It’s really been a tough season to be a Bruin fan, and this past week’s 42-21 loss at Oregon may have been the toughest loss yet to swallow. From dropped passes to special teams errors, to penalties, UCLA continues to make all sorts of mistakes on the field. They aren’t giving themselves a chance to win, and they aren’t correcting their errors.
Oregon went up 21-0 in this game off the back of three UCLA special teams errors: A punt return TD, a successful fake field goal, and a fumbled punt recovery. UCLA also botched a field goal snap and were offsides on an onside kick attempt.
For the second week in a row, they both dropped a litany of passes and missed a field goal attempt at the end of the half due to an offsides penalty pushing Molson out of range. Give Oregon credit for the win, but UCLA just didn’t give themselves a chance in this game. Bottom line, they simply have to play sounder football.
Drops continue to be a big-time problem for the Bruins. They’re going to have to bring in some additional playmakers this offseason. They also had a couple of turnovers on offense. But still, they played good enough to win this game had there not been the special teams issues.
They put up some fight late when to try to cut down Oregon’s big lead, but their defense was drained at that point. But at the end of the day, 496 total yards on offense should give you a chance to win the game. The one area, however, that continues to plague the Bruins, is third down.
They were again horrible in this game, converting 6/16 (although we’ve certainly seen them do worse). If they can’t fix their third-down problems next season, they will continue to lose games and have mediocre output on offense.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson – Quarterback
Game Stats: 9/23 135 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, Fumble
DTR overall did not play well in this game. In his defense, he was struggling to return from injury and didn’t get first team snaps this week. He ended up re-aggravating the injury and left the game in the second half for Wilton Speight to take over. You could argue that he shouldn’t have been starting in the first place.
The TD was a wide open throw to Caleb Wilson over the middle. The INT was in the red zone, a play where Thompson-Robinson had a receiver breaking in towards the end zone, but the timing just wasn’t there. DTR also lost a fumble on a blindside hit.
It was a play that most people will probably argue was on the offensive line, but I think DTR has to feel that pressure and either get rid of the ball sooner or at least get down and protect the football if you know the hit is coming. He started to scoot backward when he felt the pressure coming, which is a no-no for a quarterback, as he ended up only further moving into the backside hit.
When Speight comes in, the offense tends to be more efficient in the passing game. Speight is a better pocket player. His sense of timing in the passing game is better, and his feel for pressure and functional mobility is better as well. But when he started a full game two weeks ago, he wasn’t spectacular either.
He strikes me as the college equivalent of a Fitzpatrick/Hoyer type of QB, the guy that will come in for a short period of time and look very efficient but whose flaws will come out the more time he has on the field. A healthy DTR should continue to develop, but with his injuries, I’m not sure that it’s worth it to keep starting him.
But Chip Kelly has generally shown dedication and priority to DTR over Speight throughout the season, so we’ll see what happens next week. Whoever ends up starting, they are going to need a better effort from their pass catchers. This offense right now and throughout the season has basically been Theo Howard and no one else.
Arizona State Preview: The Arizona State defense has been improving as of recent. On the road against an offense that likely will come out hot, things aren’t going to be easy for whichever quarterback ends up starting for UCLA.
Game Day Grade: C-
Current Draft Stock: Underclassmen
Caleb Wilson – Tight End
Game Stats: 2 Rec, 75 Yards, 1 TD
Caleb Wilson’s 1 touchdown catch was on a seam route where he was wide open after a 3rd and 15 play fake by DTR. Wilson caught the ball and then ran after the catch to the end zone. No one was close enough to catch him. Other than that, he was absent on the day. He had a drop and an OPI that wiped out his second TD–something I’ve seen from him a few times on the season.
Honestly, I personally am not as high on Caleb Wilson as everyone else seems to be. He doesn’t get a ton of separation on his routes, he’s not a big acrobatic-catch guy, and he actually seems to be a bit of a clunky mover.
He has nice size at 6’4”, but that’s not unseen for the tight end position. He seems like an average receiving tight end, but I’m not sure he’s going to be a game changer in the NFL. But maybe I’m underselling his potential with better QB play.
Arizona State Preview: With the dearth of receiving talent on this roster, Wilson always has a chance to come up big. Before this game, he had been stringing together a nice stretch of productive games. I just have very little confidence in this UCLA offense as a whole at this point. They aren’t completing passes and they aren’t putting points on the board. That doesn’t bode well for Wilson.
