WR Theo Howard (Photo by Steve Cheng)

UCLA vs. UNLV Statistical Review

Sep. 13 -- Our resident statistician takes a look at what the stats tell us about UCLA's win over UNLV on Saturday...

First things first: this was our first game sitting on the shady side of the Rose and OH MY GOD THAT WAS SO PLEASANT THE BRUINS ARE ABSOLUTELY CRAZY FOR CHOOSING THE SUN HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY NOT STAY IN THE SHADE?!?!?!

Anyway, the UCLA offense had a nice bounce back effort after it fell asleep for the first three quarters in College Station, albeit against what was one of the worst defenses in the country last season. The defense…at least it was consistent from week to week.

As always, we use:

  • Yards Per Stop to measure efficiency.
  • Yards Per Play to measure explosiveness.
  • Points Per Drive and Points Per Trip Inside the 40 to measure scoring efficiency and taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
  • Field Position Margin to measure the hidden yards of field position.
  • Turnover Margin to measure the impact turnovers have had on the game and season.



Offense

The UCLA offense did not punt the entire first half, which is as good as it gets. While we must recall that last season’s UNLV defense was truly awful (below Top 100 ranks in all stats we track), at least the Bruin offense was able to move the ball with ease. The only non-elite level stat was Yards Per Play, the measure of explosiveness. This lack of explosiveness comes out further when we see that UCLA is #6 in the country in plays of at least 10 yards, but 84th in the country in plays of at least 30 yards. Josh Rosen has been surprisingly inaccurate on deep passes thus far for the self-proclaimed best quarterback in the country, and the run game has been unable to really break the big one.

A week after pretty much losing the game based on its inability to take advantage of scoring opportunities, the UCLA offense scored a touchdown every time it crossed the UNLV 40. Given the current lack of explosiveness in the Bruin offense, it must continue to grind its way into the end zone if it must hope to carry a defense that has not yet found its legs.

Defense

We will grant that the UNLV offense is almost certainly much improved from last year, when it was the mediocre Top 100 level in all of the stats we track. Johnny Stanton could very well be better than Trevor Knight, and Devonte Boyd could be as good as the more-heralded A&M receivers. And yet, for all the talk during the summer about making changes to improve the defense after last season, it sure looks like the same exact issues exist.

We take issue with the BROs who are complaining about the “bend don’t break” nature of this defense. This defense is bending right into the end zone, with a ridiculous 6.5 Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40 so far this season—there is no “don’t break” going on at all. The UNLV offense was actually more successful than the Texas A&M offense at scoring on a per-drive basis. Tactics aren’t our forte, but it is clear that on the most basic level (points), something has to change for the UCLA defense to have a successful season.

The defense isn’t even doing a great job of preventing the big play, allowing a middling 5.4 Yards Per Play. Having allowed 5 plays of over 30 yards thus far, the Bruins are tied for 96th in the country. In the UNLV preview, we noted that alarm bells should ring in the event of a close game. The game may have eventually turned into a blowout, but there is certainly a huge need for a change on defense. Something is broken, and Christian McCaffrey and company loom just over the next hill.

General

The UCLA secondary, relatively unable to create turnovers last season, has now intercepted 3 passes and forced a fumble in two games. It’s nice to see, and potentially was the difference in keeping UNLV from making it a 4 quarter game. Austin Kent is still not Ka’imi Fairbairn on kickoffs, but at least the kick coverage was still ok. Ishmael Adams didn’t look too dangerous in the return game against UNLV, though seeing him in the game more on offense was a sight for sore eyes.

It was pretty strange that the UCLA offense was so much worse at penalties (most of them procedural) at home against UNLV than they were last week in the cauldron of Kyle Field. We imagine the team probably allowed itself to exhale during the week, and thus fell back into their old bad habits. There is precious little room left for those types of mistakes this season, especially given the defense’s current struggles.

It was good to see the offense play well (though it’s time for Rosen to start hitting his open deep receivers), but the second straight mediocre showing by the UCLA defense is quite worrying. BYU will be the last mediocre offense they face before the tough Stanford-Arizona-Arizona State-Washington State run—it would behoove the Bruins to make some big changes as soon as possible. The time for baby steps is over.

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