RB Brandon Stephens (Photo by Steve Cheng)

UCLA vs. OSU Statistical Review

Nov. 15 -- What do the stats tell us about UCLA's win over Oregon State on Saturday?

When watching that game live, we were reasonably happy with the offense and felt like the defense was ok but not as good as it could have been. This just goes to show what this season has done to our expectations, as the objective statistics show that the Bruins in fact came through with a very good defensive performance and could not manage anything more than a mediocre offensive performance against one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. We simply expect more from the UCLA defense, and expect less from the UCLA offense. That’s probably a good way to put together a game plan for the Southern Cal game, but we’ll get to that later in the week. In any event, it’s nice to get a win, as nondescript as it was.

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.



Offense

This was one of the UCLA offense’s better games of the season, and it still was not very good. It just broke 40 Yards per Stop for only the third time all season (Utah and UNLV were the others), but that still is simply not a good enough level of efficiency against the team that had been 10th in the conference in Yards Allowed Per Stop when we did the full conference stats last week. The Bruins only had one drive of at least 10 plays (which led to a punt from the Oregon State 34 yard line, which we would be mad about if we didn’t enjoy watching the UCLA defense play much more than the offense) and two touchdown drives of more than 30 yards.

The Bruins were moderately explosive, with big pass plays to Jordan Lasley and Darren Andrews and several mid-range runs from Brandon Stephens, Soso Jamabo, and Bolu Olurunfunmi, but again they probably should have been even better at gashing the bad Oregon State run defense. The passing game shows a little more room for hope with Lasley’s emergence and Fafaul doing a bit better job of avoiding mistakes against a solid Oregon State secondary.

Even a field goal from that 3rd and goal at the one inch line would have made the points per drive and points per trip inside the 40 yard line numbers look better, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when you are literally the worst rushing team in the country. For the season, the Bruin offensive stats are all in the mediocre 51-100 ranking tier, and that certainly gibes with what we are seeing. With two regular season games left, one against a good defense and one against an awful one, the stats probably will not change a ton in either direction, barring a random explosion against Southern Cal.

Defense

It sure didn’t feel like a dominant effort, but the UCLA defense did finish in the elite level in all of the statistics we track. This is in part due to the fact that Oregon State was in the lowest quartile in the conference in all of the offensive stats we track when we did all of the conference stats, but at this point we are nit picking. The Bruins were a little worse than usual at stopping the big play, as they allowed a bomb to last season’s starting Oregon State quarterback Seth Collins and another long pass to Timmy Hernandez. That is how good the UCLA secondary has been though—we are quibbling with a game in which they allowed under 7 yards per passing attempt. The rush defense probably was helped by the starting Oregon State running back being injured, but they only allowed 3.6 yards per carry to the rest of the Beavers (not taking into account sacks), which is not a bad showing against a relatively solid Oregon State rushing offense.

The Beavers managed a total of three drives longer than 35 yards, and on those drives they scored a total of three points. This is a wonderful Bruin defense and its statistics would probably look even better if they hadn’t lost the field position battle in every game this season besides Arizona and UNLV. This is in small part due to the fact that the Bruins skew a bit towards preventing the big play, but let’s not be too fine here: it’s mostly because the offense and special teams have been very bad. For the season, all of the UCLA defense’s statistics are just outside of the elite Top 10 range. It would take two more incredibly strong efforts for the Bruins to break into the elite tier. I think they deserve to be there, so it is a matter of the best UCLA defense in perhaps a generation playing at its best when its best is needed.

General

Even in a game where UCLA blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, they were completely fooled by a trick play on a punt, were very bad at returning kicks, and only managed to force one touchback out of seven kickoffs. This, combined with two fumbles and an interception, is how the Bruins lost the field position battle for the fifth straight game, though to be fair to the Bruins had Jordan Lasley taken a knee when he recovered the blocked punt and Randall Goforth been correctly ruled down when he intercepted the pass, the Bruins would have won the field position battle, so there’s that.

Really, there’s one more game that matters in this lost season. Beat the best Southern Cal team since at least 2012, and the Bruins will almost certainly go bowling and have an ok feeling going into the offseason. The Bruins played well enough to beat Oregon State, but this next game will take a greater effort.

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