Soso Jamabo (Photo: Steve Cheng)

Let's Go to the Video: UCLA's Running Game vs. Stanford

Sep. 30 -- Coach Jim Mora said UCLA left many yards on the field in its running game against Stanford. So we broke down every play with GIFs and a telestrator to illustrate what he was talking about...

Earlier this week, coach Jim Mora said that UCLA’s problems in the running game had nothing to do with the game plan or the offensive line.

“We left hundreds of yards out there in the run game,” Mora said on Monday. “There were some enormous holes that were not hit."

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With this said, we went back to the game film of UCLA-Stanford and tried to find some of those holes that the running backs might have missed. We looked at all 28 instances where a UCLA running back carried the football (so we didn’t include Ishmael Adams’ 4-yard carry in the first quarter, or Josh Rosen’s four rushing attempts/sacks).

To fully examine the situation, we provide a frame-by-frame breakdown of 21 key run plays below. We didn’t include plays like Bolu Olorunfunmi’s 23-yard run in the fourth quarter (because no further yards were to be had on this play), and Nate Starks’ push-the-pile rush from the UCLA 1-yard line in the third quarter.

**Note: This analysis is based on player performance, not on scheme. We don’t know unequivocally what the objective of each play is (or where the running back is “designed” to go on each play), so we can’t say if the play itself was executed “correctly” or “incorrectly.” We’re just examining whether the run blocks were sustained and whether the running back found the open running lane.

 Run #1
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: 3
Yards before contact: 1

 

 

This play epitomized a recurring theme from the Stanford game: the cutback lane was fairly open. Olorunfunmi illustrated this in the second quarter, when he took his first carry of the game through the A-gap cutback lane, and got a nice 6-yard gain out of it.  

 

Unlike Olorunfunmi, Jamabo didn’t look for the cutback lane on his first carry of the game. He was a little bit tentative, and went more up the middle and into the crowd of the defense, as opposed to using the cutback lane.

 

On this play, Jamabo would have been better off if he had shown decisiveness in his cut. If he had planted his left foot hard into the ground and cut firmly to the cutback lane on the right side, he may have had a 5- or 6-yard gain as opposed to a 3-yard gain.

 

Run #2
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: -2
Yards before contact: -2

 

While Jamabo may have missed out on a few yards during his first carry, he had no extra ground to gain on carry No. 2. From the start of the play, right tackle Kolton Miller missed a block on Solomon Thomas, allowing the Stanford defensive end to plow straight into the backfield and tackle Jamabo before he could ever really get going. So the blame for this play definitely falls on the offensive line, not the running backs.

 

Run #3
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 1

The lack of efficiency on this run play falls on Nate Starks’ shoulders. He tried to run it up the middle, even though Conor McDermott was blocking his man to the inside.

 

Starks should have gone into the running lane that’s highlighted in yellow above. Instead, he tried to plow up the middle – which is where five Stanford players were positioned. If Starks had cut it outside, he would have had a better chance to escape the slower Stanford players on the interior. Plus, UCLA tight end Giovanni Gentosi did a nice job holding his block on the left edge, which would have allowed Starks to break free (see image below).

 

 

This is one of those plays where hindsight is 20-20. Starks very easily could have gone to the outside left lane (between Gentosi and McDermott) and still gotten stuffed. But it appears that there was a better chance for him to cut this one outside than there was a chance for him to have a solid gain up the middle.

 

***We’re skipping Run No. 4 because Ishmael Adams ran the ball.***

 

Run #5
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 1

 

Once again, there seems to be a cutback lane to the left side here, but Starks decides to plow it up the middle.

 

Run #6
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 3
Yards before contact: 1

 

The fault of this play hinges on left guard Kenny Lacy and the offensive line.

 

Starks receives a handoff up the middle, and it appears as if another cutback lane is opening up along the left side B gap.

But just when that gap appears to open it up, Lacy loses hold of his block, and the Stanford linebacker comes through and plugs up that hole.

 

 

The fault of this play isn’t on Starks. If he went middle right, he would have been stuffed because the O-line failed to generate significant push in that direction. As it played out, Starks went to the cutback lane on the left side B gap, and it was plugged up by the Stanford player who eluded Lacy.

