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Film Room: UCLA

UteZone breaks down the biggest impact plays from Utah's win over UCLA

This week in the ‘Film Room’, UteZone will be analyzing three offensive, three defensive and one special teams’ play that helped shape the 52-45 win over UCLA. The following are key plays throughout the game, both good and bad, that made a noticeable difference on the game.

Offense

1.  1st Quarter – 2nd and 14 at Utah’s 19-yard line

After a fast 14-point lead by the Utes, the Bruins have scored 14 unanswered themselves and have taken the momentum from the Utes. The momentum keeps going the Bruins way after a 4-yard loss on 1st down, and now the Utes face 2nd and long. The Utes line up with 4 WR and 1 TE, and UCLA counters with a 3-4 look, and man-to-man coverage with the outside linebacker covering up the slot receiver.

At the snap, there is immediate confusion for the Utah offensive line. It appears as if right tackle Sam Tevi didn’t know the play call, as he takes a step up and to his left, when the rest of the line kicks back in to pass blocking. At first glance, it appeared that Utah was trying to pull right guard Salesi Uhatafe to block the defensive end, but his movements indicate that wasn’t the case. Uhatafe took his normal kick steps, and didn’t look to be pulling at all. With the confusion from Tevi, Tak McKinley has a free run at Troy Williams.

Uhatafe tries to get a hand on McKinley, but McKinley is simply too fast for him. McKinley makes a great play to not only sack Williams, but also strip him of the ball in the process. This sets up UCLA’s third touchdown of the game, and gives UCLA all of the momentum that Utah once had.

2. 2nd Quarter –3rd and 1 at UCLA’s 43-yard line

Utah is still reeling a bit after splitting a pair of field goal attempts, and desperately need more points before the end of the quarter, as the defense has simply been unable to stop the Bruins so far. They face a critical 3rd down attempt in “no mans’ land” on UCLA’s side of the field, and with the way Whittingham has coached this year, it was likely 4-down territory. Utah goes with 11-personnel, and motion Butler-Byrd pre-snap in a jet sweep look. The motion shows UCLA is in man-to-man coverage, as the corner follows CBB across the field.

Center Nick Nowakowski pulls after the snap, but the key to this play is the fake to Butler-Byrd on the jet sweep. This gets both the corner, outside linebacker and free safety for UCLA to flow to their right, and away from where the play is. Both Tevi and Uhatafe get great seal blocks to open up the hole, and its’ now up to Nowakowski to kick the linebacker out of the hole.

Nowakowski does his job, and Isaac Asiata is able to get a hand on the inside linebacker just enough to slow him down, and then Joe Williams does the rest, outrunning safety Jaleel Wadood to the end zone. Also notice that the seal block Uhatafe had set up, has now turned in to a pancake, as he drove Eddie Vanderdoes in to the ground.  

3. 3rd Quarter – 1st and 10 Utah’s 36-yard line

After a made field goal and interception by the Ute defense, Utah is trying to retake a double digit lead. Joe Williams has been running wild thus far in the game, and there’s no reason not to keep feeding him the ball. Utah knows that, and UCLA knows that, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stop. Utah comes out with 21 personnel this time, with Hampel next to Tevi and Moeai offset of Garett Bolles. UCLA is in their base 3-4.

The counter play has been working flawlessly for the Utes, and the dial up the counter once more here. Utah pulls both Asiata and Bolles on the play, leaving Moeai and Nowakowski to seal off the backside of the play. Both take care of their jobs beautifully. Perhaps the best block on this play comes from Sam Tevi. Right guard Salesi Uhatafe takes on Eddie Vanderdoes head up on the snap, but he has help coming from Tevi in the form of a combo block. Tevi delivers a big blow that knocks Vanderdoes to the ground, and still allows Tevi to get to the second level and get a hat on a linebacker. Perfection by Tevi here. Meanwhile, Asiata and Bolles have now pulled through the hole created by Uhatafe, Tevi and Ken Hampel, who gets a perfect seal block on the edge, and absolutely man handle the linebacker and safety.   

And then once again, it’s all Joe Williams and that sub 4.3-speed. He outruns Wadood for the 3rd time this game, and runs right in to the Utah history books.

