Huzzah! The two-game losing streak and offensive drought are over, as is Tedford’s seven-game L.A. losing streak as our head coach. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a Bear offense that learned much from the last two beatdowns, just one that benefited from a bad Bruin defense. We broke off some long runs, had some long passes for TDs, and put up 35 in the first half…but we also had too many plays go for losses, mustered only a FG in the second half on offense, and probably would have seen this game go down to the wire if UCLA’s redshirt freshman QB Kevin Prince had thrown a half-decent ball on the attempt that we intercepted and returned for a TD. A win’s a win, but we won’t be winning many against decent teams if we keep playing like we have for most of the last 14 quarters.
This week’s assessment…
- A quick glance at the box score — 289 yards on 41 rushes for 2 TDs — would lead most to believe that we had our way with UCLA on the ground. While mostly true, that conclusion belies some awful plays in which Bruin defenders quickly penetrated the line and caught our RBs (usually Jahvid) in the backfield. Aside from his amazing 93-yard TD run and a nifty 22-yarder, Jahvid’s rushing line was awful: -13 yards on 16 carries, including eight carries that resulted in a loss (a cumulative -32 yards on those eight) and two more that went for no gain. Vereen had a spectacular game on the ground, going for 154 yards and a TD on 17 carries. He had five runs of 10+ yards, including the 42-yard TD and another 40-yarder. He was really quick to the hole and frequently got to the defensive secondary. Given Vereen’s success, I’m not sure what to make of Jahvid’s many failures on Saturday: is he still not entirely healthy, is he trying to do too much in the backfield before hitting a hole, or do opposing defenses just double-down when he’s back there? Or is there something else that I’m missing? At least we have a two-headed monster and know that our run of great RBs will continue after Jahvid’s departure (unless Vereen leaves at the same time).
- Riley finished with pretty good numbers: 14/23 for 205 yards and 3 TDs and three scrambles for first downs. His 3 TD passes were all beauties: a rainbow 43-yarder that Marvin Jones hauled in magnificently over-the-shoulder, a 24-yarder that Jones snagged in traffic, and a beautifully-placed, soft-touch medium-length sideline pass that Jahvid turned into a 51-yarder. However, aside from those passes — which benefited greatly from a weak Bruin secondary — there wasn’t much to write home about. Riley still missed some easy ones and couldn’t consistently move the chains.
- As far as I’m concerned, the passing game still needs significant improvement to become the consistent, ball-control offense necessary to beat good opponents. We had five 3-and-out drives in the game, went 6-for-16 on 3rd down conversions, and had only one drive that lasted more than seven plays — and that drive ended with a FG. We’re still relying on big plays to bail us out: all five of our offensive TDs went for 20+ yards and four of them went for 40+ yards. Great for the highlight reels against a sucky opponent, not so good against real teams (do I sound like a broken record yet?).
- The receiving corp did fairly well in limited action against the aforementioned poor Bruin defense. Jones gave a wonderful performance with his two great TD grabs (out of 4 total catches). And Boateng is back! Well, kind of…he had only two catches for 14 yards. But the numbers don’t lie: we’re undefeated this season when he plays! Maybe his presence would’ve made a difference in our drubbings. A small difference, anyway.
- The defense was mostly bend-but-don’t-break against a young UCLA offense. We gave up 448 yards — including 311 passing — but after yielding 2 TDs in the first 21 minutes, we held them to just 4 FGs the rest of the way. We’d give up some long passes that extended drives (Prince had seven completions of 18+ yards), but stiffened up near/in the red zone. Also, aside from Johnathan Franklin’s 74-yard TD, we gave up just 63 rushing yards on 25 carries. And we forced two turnovers, the last of which sealed the victory. Not the most awe-inspiring effort, considering the opposition, but I’ll take it.
- Kick-off coverage was terrible again. While there was actually a touchback (!) and most kicks went beyond the UCLA 10-yard line, we gave up 25+ yard returns on half of our eight kick-offs. UCLA started at their own 36 or better four times after kick-offs, including two starts in Bear territory. I guess the one good thing about our anemic offense the previous two games was that it kept our kick-off squad from embarrassing itself too often.
- We actually received 9 votes in this week’s AP Poll and 7 votes in the USA Today Poll. Mind-boggling.
First conference win under our belt and now we get to host the worst team in the PAC-10…things could be worse. We’re favored by 35-36 points, depending on which line you look at. We’ll win, but I’m not entirely sure we’ll cover, given our ongoing issues on both sides of the ball. Keep in mind that Washington State lost at USC by only 21 points a few weeks back.