Game Day Grade: C-
Current Draft Stock: 4th Round
Andre James – OL
The offensive line played alright in this game. UCLA was over 6.0 y/c and had almost 200 yards on the ground. Joshua Kelley continues to be productive. At this point, he’s more or the less the entirety of the offense for UCLA. The middle of the line still struggles at times.
The DTR sack/fumble was a big breakdown, but on the replay, it was actually the tight end, Devin Asiasi, who got beat right away after crossing the formation for the block on the stretch play action fake. As I said earlier, the offensive production for UCLA, statistically, was good in this game. The loss was more about mistakes.
Arizona State Preview: Arizona State runs an aggressive 3-3-5. They’ve been giving up 379 yards per game, but have also been averaging 7.8 tackles per loss per game. It’s somewhat of a risk/reward approach, and UCLA has struggled with shifting defensive fronts, so that’s something to watch.
The ASU D has also been improving recently. Players to watch for Arizona State are linebackers Merlin Robertson and Darien Butler, who are going to aggressively attack the line to try to get penetration. UCLA will have to take care of their gaps and run the ball if they want to have success in this game. They also cannot afford negative plays.
The story for UCLA’s defense was similar to that of their offense: They were repeatedly put in tough positions due to the mistakes UCLA made, specifically on special teams. UCLA had to defend short fields all night, as three of Oregon’s drives started on or inside the UCLA 20. Like most UCLA games, the D ran out of gas late. They also gave up a couple big shot plays to WR Dillon Mitchell.
Too many times it seems, opposing offenses have been able to get their top WR’s one on one with UCLA and get deep. UCLA has also struggled to stop the run, whether they are facing man or zone schemes, and tackling continues to be an issue.
Overall, UCLA gave up 496 yards of offense. While they probably weren’t quite as bad as those numbers sound, the fact of the matter is that this UCLA team, on both offense and defense, isn’t very talented, and as a result, they just have so little margin for error.
Game Stats: 3 Tackles (1 For Loss)
The pass rush has been a serious problem for this UCLA defense, especially since Jaelan Phillips was injured. KLS left this game early with an injury, so there’s not much to judge off of here. Let’s hope he’ll be back next week because UCLA is getting awfully thin on defense.
Arizona State Preview: Arizona State’s passing offensive line is one of the best in the Pac-12, as they’ve only given up ten sacks on the year. Combine that with UCLA’s inability to get penetration, and I don’t expect much to happen in this matchup.
Game Day Grade: N/A
Current Draft Stock: 4th Round
Adarius Pickett – Safety
Game Stats: 11 Tackles
Adarius Pickett led the team in tackles…again. He also had a stop on 4th and 1. He continues to be a productive player nearly every week for this UCLA team, and on a defense that is increasingly struggling to tackle, he’s a major asset. However, he again fumbled a punt leading to a short field for the Ducks. He cannot continue to do that. That’s just giving away yards and touchdowns.
Arizona-State Preview: Arizona State has been clicking on offense in a big way as of recent. They’ve been getting 435 yards per game with nice run/pass balance. Specifically, Eno Benjamin has 11 TD on the ground as well as 2 in the air. For a high energy spread-type offense upcoming, I expect Pickett to be flying around and having to clean up runs on the ground for most of the day.
Game Day Grade: C+
Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round
The timing of this matchup does not bode well for the Bruins, as these two teams seem to be going in opposite direction. After a nice 3 game stretch midseason where UCLA seemed to be turning the tide, they have now lost by multiple scores for two weeks in a row, and have been making all sorts of mistakes in the process.
The Sun Devils, on the other hand, after looking mediocre at best to start the season (and piling up wins against inferior competition), have improved vastly on both offense and defense over the last two weeks.
Their 38-35 win at USC broke a long streak of home wins for the Trojans, and they just made easy work of the 16th ranked Utes, last week, beating them 38-20. That’s a Utah team with a formidable defense that beat the Bruins 41-10 two weeks ago.
In the passing game, N’Keal Harry of the Sun Devils is averaging 15.1 yards per catch and is 2nd in the Pac-12 in receiving yards, so expect UCLA’s struggle with number one receivers to continue.
The formula for a UCLA win in this one is to run the ball, not make mistakes (special teams/drops/penalties), tackle well, and eat up time of possession. But the way they’ve looked as of recent, it’s unlikely to happen to happen against this newly hot Sun Devils team.
Prediction: 45-17 Arizona State