After a three week stretch during which UCLA seemed to be turning things around on the season, the Bruins reverted to their early-season selves against Utah, suffering an embarrassing 41-10 defeat at the hands of the 23rd ranked Utes.
What went wrong and can UCLA get things fixed in time for their showdown at Oregon? Or are the Bruins destined for more of the same in what ultimately could end up being a lost year for Chip Kelly? To find out, let’s take a look at last week’s grades and preview the upcoming matchup at Oregon.
Both offensively and defensively, this game played out very similarly to how just about every game was playing out for the Bruins early in the season. UCLA would get a score, make some mistakes and be unable to add to the lead, but still go in down a manageable two scores at halftime.
They then would give up a TD on their 3rd quarter opening drive, the offense would stall or turn the football over, and then the defense would totally deflate, and the game would effectively be over. UCLA would either be held scoreless or to just a field goal in the second half.
UCLA’s offense was definitely out of sync in this game, but their biggest problem was dropped passes, perhaps the most significant being by Demetric Felton on a beautiful deep seam throw by Wilton Speight in the second quarter.
Dropped passes have been a problem for UCLA all year, and if they don’t get that fixed, they’ll have no chance in their upcoming games.
Dorian Thompson Robinson – Quarterback
Game Stats: Did Not Play
DTR was out injured this week so Wilton Speight got the start. He started throwing the ball well but faded as the game went on. You could tell that timing and ball placement was just a little bit off. He did make some good plays with his feet both scrambling and avoiding the rush.
Speight may start for the second game in a row while DTR gets healthy; it isn’t clear yet. I like Speight but would also like to see DTR back in the lineup to see if he can build on the improvement he showed over his prior three games. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but neither is going to wow you at this point.
For the offense to be successful, regardless of who plays, UCLA will have to run the ball and protect the passer better than they did last week.
Oregon Preview: Statistically, Oregon is at the bottom of the Pac-12 in passing defense and the top of the Pac-12 in rushing defense. They’ve had some injuries on the defensive side of the ball, as two of their starting linebackers and one of their starting defensive ends have been out the past few games.
Oregon tends to give up yards but also is great at intercepting the ball and breaking up passes. Whoever plays QB for UCLA will also have to face the hostile atmosphere at Autzen Stadium. Ultimately, success will depend on how well UCLA can dictate the flow of the game.
They need to tighten up the little things (penalties, dropped passes, timing) and not let the game get out of hand. If they can do that, as well as run the ball, they’ll have a chance. But we can’t ignore that UCLA continues to be last in the Pac-12 in passing as well as points.
Game Day Grade: N/A
Current Draft Stock: Underclassmen
Caleb Wilson – Tight End
Game Stats: 5 Receptions, 62 Yards
The Bruins continue to incorporate Wilson into the game plan, who now leads the team in receiving yards as well as yards per reception. Three of Wilson’s catches were in the intermediate area–two of which were play action crossers, one of which was a skinny post. All were nice throws by Speight. His other two catches were check downs.
Wilson also saw his fair share of targets that he didn’t catch, some of which were drops, others were either bad reads or bad timing. It’s good that Wilson is finally contributing to this offense regularly, but he dropped too many balls.
Oregon Preview: Now that Wilson is a regular feature of the game plan, I expect him to continue to get targets regardless of who is playing quarterback. Both QBs have shown a tendency to want to target him and have at times forced the ball to him even when he is covered.
He’s a good bet to have a productive day at Oregon, but UCLA is going to have to get some other guys involved if they really want their passing game to thrive.
Game Day Grade: C
Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round
Andre James – Offensive Lineman
The offensive line reverted to its early-season self against the Utes. They consistently bled up the middle, often leaving multiple free rushers in the face of Speight.
James will initially hold a guy just enough, but he’s not going to do much more than that. He also gave up his fair deal of pressures in the passing game, even giving up a sack on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Oregon Preview: Oregon isn’t anything special when it comes to rushing the passer or tackling for losses, but they’re going to attack this UCLA offensive line if they continue to show that they can’t block. Blocking may also be especially hard playing with the crowd noise at Autzen.
The line needs to do a better job of not only pass blocking but also opening up holes for Joshua Kelley. It was not one of his best days. He had a long TD run on 4th and 1 early in the game and a long run to the outside late in the game, but he was quiet outside of that.
I also think Chip Kelly needs to call fewer passes in this game as well as fewer deep throws, as it really exposed the struggles of this passing game, which simply isn’t good enough as a unit to carry the team to victory in and of itself.
