Josh Rosen (Steve Cheng, BRO)

UCLA vs. WSU Statistical Review

Nov. 17 -- What do the stats tell us about UCLA's loss to Washington State Saturday night?

Let’s get this out of the way first: Mike Leach deserves just as much heat for allowing Luke Falk to return to that game as Brady Hoke got when he put a clearly concussed Shane Morris back in the game last year. We know too much about the dangers of head injuries nowadays to allow someone who would not have been able to pass a standing eight count back in a football game. We find Mike Leach’s public persona endearing, loved listening to him on his Sirius XM show, read two of his books, and were huge advocates for him during the last two UCLA hiring cycles, but he absolutely blew this call and doesn’t exactly have a great history of head injury awareness. No win is worth the horrible long term consequences of head injuries, so we implore Coach Leach: do better next time (and the sad truth of this awesome and terrible game is that there will almost certainly be a next time). Now to the analysis. This game wouldn’t have changed it, but it has now been a decade since UCLA went undefeated in the Rose Bowl. Like 2012, the Bruins suffered a senior night loss that had pretty much zero impact on their Rose Bowl chances (though the Oregon victory over Stanford means that the Bruins must now win the league to earn a home game on New Year’s Day). It was a frustrating game not unlike the 2012 Pac-12 Championship Game, when the Bruins were pretty dominant statistically in all but a few telling areas. 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

WSU Game Report Card


The Bruin offense was fine, though not spectacular in this game. It was frustratingly unable to hit the big play, with a bomb to Payton and the should-have-been-the-storybook-game-winner run by Rosen as the only plays over 30 yards. Wazzu allowed 6.0 Yards Per Play on the season going into the game so the Bruins did best that mark, but not by nearly as much as they should have. The offense was fairly efficient, with only one three-and-out all game and a whopping five drives of 10 or more plays. We noted in the game preview that Wazzu’s defense was #4 in the league in Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40, and indeed it was the Cougars’ ability to stiffen up near the goal line that made a huge difference in the game. The formerly machinelike UCLA offense bogged down deep in WSU territory, settling for a not-good 4 red zone field goals by the Automatic Ka’imi Fairbairn. That is a worrying trend, as Utah and Southern Cal are both at least as adept as Washington State at preventing points inside the 40. For the Bruins to have a hope of winning the South, the offense must get back to its efficient-scoring ways in a hurry. Defense

Another game, another crushing injury to a top line starter (get well soon, Johnny Johnson). The UCLA defense just wasn’t good enough to win. The Bruins allowed Washington State to be too efficient (the Cougars’ lone three-and-out came on their first possession), and this time the offense was unable to outscore the opposition. The defense heartbreakingly did a great job of preventing the big play…until the very final possession, where the longest pass play that mattered of the night (the screen pass with no time left at the half went for longer) went for 30 yards and put the Cougars in position to at least tie the game with a relatively easy field goal and gave them the chance to take the fateful shot at the end zone. If the UCLA offense hadn’t bogged down in the red zone this would have been a good enough performance to win, but since we know the defense can play well against an air raid attack even with the injuries (see: Cal), this wasn’t a good enough effort. At least Kenneth Clark did his job, with 3 sacks in his last home game. General

Besides the UCLA failure to score touchdowns inside the 40, the game was lost in field position and turnovers. -16 is the worst average field position deficit of the year for the Bruins, and only trails last year’s Oregon game (-17) as the worst performance of the last two years. Punting, so long one of the only competent spots of the UCLA team, destroyed the Bruins. Leach figured out what so many teams have failed to understand—that Matt Mengel takes about 18 seconds to get off his punt. This allowed the Cougars to deflect one punt and force a rushed punt that didn’t go much further than the deflected one. Then Kenny Walker hit one 0 yards and ugh. We can unequivocally say that this was the worst punting performance of the last several decades (at least all those punts that the Oklahoma returner ran back in ’04 were boomers). We were at the game and so can’t say for sure whether the fumbles were actually fumbles (the consensus seems to be that the Ishmael Adams fumble was almost certainly not a fumble but the Darren Andrews one probably was), but we can say that those fumbles killed the Bruins, as one fumble turned directly into a Wazzu touchdown and the other stopped a drive that was moving into scoring position. Jaleel Wadood’s interception was clutch, and he is quickly becoming our favorite Bruin defender. It was a weird game with an artificially full stadium (the season ticket holders and students showed up in full force, but the general admission was clearly mostly giveaways that cleared out at halftime) that felt colder than it was, and it would be a shame if that were that last performance the Bruins had in the Rose Bowl this season. If they wish to get a mulligan, they must emerge unscathed from the toughest three game stretch of the year—Utah, Southern Cal, and (probably) Stanford. At least it’ll probably be warmer in Salt Lake City than it has been in the mornings in LA this week. Questions? Comments? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.

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