UCLA Football: Abandoning the Run Was Their Downfall

Whether they are using a power formation or the spread, the UCLA Football team lost the season when they went away from the run game.

Whether they could run the ball or not, scrapping the running game has hurt the UCLA Football team in more ways than one.

The Bruins started the season with an intent to add power football to their arsenal. With UCLA able to use elements of both the power game and the spread, it seemed like UCLA could be a team that could adapt to any situation they were given.

We quickly learned that was not the case. Behind a sketchy offensive line that was not ready for a shift to a new offense, the Bruins were not able to move the ball on the ground in the majority of their games. All season long, the Bruins were near the bottom of all FBS teams in rushing yards per game.

Currently, they are 127th out of 128 teams with only 84.3 yards gained on the ground through 11 contests. Indirectly, that has led to a 4-7 season for UCLA.

Now image if they did not give up on the run. Imagine if they continued to push through in the second, third and fourth quarters of several key games. It is not just a matter of being able to get yards, it is about controlling the game and time of possession, which, surprisingly enough, the Bruins did have control of early on. That went out the window during Pac-12 play.

It was pretty clear that Offensive Coordinator Kennedy Polamalu had given up trying to improve the running game, a responsibility that he mastered in the last few seasons as running backs coach.

Against Utah, the Bruins only called 10 running plays. In that game, they threw the ball 70 times with backup QB Mike Fafaul (a UCLA record).

Though they were able to sling the ball around for 510 total yards, they did it very quickly and were not in control of the clock in a loss. Utah had the ball for over 36 minutes while UCLA had it for just under 24 (BTW, UCLA only had 46 rushing yards in that game).

The Bruins tried to run the ball more in the next few games with some success. Against Colorado, they ran the ball 30 times, though it came in a loss (one where UCLA was in control early on and then faded away, just like their run game). Against Oregon State, 29 times, with a 163 yards! Progress? Not really.

UCLA did well running the ball and surprising USC last Saturday. But it was a false alarm.

Against USC, UCLA only ran 19 times. Ten times in the first quarter, four times in the second quarter and five total in the second half. With no run, the Bruins had no control.

Time of possession: USC – 43:47, UCLA 16:13.

That is right, the Bruins only had the ball for just over a quarter of an hour. While UCLA was stumped, USC was flourishing and scored on almost every drive. That is easy to do when you run 95 plays on a game.

That has basically been how this season has gone and the players and fans have suffered for it. No run, no progress. No progress, no success. No success and a seat now gets hot.

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