 

Defense

1.  1ST Quarter – 1st and 10 at Utah’s 11-yard line

After a roughing the passer penalty, and missed targeting call, on Cody Barton, UCLA is set up just outside of Utah’s 10-yard line. Utah is in their base defense, not showing any signs of bringing pressure, but definitely showing man coverage. UCLA lines up with trips to the left.  

Both Barton and Luafatasaga blitz at the snap, totaling six Utes bringing pressure, while the secondary stays in man coverage. Luafatasaga has a free running lane up the middle, and UCLA QB Mike Fafaul recognizes this. With the pressure coming quick, Fafaul has no choice but to dump the ball off to his running back in the flats, as no route by his receivers have developed quick enough.

With Utah being in man-to-man coverage, free safety Jordan Fogal has coverage on the running back. Fogal has a good reaction to the quick pass, but takes a poor angle and has bad technique in the open field. When one on one in the open field, you always want to try and align yourself so that when you wrap up the ball carrier, your head is on the outside shoulder of the ball carrier. In addition, you have to “break down” and get your feet underneath your body. Fogal does neither of these things, and the UCLA running back is easily able to cut up inside of Fogal for a touchdown.

 

2. 1st Quarter – 2nd and 10 at Utah’s 13-yard line

Behind the arm of Mike Fafaul, and not very good coverage from Utah’s secondary, the Bruins have driven the field once again with relative ease, and are knocking on the door of the end zone once again. Utah is again in their base 4-2-5, and are giving a man-to-man coverage pre snap look. UCLA, like the first touchdown, is lined up with trips to the left.

Utah backs off the man-to-man look, and goes with Cover 2, having Hansen and Fogal cover each half of the end zone. Cover 2 is a great coverage inside the red zone because the field is smaller, and thus you need less defenders deep. The downside of it though is that the deep middle of the field is vulnerable. Either UCLA was anticipating Cover 2 from Utah, or just got a lucky guess, because they ran the perfect Cover 2 “buster” on this play. Tight end Nate Iese had been carving up the Ute secondary so far in the game, and he’s not going to stop any time soon. Iese starts his route by lazily looking like he’s running a 5-yard hitch. He’s doing this on purpose to try and lure the linebacker out of the middle of the field, where he’ll then break to.

What Cody Barton does wrong here is break on the hitch route. When in Cover 2, you have to be cognizant of the fact that the middle of the field behind you is likely wide open. You can’t break on the short route as a linebacker, otherwise you’re out of position. Had Barton just stayed put, there’s no throwing lane for Fafaul on this play. Instead, Barton takes 3 steps towards the hitch route, and Iese darts behind him, and Fafaul makes the easy throw.    

 

3. 2nd Quarter – 4th and 1 at Utah’s 46-yard line

UCLA gets a generous spot by the PAC 12 refs on a scramble from Mike Fafaul, and that sets up a 4th and 1, instead of 4th and 3. UCLA decides to go for it. They line up with 11-personnel, and Utah counters with their base personnel, but have the linebackers and strong safety up at the line of scrimmage, in anticipation of the run.  

Despite having no success in the run game so far, UCLA elects to run weak side, away from their tight end and Utah’s strength. Though they didn’t make the tackle, this play was absolutely blown up by defensive tackles Pasoni Tasini and Filipo Mokofisi. You’ll often hear people say that “the low man wins” on the line of scrimmage, and that is absolutely true. Mokofisi and Tasini both get lower than their man, and drive them 2 yard in to the backfield.  This creates a road block right where UCLA is trying to run the ball, and sets up yet another one-on-one situation between Jordan Fogal and UCLA RB Bolu Olorunfunmi.

Fogal lost the first one-on-one matchup between the two earlier in the game, but he’s not losing this one. With help from the road block created by Mokofisi and Tasini, Fogal knocks Olorunfunmi 2-yards back when he tries to hurdle the defenders on the ground, and stops UCLA short of the first down. This gives Utah momentum, and the opportunity to take the lead in the game on offense with a short field.  

 

Special Teams

Utah’s kickoff return unit, up until this point, has been easily the worst position group for the Utes in 2016. It got better against Arizona with Butler-Byrd returning kicks, but the blocking was still below average. They changed that in a hurry though against UCLA, as the opening kickoff was blocked to perfection. The first two key blocks come from Ken Hampel and Evan Eggiman, who create the lane for Butler-Byrd

 

Sharrief Shah Jr. and Julian Blackmon follow those up with great block of their own, and that spring Butler-Byrd for the touchdown.

 


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