 

 

Run #7
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 1

This is a zone-read with Rosen and Jamabo. Once again, it seems like the offensive line doesn’t do its job on this play. Regardless of where Jamabo runs, it seems as if he’d need to be Barry Sanders to make something out of it. No open running lanes seem to be apparent at all.

 

 

As you can see below, there are five Stanford defenders within a 3-yard radius of Jamabo.

 

 

Run #8
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: 12
Yards before contact: 11

 

This is UCLA’s second-best best run play of the game. Once again, it came because the ball carrier was able to break the run outside (similar to Olorunfunmi’s 23-yard run late in the fourth quarter). The cutback lanes and outside lanes appeared to be the best running lanes throughout this entire game.

 

 



Run #9
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: -4
Yards before contact: -4

Once again, an offensive lineman misses a block here. Right guard Najee Toran loses sight of the oncoming Stanford linebacker – #27 Sean Barton – and Barton trips Jamabo up in the backfield before he could ever get going.




 

 

Run #10
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 0

On this play, Kolton Miller misses a block against Solomon Thomas once again, allowing Thomas to get into the backfield and trip up Nate Starks before he can gain any steam.

 

It looked for a moment like Starks could maybe try to go outside right, but to do that he’d have to juke Solomon Thomas at the point of attack. Thomas just hit Starks way too quickly for the UCLA running back to have a chance to break free.


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Once again, the fault of this play goes on the UCLA offensive line. That’s now four times in the last five carries that the offensive line has been at fault – not the running backs.

 

Run #11
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 1
Yards before contact: 0

 

Kennedy Polamalu tried to vary things up with a stretch run here, but to no avail. At the start of the play, it looked like Conor McDermott, Giovanni Gentosi and Austin Roberts had sealed off a nice running lane to the left side, but right as Starks tried to hit it, Kenny Lacy lost hold of his block at the second level.

 

You could maybe argue that Starks didn’t hit this hole fast enough; but even if he did, he still wouldn’t have gone far because Lacy couldn’t sustain his block at the second level. He lets Stanford linebacker Mustafa Branch get away and eventually tackle Starks for just a 1-yard gain.

Run #12
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 6
Yards before contact: 4

This is that Olorunfunmi cutback run that we showed you earlier. As you can see, Olorunfunmi does a nice job of keeping a wide line of vision, instead of tunneling in on the right side of the line. Olorunfunmi’s patience and wide range of vision allows him to see the vacuous cutback lane and make the nice run.

 

 



Run #13
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 3
Yards before contact: 1

 

On this play, the cutback lane seems to be there again, but Olorunfunmi doesn’t take it. Since it’s a short-yardage situation, you can’t really fault Olorunfunmi for using his power and plowing up the middle. His 3-yard run here set the Bruins up for 3rd and 1, and then he converted for the first down on that play.

 

 

Besides, even if Olorunfunmi tried the cutback lane again, Austin Roberts didn’t do a good enough job of sealing it off. In all likelihood, Olorunfunmi would have gotten just as many yards with the cutback as he would have with the straight-ahead run.

The only way Olorunfunmi could have broken this run for a big gain would have been if he stopped on a dime (i.e. Reggie Bush against Fresno State in 2005) and cut it way back outside to the left.

 

 

But we can’t imagine that’s what Mora meant when he said there were some “enormous holes that were not hit.”

 

Run #15
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 0

This was a run where you could fault the running back. Olorunfunmi seemed to have some pretty nice blocking by Austin Roberts along the right edge of the offensive line. If he had broken this one to the outside right, it could have been a big gain. This is one of those instances where Bolu could utilize the jump-cut to the outside.

 

Granted, Bolu is more of a between-the-tackles runner than a perimeter runner, but the outside running lane (highlighted in yellow) looked too good to pass up here.

One note on this play: Kolton Miller missed another block on Solomon Thomas, which led to Olorunfunmi getting stuffed up the middle.

 

Run #17
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 4
Yards before contact: 4

 

This is one of the few tempo plays that UCLA ran all night. After two straight zone-read passing plays, Rosen decided to hand it off to Starks on first down. Once again, there appeared to be a running lane at the start of the play, but Kenny Lacy’s inability to maintain his block cost the Bruins a few key yards.

