Unless you like defense. UCLA's defense looked very good Saturday in shutting out #9 Oregon, 16-0.
Of course, Oregon played primarily its fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks for most of the game. That lowered what could be the #1 offense in the country to probably one of the ten worst in the country. There are probably any number of BRO readers you could recruit off the BRO message boards who could probably do as well, if not better, than Oregon's fourth-stringer, Cody Kempt. Kempt made UCLA's McLeod Bethel-Thompson look like an All-American. So, UCLA's defense definitely benefitted from Oregon's quarterback situation, as well as their depleted wide receiver group.
But it was still a great defensive effort, and also a great defensive game plan. UCLA's defense looked like they knew what Oregon's generally unpredictable offense was going to do before they did. There were an uncommon amount of tackles for loss, with UCLA's defense swarming an Oregon running back a moment after he was handed the ball. Yes, UCLA was keying on the run since Oregon's quarterbacks couldn't pass very effectively, but Oregon was still a team that was averaging 200 yards per game on the ground coming into Saturday. UCLA held Oregon to a total of 148 yards, a team that was averaging 500 yards per game.
But what can you say about UCLA's offense? Again, it was abysmal. Against an average Oregon defense, UCLA gained a total of 220 yards for the day. It didn't gain one yard through the air in the first half.
Of course, you can place some of the blame on UCLA's injuries. But in the second half, UCLA had its first-string quarterback, Ben Olson, and first string tailback, Chris Markey, in the game. Olson was 4 of 10 for 64 yards and one interception, and it was probably the best performance in a half by a UCLA quarterback in a while. Admittedly, both Olson and Markey aren't 100%, but who is at this time of year?
UCLA's one scoring drive, if you want to call it that, went for 31 yards, after UCLA's defense and Bruin punt returner Terrence Austin set up UCLA's offense on Oregon's 31-yard line. The other three scoring drives, which resulted in three field goals by Kai Forbath, were created by three Oregon turnovers.
You can say that maybe we're expecting too much, but with Oregon's offense depleted by injury, with UCLA getting back its starters at quarterback and running back, playing at home in the Rose Bowl, against a Duck team deflated by last week's loss to Arizona State, this was a game that UCLA should have won by considerably more than it did. UCLA's offense should have put up more points, any points, on its own. It would have been nice to see even just a couple of touchdown drives or big plays that it could call its ownto make the score, say, 30-0.
UCLA's offense, with two weeks to prepare, looked like they took a few steps backward from a couple of weeks ago. When the UCLA offensive mind trust was trying to put together quick game plans in UCLA's last couple of games for Osaar Rasshan they had him rolling out and using his feet. With two weeks to work him up a more complete game plan, Rasshan, inexplicably, was used more as a pocket passer against Oregon. There seemed to be only one play that was intended for Rasshan to run, on a quarterback boot where he ran for a first down. Rasshan, playing the first half, went 0 for 7 with one interception. He's not a great, accurate thrower to begin with, but this week's game plan worked to his weaknesses, having him primarily setting up on standard five-step drops, which made him have to make decisions he's just not capable of doing.
There have been quite a bit of mind-boggling decisions this season, and over the course of Karl Dorrell's tenure at UCLA, but this was in the top ten for mind-boggling.
Just speculating, but it seems that the UCLA offensive coaches can't conceive of two different game plans for two different quarterbacks in the same game, perhaps. In the games where they knew they only had Rasshan, there were more plays that utilized his mobility. In this game, when they knew they could use Ben Olson, it seemed like there was only one offensive game plan conceived, and Rasshan had to be stuffed into it.
Even if you throw out the offensive decision-making, UCLA's offense, again, under Dorrell, just isn't very good. It can run the ball well enough, as it did against Oregon (156 yards), but the passing scheme has consistently failed over the course of Dorrell's five years.
You can speculate endlessly how good UCLA would have been without the injuries. And of course, if UCLA had had most of its starters for a majority of the season and, say, had just an average amount of injuries, it's pretty certain they wouldn't be 6-6. But the offense still, without the injuries, is practically an injury itself. It is the most limiting aspect of the UCLA football program and, speculating ourselves, it still would have been difficult for UCLA to get to 10 wins, even 9, with this offensive scheme.
So, if you want to compare UCLA's and Oregon's injury situation to draw any conclusion, also compare how well both offenses have done when they did have everyone healthy. Compare how well the two offenses have done over the tenures of Mike Bellotti and Karl Dorrell at UCLA. It doesn't come down to one game, but your entire canon of work. If you want to compare, it's only fair to do it that way, then.
Again, you have to hand it to UCLA's players, who haven't given up on a disappointing season. Christian Taylor, the senior middle linebacker, might have had one of the best game's of his career, with 13 tackles, 3.5 for loss and one sack. Craig Sheppard, the walk-on running back, had 54 yards on eight carries, and scored the lone UCLA touchdown on a 20-yard scamper. Chris Markey ran for 90 yards, and ran hard. Guys like defensive tackle Kevin Brown, reserve safety Bret Lockett, and receiver Brandon Breazell all had good games.
Kai Forbath, the redshirt freshman kicker, kicked three pretty field goals, one from 54 yards that probably had another good 8 yards on it.
It was good to get the UCLA players, especially the seniors, a win in their last home game of the season.