QB Mike Fafaul (USA Today)

UCLA vs. Cal Statistical Review

Nov. 29 -- What do the stats tell us about UCLA's loss to Cal on Saturday?

Brian Poli-Dixon letting an easy catch go between his legs and be returned for a touchdown to help end the 8 game win streak against Southern Cal in 1999. 50-0. The 2010 Thursday night obliteration by Oregon. The 2015 Foster Farms Bowl vs. Nebraska. The 2012 Holiday Bowl vs. Baylor. The entire 2008 season. The recent past of UCLA football has been chock full of ignominious defeats that carry a strong odor of quitting, and the final game of the 2016 season is another addition to that sad history. By now you have undoubtedly read all the eye-popping firsts in this game for the terrible Cal defense, and the more advanced stats are equally unkind to the Bruins. Lonzo Ball is really good and fun though!

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.


In a season of bad efforts, the UCLA offense saved the worst for last. Just by raw numbers, this was the second-fewest yards per stop the Bruins managed all year (behind the Colorado game), the fourth-fewest yards per play, and second-fewest points per drive. Given how terrible the Cal defense was this season—#11 in the Pac-12 in every single defensive statistic we track—this was about as bad as it gets. Two weeks ago against a (marginally) better Oregon State run defense, the Bruins actually were able to have some mild success running the ball, but UCLA inexplicably (ok, somewhat explicably but still Cal was literally the worst run defense in the entire nation) decided to throw the ball more than they ran it, so the 5.5 yards per carry that the Bruin running backs managed was unable to keep the Bruins moving the sticks thanks to a 12 for 30 day for Mike Fafaul. Kenny Walker getting a very nice back shoulder fade touchdown in his homecoming game was the lone bright spot on a drab day.

For the season, the Bruins finish low in the mediocre 51-100 tier in every single statistic we track. As we write this, Kennedy Polamalu has already been fired, and UCLA will have its seventh different offensive coordinator since 2006. UCLA has now had two years of mediocre offenses despite starting with an NFL first round pick at quarterback. It’s time for something different.


A sad end to the season for the UCLA defense. This was the worst possible game to have Fabian Moreau injured and Nate Meadors hobbled, and the Bruins were only able to force Cal to punt on 4 of 12 drives. Cal’s offensive line has been pretty good at protecting the quarterback all season, and the sometimes-dominant UCLA pass rush was unable to sack Davis Webb. It was the third-most yards per stop allowed all season (behind the UNLV and Southern Cal games) and the third-most points per drive allowed. After a wonderful season, the Bruin defense just ran out of gas the last two weeks and were unable to carry the team to victory.

Those last two performances sadly dropped the UCLA defense into the pretty good but not great 26-50 tier in yards allowed per stop and points allowed per drive, though they stayed in the very good top 25 tier for yards allowed per play. An ignominious end to the season for what was at times an awesome defense.


In switching to the new offensive scheme, Coach Mora expressed a desire to be better at ball control, but the Bruins were terrible all year at winning the field position game—only having a better average field position against Arizona and UNLV, the two worst teams on the schedule. Too many turnovers and three-and-outs on offense, poor coverage teams, and little return explosiveness from Ishmael Adams were the main culprits. Against Cal it was more of the same, with mistakes in the return game and two turnovers gifting the Bears great field position.

The moral of the story is to never ever lose to Texas A&M early in the season (2015 ASU went from preseason #15 to 6-7 and 2014 South Carolina went from preseason #9 to 7-6). Up next, we’ll do a full review of the Pac 12 season. Go Buffaloes, and go get your tickets to the Lonzo show.

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