 

 

 

Lacy and Quessenberry were visibly unable to hold their blocks on this play, which is what limited Starks to just 4 yards on the play.

 

Run #18
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: -2
Yards before contact: -2

This play was an absolute disaster for the offensive line. Scott Quessenberry missed a block on nose tackle Harrison Phillips to start the play, and that set off a domino effect across the O-line. Stanford had two people in Starks’ face by the time he received the handoff.

 

 



Run #19
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: 1
Yards before contact: 0

Once again, the UCLA offensive line fails to get a push, and Kolton Miller fails to block Solomon Thomas. Jamabo’s best chance on this play would be – once again – to try for the cutback lane in the left side A gap.

Even if Jamabo were to cutback, however, Stanford outside linebacker #34 Peter Kalambayi did a nice job of cutting off that path, and Austin Roberts didn’t do a good enough job on the back-side block.

 



Run #20
Ball carrier: Soso Jamabo
Yards gained: 5
Yards before contact: 1

On this run, Jamabo actually does decide to go with the cutback lane, and he gets one of his best rushes out of it.

 

Overall, the blocking on this play looks solid. It seems as if there was a running lane on the play-side as well as the cutback side.

 



Run #21:
Ball carrier: Nate Starks
Yards gained: 5
Yards before contact: 4

This was one of those instances where Starks hit the cutback lane (and it was open), but he was a little bit too hesitant in doing so. If Starks had been more decisive and went for the cutback lane right away, then this could have been a much longer run.

This may have been one of the plays Mora was talking about when he said that there were a ton of yards left on the field.

 

Run #22:

Starks runs through left side A gap. The play is blocked really well, and Starks hits the hole (4 yards, 3 yards before contact). There are no yards left on the field on this play.

 

Run #23:

Bolu runs middle right for 4 yards and a first down on 3rd and 1. We didn’t include this run in our analysis because it was a short-yardage situation, and Bolu technically did his job by gaining the first down on third down – even if he may have missed a cutback lane on the play.

 

Run #24:

Bolu runs middle left for 4 yards on 1st and 10 from Stanford 26. No cutback lane was available on this play.

 

Run #25
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 0
Yards before contact: -2

Caleb Wilson and Scott Quessenberry missed their blocks pretty blatantly on this play, and Bolu was hit in the backfield before he could even get started. There were definitely no yards “left on the field” on this play.

 

Run #26
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 1
Yards before contact: 0

This is another one of those plays where the cutback lane on the opposite A gap/B gap appears to be open. However, Bolu decides to play it safe and go to the play-side, and Stanford is there to stuff it. If Bolu were a little more patient on this side – and if he waited for the cutback lane to develop – he could have jump cut right into a nice open hole.

 



 

Run #27:

Both Bolu and the O-line do a solid job on this play, and Bolu breaks it outside left for 23-yard gain.

 

Run #28
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 2

Once again, it looks like the cutback lane for this play might be open – at least more open than the middle was.

 

Due to the side TV angle on this play, it’s hard to tell whether there really was a cutback running lane on the left side A gap/B gap. But like we said above, anything would have been better than diving up the middle – right where all the Stanford defenders are.

 

Run #29
Ball carrier: Bolu Olorunfunmi
Yards gained: 2
Yards before contact: 2

 

This was actually one of the most important plays of the game. If UCLA could have at least gotten 4 yards on this play, it would have set up a much more manageable third down. If the Bruins were to convert on that third down, they essentially would be able to run the rest of the clock out.

 

Stanford basically shuts out all of the running lanes on this play – the conventional one up the middle, the cutback lane to the right side, and also the perimeter running lane to the left. Once again, Kenny Lacy fails to sustain a key block on the left side.

 




Conclusion:

Of the 25 run plays we examined, here are the results we got:

  • The offensive line didn’t block sufficiently: 10 times (40 percent)

  • Both the offensive line and the running backs did their job successfully on the play: 8 times (32 percent)

  • Nate Starks didn’t hit the hole on 3 of 10 carries (30 percent)

  • Bolu Olorunfunmi didn’t hit the hole on 3 of 11 carries (27 percent)

  • Soso Jamabo didn’t hit the hole on 1 of 7 carries (14 percent)


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