The Tease After The Trees — After losing to Stanford, the Bruins teased their fans with a solid first half against Oregon — stunningly, it was 14-14 at the break — before collapsing in the second half to lose 42-14
For 30 minutes, UCLA did the impossible: They completely contained the vaunted Oregon Offense. The Ducks lost a fumble on their first possession, leading to a quick 7-0 Bruin lead. Oregon was able to tie it, but only by using trickery — a fake punt that gained 66 yards.
With Bruin defenders Jordan Zumwalt, Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack, Anthony Barr, Anthony Jefferson, Randall Goforth, Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams, and Brandon Sermons flying all over the field, the Ducks were able to score only one more time the rest of the half. Zumwalt was especially disruptive, but he was also on the verge of receiving taunting and personal foul penalties. The swagger has its merits, but he needs to be careful to avoid a suspension, ala Cassius Marsh. Kendricks was omnipresent and sure, Barr caused a fumble by stripping the Duck QB Marcus Mariota, and also recovered a fumble by Mariota, and Jack blocked a punt that led to the tying Touchdown.
The Bruins were able to run the ball well behind the uber-young O-Line, relying on good instincts by Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones. That ground attack kept the clock running, and that kept Oregon’s Offense on the sidelines. It was a good strategy, but the conservative attack stymied the Bruin Offense in the long run. A lack of a vertical passing game doomed UCLA. QB Brett Hundley had one great scramble, one rushing TD, and 1 TD pass to Thomas Duarte, but otherwise he was off-target and hesitant. The young Line didn’t give him a lot of time, and a rushed Hundley made some bad decisions, including two deadly interceptions.
In the second half, the Bruin Defense wore down. With the UCLA Offense unable to get First Downs, their Defense tired out, allowing 4 straight Oregon Touchdowns to break the game open. I understand that the Bruins had to run a lot. The young blockers were better at run-blocking than at pass-blocking, and the Bruins wanted to shorten the game by keeping the clock running. But the play-calling was bland and predictable, and just too conservative. They ran Steven Manfro up the middle on a 3rd and 5, and went with Perkins on a 4th and 2 instead of using the more powerful Jones. And when they did pass, it was swings and screens behind the line of scrimmage, which were covered and not well-blocked. They needed to call more slants, and more down-the-field attempts, but when they did, they saw two Picks, and a couple of missed Receivers.
The good news is that Hundley’s Draft Status took a hit and his chances of returning next year increased markedly. The bad news is he has not been performing up to his potential lately. He can’t blame bad snaps this week either, but he CAN blame a patchwork Offensive Line, and vanilla play-calling. I imagine he will look more like himself next week against lowly Colorado. I’ll be more impressed when he succeeds against a good team. Nebraska lost to Minnesota today, falling out of the rankings, and Utah got manhandled by lowly u$c, so all the Bruin victories — and all Hundley’s stellar performances — have come against opponents with dubious credentials.
Staying with Oregon for 3 quarters should still be considered quite a feat — one that no one else has achieved this season. However, UCLA Coach Jim Mora does not believe in moral victories. He was pissed off after the game, and gave an angry, dissatisfied interview at the post-game presser. That type of reaction bodes well for UCLA in the long run — Playing with the #2 team in the Country for 3 quarters is NOT good enough, and the Program will continue to strive for much, much more.