LOS ANGELES — The last two weeks have been difficult in Westwood. The once-prolific offense has suddenly lost its footing and the stout defense has been taxed to the point that injuries are mounting.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has come under scrutiny for his play-calling and he may be feeling the heat from Bruin Nation.
“I want to give a shoutout to my mom and my dog,” said Mazzone, as he began his weekly media session. “They’re the only two people that like me right now.”
He paused, “Well, actually my mom is kind of 50-50. The dog is unconditional because he can’t turn the TV channel. He hasn’t learned how to do that yet.”
Mazzone admits to limiting the amount of plays called in No. 20 UCLA’s last two games, both well-chronicled losses to Stanford and Oregon, but maintains that it was necessary so as not to overwhelm a new offensive line.
But he’s proud of the way his offense, especially his young linemen, have worked hard to put the pieces of the once-prolific offense back together again.
“Every day is a process for us, just one step at a time,” Mazzone said. “What jumped out to me on the film was our play on the offensive line. There’s some guys that a year ago were leaving algebra class to go to practice at 3:15 with their sack lunch and I was really proud of those guys.”
Scott Quessenberry was particularly impressive in his first-ever collegiate game.
“Quiz jumped in there – I mean who the hell is Quiz right? And he jumped in there and did a great job,” Mazzone said. “He’s making calls and making adjustments during the game and was like, ‘Wow, this is pretty impressive for a kid that’s been with us for a week.'”
The bottom line on the offensive line: “If you got five badasses up there that can just block anybody, you can do all kinds of [stuff], right? They make adjustments, they’ve seen everything and they can do stuff.”
One last pearl of wisdom from the offensive coordinator: “Don’t use four-letter words.”
Barr on the list
Linebacker Anthony Barr was recently named a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award, the honor annually given to the nation’s top linebacker. Barr was quiet over the first month of the season, playing unselfishly and sacrificing his stats for certain packages, but he quickly made up for them. So far this season, Barr has Barr has recorded 38 tackles with 13 for loss (76 yards) with six sacks, three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.
In addition, he was also named a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award that is given to the top defensive player.
Former Bruins receiver Taylor Embree’s father Jon was given a short leash to return the Buffaloes back to prominence. When the former CU player couldn’t do it, the school turned to Mike MacIntyre. It’s MacIntyre’s first big-boy head coaching job having only been a head coach for two years prior at San Jose State, but he’s seen small gains in his short term thus far.
Quarterback Connor Wood has been a definite upgrade over Kansas transfer grad student Jordan Webb and as a junior, the Buffs will likely have some consistency at the position next season to build off of. Defensively, Colorado does possess playmakers, as evidenced by Addison Gilliam’s conference-leading 9.4 tackles per game, but haven’t been able to put it all together. Look for Paul Perkins and Damien Thigpen, who will be back in action this week, to run the ball against CU’s horrific rush defense, which is the worst in the Pac-12.
Colorado owns only three Pac-12 wins since joining the conference in 2011 and is hungry for a statement win, but UCLA’s offense is even hungrier after two poor performances.