Game Day Grade: C-
Current Draft Stock: 4th Round
This was not the best day for UCLA’s defense. Quentin Lake continues to show potential, as he had a nice interception of Utah Quarterback Tyler Huntley in the end zone after a muffed punt by UCLA gave Utah a short field. But other than that, and some pressure here and there early in the game, Utah really had their way with this UCLA defense.
Pretty much every time Zack Moss or Britain Covey touched the ball, it was a big play. Utah scored on all of their second half possessions, and they also had a couple big punt returns as well. It was pretty much total domination, and that’s how you get to 41-10.
Keisean Lucier-South – Outside Linebacker
Game Stats: 5 Tackles (1 for Loss), 1 Pass Defensed
KLS made a couple plays here and there. He was just short of a sack early in the second quarter. He tipped a pass that would have been a completion early in the third quarter. And he had a nice TFL of Zack Moss in the 4th quarter, pretty much the only time he got tackled in the backfield for the game.
But overall, this front seven of UCLA was pretty non-existent as they were more or less manhandled by the Utah offensive line. They would get big time push on their inside zone and gap scheme plays, and Zack Moss was at the second level before they knew what hit them. This was the theme again and again of this game.
UCLA’s 3-4 defense seemed to be playing with unbalanced lines at times, and for whatever reason, their defensive fronts always seemed to be the wrong position for the play Utah was running. Moss had over 200 yards in this game. It was no contest.
Oregon Preview: KLS is a versatile young player that could be very important to this defense, but he’s still growing and learning. That’s why it’s interesting and important to watch him week to week to see what he develops into.
The Oregon offensive line, with their injured left tackle, has not quite been running the ball as well as they would like to, so I think this is a better matchup for UCLA. However, the quick inside hitter that Utah was running is similar to what Oregon is going to run, so they’re going to have to get that cleaned up and find ways to get penetration. But if they can keep the run in check, that should free up KLS to make plays in the passing game.
Game Day Grade: C
Current Draft Stock: 4th Round
Adarius Pickett – Safety
Game Stats: 7 Tackles, 1 Pass Defensed
Pickett’s biggest mistake of the game came early, where he muffed a punt on a fair catch on what would have been UCLA’s second possession of the game. It gave Utah the ball inside the 5-yard line. His pass defense was a deep shot where he was matched up 1 on 1. The ball was underthrown, and he probably committed an uncalled pass interference.
Overall, I barely saw Pickett in this game. The quick-hitting run game was happening too quickly and the UCLA defense just couldn’t get in position to stop it. Missed tackles were also a big issue for UCLA in this game. They’ll have to clean that up.
Oregon Preview: Even on bad weeks, Pickett is pretty much guaranteed to rack up tackles. His track record is that of a sound tackler who is always near the play, so I expect him to get back to that against Oregon. He should also benefit from the improving play of those around him, like Quentin Lake at corner.
Game Day Grade: D
Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round
The Pac-12 has been a messy and chaotic mess this year. Everyone is good and bad at the same time, and there seems to be some weird upset just about every week. They’re nowhere near college football playoff contention, but they sure do make for some interesting games week to week.
Oregon’s a great example of this. They looked like you would expect them to look during their 3-0 start, albeit against pretty bad competition. Then they had that heartbreaking loss to Stanford. And during the last two weeks, they’ve lost 34-20 to Washington State and 44-15 to Arizona. Combine that with the fact that Justin Herbert is having a so-so year, the run game has struggled, and Herbert and No 1 WR Dillon Mitchell—who leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards–may not play due to injury, this game is far from as set in stone as one might think.
UCLA certainly has a chance to flip the script in this one. Oregon got gashed on the ground at Arizona last week, and UCLA with Joshua Kelley would certainly love to do the same and force Herbert to throw the ball behind that suspect offensive line. Oregon is favored by 8.5, but the injury factors are huge. If either Herbert or Dillon doesn’t play, that will lead the Oregon offense to struggle. If Herbert doesn’t play, I’ll take UCLA in this one.. but I have trouble believing that he wouldn’t play in a game of this magnitude. And let’s not forget about what this game means for Chip Kelly, who used to coach at Oregon.
Still though, we can’t ignore the fact that Oregon is back at home after two devastating losses, and averages 43.2 points per game at home. Oregon is second in the Pac-12 in scoring. They’ve scored 30 or more points in all of their games. UCLA has scored 30 or more in just three of their eight games. This one’s definitely on upset alert for UCLA, but from a pure matchup standpoint, I’m just not sure UCLA has the firepower to keep up.
Prediction: 38-24 Oregon