One week after being unable to get over the Stanford hump, UCLA got well with its annual wipeout of Arizona. The first half felt like the 2014 version of the game, with a dominant UCLA defensive performance making up for a bad offensive performance, but in the third quarter the Bruin offense woke up and turned a close game into a blowout. It was a wonderful day of college football and the Pac-12 South results went pretty much exactly as UCLA would have wanted, so let’s take a look at the stats.
As always, we look at the following stats:
- 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.
First things first: we have always used the garbage time definition of a 35 point margin in the first half, 28 in the third quarter, and 21 in the fourth quarter to cut off our stats. As such, these numbers are a little more unkind to the offense than you might expect, as the Bruins scored two touchdowns after garbage time hit. On the other hand, with the weak effort that the offense posted in the second quarter, these numbers aren’t that unfair. The Bruins went three-and-out in their last three drives of the half and wasted great field position on their two other drives of the second quarter. If not for the great defensive effort, Arizona would have probably gone into the half with the lead. Overall, through the touchdown that made the score 31-10, the UCLA offense was not at all efficient, though fairly explosive. This of course came against a pretty weak Arizona defense, so hopefully the offense can continue to improve against the other weak defenses it will face over the next few weeks.
For the season, the offense is still stuck in its Top 100-level rut. Rosen is starting to heat up, with several magnificent throws and zero interceptions. On the whole, this is certainly not where we would have expected a team with this much talent to land, and with potentially serious injuries to starters Kolton Miller and Ishmael Adams, it still feels like something is missing. Might Theo Howard be that something? We live in hope.
Just as the garbage time cutoff was probably a little unkind to the offense, it was a little kind to the defense, which allowed two touchdown drives after the garbage time cutoff. For the first three quarters, however, the defense was absolutely dominant. Kenny Young, Takkarist McKinley, and Eddie Vanderdoes looked like the most talented players on the field, and the Bruin defense had its best performance according to our statistics in some time. Against what had been a great offense coming into this game, the UCLA defense was at the elite Top 10 level in every single stat we follow. The Bruins had five tackles for loss and generally controlled Rich Rodriguez’s zone read. Seven of twelve Arizona drives before garbage time ended in a three-and-out. Considering the UCLA defense was getting absolutely zero help from the offense in the first half, this was quite an impressive performance.
For the season, the UCLA defense is now solidly in the Top 25 level across all of the statistics that we track. They are probably two or three drives from being in the elite level, but we are very happy with what the defense looks like at this point. The rise of Kenny Young has really brought the defense to another level, as the secondary and defensive line were already in good shape. The next two weeks are a bit of a revenge tour for the defense, with road games against Arizona State and Washington State, both of which tore the Bruin defense apart last season. If UCLA’s statistics still look this good by this time two weeks from now, the Bruins will be in good shape for the stretch run.
There were no turnovers by either side in this game, which is probably a better sign for the Bruins, as Rosen threw the ball 37 times without incident. The real story, as Mr. Woods intimated, was the field position margin. A week after being dominated by Stanford to a -7 Average Field Position Margin, the Bruins had an incredible +13.8 Average Field Position Margin against the Wildcats. This was the best game of the season for the Bruin return teams (aided a little by some terrible punts by the Arizona punter), and the coverage team was flawless. Austin Kent also had three touchbacks on kickoffs, his first touchbacks at sea level. The defense was great, but special teams certainly helped out by tilting the field severely in the Bruins’ favor. For the season, the Bruins are +1 in turnover margin and Top 50 level +1.5 in Average Field Position Margin.
There is some universe where the entire Pac-12 South goes 5-4 and the Bruins win every tiebreaker, but barring that, the Bruins still are in pretty good shape for the division. Of course, the same could have been said each of the past three seasons, so it would behoove the Bruins to take care of business against a teetering Arizona State.
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