Hard to believe the season’s over, isn’t it? I’m sure UCLA fans are disappointed that this Bruins team can’t get a few more opportunities to build on their improvement and add to their win total. But for now, that will have to wait until next year, as UCLA finishes Chip Kelly‘s debut season 3-9 overall, 3-6 in conference play, and second to last in the Pac-12 South.
Their final game of the season, a home matchup against Stanford, brought us an exciting, high scoring, back and forth game. UCLA was unable to secure the win, and for many Bruins fans, this season was surely not what they had imagined back in August.
Having said that, UCLA has shown improvement over the course of the season, and they should be cautiously optimistic for what the future has in store for this program.
This UCLA offense has been a roll to end the season. They’ve increased their scoring in subsequent games for the last four weeks, and their 42 points scored in the loss is the most points they’ve scored all season. This game gave us a hint of what the future could be like under Chip Kelly: fast-paced, explosive, high scoring, multi-dimensional, and exciting.
Yet even with the explosion in offense, there still was room for improvement. Even putting aside the poor defensive performance, this offense still could have won the game and wasn’t able to get the job done in the end. But all in all, this is exactly the type of improvement UCLA needed to show, as their offensive output at the beginning of the season was simply unacceptable moving forward.
Let’s go player by player and see how everyone did in this one.
Wilton Speight – Quarterback
Game Stats: 29/47 466 Yards, 1 INT, 1 Rush TD
This was a weird game for Wilton Speight. On the one hand, he completed over 60% of his passes, threw for 466 yards and a whopping 9.9 yards per attempt, and put 42 points on the board. He threw to 9 different receivers on the day.
Unlike last week, where UCLA went under center and ran the ball, Kelly put Speight in the gun, often in empty sets, and went with a very pass-heavy game plan.
He threw the ball very well at the intermediate levels and showed tremendous chemistry with tight end Caleb Wilson. He made some big-time throws (especially on third down), showed he could handle a pass-heavy game plan, had a beautiful 2-minute drive before the half, and brought UCLA all the way back with a 42-41 lead after being down 41-27.
On the other hand, he continued to take too many unnecessary sacks even with generally good protection. Right after Stanford went up 34-27, Speight simply let the ball slip out of his hands when winding back to throw, leading to Stanford going up two scores. That’s an unforced error and though Speight’s third-down conversions were impressive (as well as a few fourth down conversions as well), UCLA was once again awful on third down overall (another theme of the season), converting just 3 of 14 on the day.
Lastly, UCLA had a solid three drives late in the fourth quarter with opportunities to take the lead. But on all of them, after initially moving the ball, Speight and the offense would stall and turn the football over on downs.
At the end of the day, you have to find ways to score and keep the game alive in those situations, and it’s a shame that after battling so hard for most of the day, Speight and the offense couldn’t get it done when it counted.
Game Day Grade: B-
Draft Stock: 5th Round
Andre James – OL
The protection was mostly solid in this one, although for a change, UCLA wasn’t able to get the run game going with their star back Joshua Kelley, who averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on the day. The line overall did a good job of protecting Speight, whose sacks mostly came when he held onto the ball for too long.
The pressure on Speight did pick up towards the final few drives, but I didn’t notice anything bad from James. Though he’s had his bad moments at times, he’s mostly put together a solid season and has helped anchor the left side of the line.
Game Day Grade: A
Draft Stock: 3rd Round
Caleb Wilson – Tight End
Game Stats: 9 Rec, 184 Yards
Wilson had a monster day, hauling in 9 catches for 184 yards, an average of over 20 yards per reception. He and Speight were really clicking at the intermediate levels in this one. He ran crossing routes, corner routes, seams, and sat down in zones. He also secured in his receptions at key moments. It’s the type of difference maker performance from Wilson we’d been waiting for during much of the beginning of the season, and it appeared that after a few weeks of playing together, he and Speight were more than on the same page.
Unfortunately, like Speight, Wilson ruined an excellent day with a late mistake, as he lost a fumble on UCLA’s last drive after a catch. UCLA was fortunate to maintain possession due to a targeting call, but it put a dark spot on what was otherwise a fantastic day catching the football.
Game Day Grade: A-
Draft Stock: 2nd – 3rd Round
Not a great day for the defense in this one, as KJ Costello threw for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns, and the defense gave up a season-tying worst of 49 points. But this didn’t exactly surprise me. UCLA’s defense has struggled in 1-on-1 matchups this year, and I knew Stanford would spread it out and throw the football to JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Both in terms of quarterback and receiver, they simply had the matchup advantages in this one. It happens.
Keisean Lucier-South – OLB
Game Stats: 1 Tackle, 1 Pass Defense
It was another quiet day for KLS. He seemed to be dropping into coverage more this week than he did last week. His one tackle was significant; it was a solid tackle of Bryce Love on 3rd and 1 after a JJ Molson miss late in the 4th quarter, and it allowed UCLA to get the ball back with some time left.
KLS has flashed this season, but the weekly production has not been there. I get the sense the team is still figuring out how to best use him. I’m curious to see what kind of production he has next year.
Game Day Grade: C-
Draft Stock: 5th Round
Adarius Pickett – Safety
Game Stats: 8 Tackles (4 Solo), 1 INT
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Adarius Pickett leads the Bruins in tackles. On the stat sheet, he’s been there nearly each and every week. He even had a nice INT in this game! While we usually see Pickett playing down in the box, he made a wonderful play to pick off KJ Costello early in the first quarter.
It was Costello’s first drive of the game, and Pickett dropped back to cover half of the field. He read KJ’s eyes and jumped the timing route. It was a great play, and not usually the type of play that he makes.
He was, however, trailing JJ Arcega-Whiteside on his first touchdown, a ball that JJ caught in triple coverage. Having said that, there’s really no universe where I would expect Pickett to cover JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
Game Day Grade: B+
Current Draft Stock: 2nd – 3rd Round