UCLA made a game-winning subject purpose with time expiring to flee the Rose Bowl with a 32-31 victory over South Alabama on Saturday, permitting the 15,000 or so in attendance to collectively exhale in unison.
It’s not an excessive amount of to say that it was probably the most worrying walkoff wins in program historical past.
The Bruins very simply might have misplaced this recreation if Jaguars coach, Kane Wommack, hadn’t determined to develop a galaxy mind on South Alabama’s final drive, choosing a pretend subject purpose moderately than simply working his offense again on the market to get two yards. The botched pretend resulted in UCLA’s solely (solely!) deal with for lack of the day, and arrange the Bruins’ offense with good subject place and just below three minutes to go to safe the win.
Up to that time, South Alabama had been capable of get 2 or 3 or 8 yards seemingly each time it wanted to, ending 9 of 13 on third down conversions. It actually would have been much better for Wommack to only line as much as go for it on 4th and a pair of from the 22, moderately than choosing a single possibility pretend subject purpose. Hell, it might have been higher to truly kick the sector purpose, as a result of at the very least that will have compelled UCLA to drive for a landing as an alternative. Instead, South Alabama did mainly the worst non-turnover factor it might do (fail to transform whereas taking an enormous loss), which left the door open sufficient for the Bruins.
That’s how shut this was: it took an egregious mistake from South Alabama’s head coach to offer UCLA an opportunity of profitable within the 4th quarter. At that time within the recreation, the Jaguars had adjusted sufficient to restrict UCLA’s offense often, and it appeared like UCLA by no means developed a really efficient response to South Alabama’s run recreation and fast display recreation.
As we talked about coming into this week, South Alabama was a stable Group of 5 workforce, and thus the primary actual opponent UCLA has performed this yr, however – and that is key – nonetheless not an excellent workforce! The Jaguars might be aggressive within the Sun Belt this yr, however they’re possible not a contender for the convention. This is a mid-level Sun Belt workforce, and doubtless one thing near the highest 80 degree within the nation. Really internalize that, once you’re occupied with this recreation, as a result of there are some main issues going ahead in the event you do.
UCLA’s defensive entrance was dominated by South Alabama’s offensive line. Let that sink in. A G5 offensive line opened up gaping holes within the UCLA entrance (properly earlier than Gary Smith and Martin Andrus went down with accidents) to the tune of 162 yards dashing on 32 carries. They restricted UCLA’s edge rush like that Carter Bradley was just about by no means touched, solely getting sacked on the botched pretend subject purpose. The base move rush was non-existent. That needs to be alarming to anybody who hoped for this protection breaking into the highest 60 nationally this yr.
The secondary struggled to cowl all through, and by no means adjusted to South Alabama’s display recreation. So many occasions, corners and safeties had been blocked out of performs, didn’t deal with, or performed to this point off that they simply allowed conversions. Azizi Hearn had a very poor recreation, and appeared like he was getting focused in protection time and again nevertheless it actually would possibly simply have been a perform of this back-oriented and slot-oriented passing offense. Explaining away the efficiency in opposition to Alabama State as simply vanilla protection received so much tougher after this one.
There had been some particular person brilliant spots at linebacker (most notably JonJon Vaughns) however even that spot struggled to persistently get out of the wash and make performs. Choe Bryant-Strother appeared caught in mud many occasions, and he seems a bit of misplaced so far as recreation instincts. But with the line of defense struggling a lot, it is exhausting to pin an excessive amount of on the linebackers, since so typically they weren’t getting a clear image.
All instructed, the Bruins allowed the Jaguars to common practically 6 yards per play, and solely compelled them to punt twice, and gave up three full-field, multi-play landing drives to associate with the brief TD drive after the UCLA fumble and the lengthy subject purpose drive. This South Alabama offense was fairly unhealthy final yr and even improved, shouldn’t have been ready to try this in opposition to a great Power 5 protection.
And so we really feel fairly assured in saying that is not what we’re taking a look at with UCLA. This protection could find yourself marginally improved over final yr (we might nonetheless wager it’s going to), nevertheless it’s exhausting to think about that this protection is definitely good. Providing virtually no resistance to the fast display AND with the ability to generate no move rush or backfield disruption is what we have seen from lots of unhealthy UCLA defenses through the years.
UCLA’s offense clearly did sufficient to win, in that it actually drove down the sector for a subject purpose to win the sport, nevertheless it additionally wasn’t the sort of efficiency to encourage you to consider that this yr’s offense will match final yr’s. We’re unsure if Zach Charbonnet was restricted attributable to load administration or some damage, however Keegan Jones is fairly clearly not a perfect No. 2. He nonetheless lacks imaginative and prescient, and he fumbled as soon as, very badly, and had a pair the place it appeared like he was very near fumbling.
The offensive line saved Thompson-Robinson largely clear however did not actually dominate up entrance in any respect. Often, Charbonnet and Jones had been getting hit at or simply past the road of scrimmage, and there have been performs that received blown up early due to the South Alabama gamers merely profitable up entrance. Raiqwon O’Neal appeared to get crushed on the Thompson-Robinson failed two-point conversion. The Bruins completed with a hair underneath 4 yards per carry, which simply is not ok in opposition to a workforce like this.
Good for Nicholas Barr-Mira, although, to make the kick, and several other others all through the sport, together with a 49-yarder. He’s been shaky at occasions, so to not solely kick with distance on this recreation but in addition make a excessive stress game-winning kick (regardless of how brief it was) was nice to see.
UCLA is 3-0, however as we mentioned within the preseason, if any of those first three video games had been even actually shut, that will be a significant trigger for concern – and this one virtually went past “actually shut.” The Bruins are going to be 4-0 after subsequent week, as Colorado is the worst workforce in school soccer historical past this yr, however the season begins in earnest at that time, and there may be sufficient hazard within the Pac-12 that our preseason guess of 9-3 is wanting extra precarious with every passing recreation.