As a UCLA season ticket holder who had high hopes for this season we left the game at the half, after watching all the things we have done wrong for years crop up in the first half.
Gashed by the run - check.
Unable to protect Rosen - check.
Unable to run the ball - check.
Unable to get off the field on 3rd down - check
Dropped balls on 3rd down - check.
And Rosen wasn’t playing well at all - airmailing balls, and throwing behind receivers and just not looking good at all. Was thinking about dumping my season tix walking out of the Rose Bowl - especially after stopping at a TV and seeing A&M extending the lead to 41 (and eventually 44) to 10.
Then the comeback happened, but I was still really down - not even feeling like we had won the game, given how poorly we had seemed to play for 3 quarters, and thinking that all the old problems were going to be the same this year.
Flew home yesterday evening and re-watched the entire game.
Once UCLA switched back to their base 4-3 from the 4-2-5 which had been getting gashed, the bleeding stopped in the run defense and the Bruins started getting stops. Starkel being out did help, but not too much, as Mond wasn’t playing that poorly despite the stat line. Still, in such a close game, it may have been the difference.
UCLA also fixed their protection schemes and play calls to exploit weaknesses in the A&M defense, as well as give Rosen some quick-hitters on shorter drops, Rosen started playing better.
The running game also got a lot better, with Jamabo getting some chunk yards and looking good in both pass protection and out of the backfield.
And lo and behold, the Bruins team I thought would come out to play this season was the one we saw in the 2nd half. I don’t think we’ll see that big a screwup half again this year, but running QB’s may still give Bradley’s defense some issues (thinking down the road to the Arizona schools, Oregon and Utah especially), but it certainly seems like the pieces may be coming together like I thought they would this year.
We still have a very, very tough schedule (road trips to Memphis, Stanford, Washington, Utah and USC), but we look like we have a team which is capable of winning them all (depth is thin on the OL with our top backup out for the season however, it doesn’t look like we can afford any injuries there).
Note for some of the comments above.
- Texas A&M didn’t stop running the ball or blitzing. UCLA just got better on both sides of the ball per above.
- Yes, A&M could have tried a couple less passes in the 3rd quarter, but for the most part, they were doing a pretty good job of running clock in the 4th quarter, UCLA was just getting stops. I don’t really blame them for that, up 44-10, and having lost your starting QB, you may want to get the true frosh running qb some work on the passing game.
- I’m pretty sure Sumlin never, ever wants to face Josh Rosen in the 4th quarter again.