and he just doesn’t have that same sort of decisiveness to him that, for example, Brown does. He did make a nice play to force Mitchell’s third interception, so hopefully he can build on that, because it was a nice, decisive play where he just reacted without overthinking things.

We were hoping to see a little more of Cameron Judge, but it didn’t look like he got a ton of burn. He did come in at one point when UCLA went to a stacked box formation of some sort.

Aaron Wallace was really solid again on the edge. He has really come on over the last few games of his senior season, and is reminding us a lot of the player we were really excited about during his redshirt year in 2011. Hopefully he can continue to build on this, because he’ll be critical against the running attacks of Utah and USC.

Defensive Backs: A+

The defensive backs not only caught a bunch of interceptions, they also played a huge role in forcing the turnovers themselves. Nathan Meadors forced the early fumble, obviously, but on the first interception to Randall Goforth, Ishmael Adams was actually bringing the pressure on Mitchell that forced the throw. Johnny Johnson had a lovely pick, making a great jump on the ball, and Jaleel Wadood made a nice play to keep his feet in bounds on his interception.

Wadood had his best game in a long time, looking excellent in run support especially. UCLA’s line and linebackers did a nice job extending runs to the edge, which gave Wadood opportunities to knife in to assist on tackles.

Meadors played a little bit more corner, and we again liked what we saw. Johnson is quickly becoming the best cover corner on the team, as he was once again very impressive on Saturday. Marcus Rios didn’t have a ton to do, but looked good from what we saw.

Defensive Coaching: A

UCLA did exactly what it had to do in this game. The Bruins made some effort to stack the box early, which forced Oregon State to pass the ball, and from there, hilarity ensued. Oregon State had an abysmal passing attack entering the game, and UCLA, rightly, forced the Beavers to throw the ball from the pocket, and, by and large, OSU was unsuccessful doing so.

It was really as simple as that. UCLA brought a little bit of pressure early, but it wasn’t necessary to blitz a ton in this one because the defensive line and McKinley, especially, were getting a nice push on their own. Still, we saw a couple of delayed blitzes, including the one from Adams, so there are some wrinkles being put in.

Special Teams: A

This was another solid day for UCLA’s special teams. Matt Mengel was once again pretty good punting the ball after a solid day of it last week, Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect again, and Ishmael Adams had one nice kickoff return. He did almost cough up a punt as well, but he made a very heady play to turn and fall on the ball, so we’ll give him credit for that. UCLA had a very good day across the board, and special teams were a big part of that.

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