Sep 3, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Austin Roberts (88) celebrates his game tying two-point conversation against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Kyle Field. Texas A&M won in overtime 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
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Go Joe Bruin takes a look at the individual position groups of the UCLA Football team and grade their performance in their first game against Texas A&M where they lost 24-31.
After months of anticipation and speculation, UCLA Football fans finally got a look at the Bruins remade “Amoeba” offense under new Offensive Coordinator Kennedy Polomalu and new 4-3 defensive scheme under Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley.
After a tough OT loss to Texas A&M, it’s clear that the offense will have some growing pains and the defensive changes may have been overstated. With that in mind, here are the Go Joe Bruin Position Grades for Game 1:
Josh Rosen threw for 343 yards, but he was not comfortable for most of the game. He threw 3 interceptions (2 were his fault, 1 was a tip), and appeared to be a step behind on many of his longer reads.
He also missed a number of throws throughout the game and seemed to turn down open receivers over the middle in favor of looking deep (which got him in trouble). He also fumbled two shotgun snaps that were right in his hands.
Rosen played better down the stretch, but still turned the ball over at the end of regulation and couldn’t get in the endzone in OT. The million dollar question is was that discomfort more the result of the A&M defense or his adjusting to the new offense? We’ll guess the later.
Running Backs: B-
It looks like Soso Jamabo will be the choice to carry the load in 2016, and he started the year with a decent game (23/91 yds/4.0 ypc). Soso was able to dodge and run through tacklers throughout the game (off-tackle runs were the most effective).
Bolu Olorunfunmi was also effective in his limited carries (32 yard run, 9 yard TD, late 3rd down conversion). However the backs did have some pass protection issues (Soso missed a key block on Rosen’s 1st interception), and the full backs missed some lead blocks.
Did Rosen hold onto the ball because his reviewers weren’t open, or did he just not see them when they were? Upon further review, it appears to be option two.
Jordan Lasley and Austin Roberts will share goat-duty for this game due to late drops, but the receivers actually looked pretty good for most of the game.
Walker led all receivers with 6 catches, 115 yards and a game-tying TD, but 8 different receivers caught a pass in the game. However, the drops in crunch time were huge, and an otherwise solid performance gets downgraded.
Offensive Line: B
The narrative coming out of the game is that the Bruin offensive line struggled against the Aggie front, and there is no arguing that the line lost some key battles. However, for most of the game the offensive line did what they were asked to do, and Conor McDermott and Kolton Miller held their own against the big A&M ends.
This was not ASU from last year (the line was dominated across the board individually); the struggles in this game originated with the skinny guys.
Sep 3, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies running back James White (20) is tackled by defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (47) and defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) and linebacker Jayon Brown (12) during the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Line: C+
If the Bruins could throw out the 3rd quarter in which they gave up 14 points and 40% of their total yards, then these grades would be much higher (and the Bruins would have won). Alas, that is not the case.
Specifically for the defensive line, they gave up a few too many yards on the ground (203) and they had a couple horribly ill-timed penalties to extend drives. The big uglies made a bunch of tackles, but negatives were costly.
UCLA spent almost the entire day in a nickel formation (just like last year), so Kenny Young and Jayon Brown saw most of the action. The duo made a bunch of tackles (and Young recovered a fumble), but the aforementioned 3rd quarter cost the team as a whole.
Defensive Backs: B-
All of the DBs looked fast and aggressive against the Aggies. Tahaan Goodman forced a fumble, Jaleel Wadood had a nice TFL and they held Christian Kirk in check. They did give up a couple big plays, and some missed tackles hurt.
With a freshman kicker and punter playing, this could have been a huge negative for the Bruins. This was not the case, and the argument could be made that special teams was the best unit for UCLA.
New kicker JJ Molson hit 3 out of 4, and new punter Austin Kent averaged a sold 43 yards per punt. Ishmael Adams didn’t do anything spectacular in the return game, but he didn’t screw anything up, and the coverage teams held Christian Kirk in check.
Mora and his assistants had to expect some miscues in the first outing after so much transition, but confusion at keys moments tipped this game towards the Aggies.
On the plus side, the offense was able to get lined up and get plays called for most of the game without issue. The Bruins also were able to avoid penalties (only 4 for 17 yards).
However, when it came to crunch time, UCLA had to waste a timeout at the end of both halves in order to get a play called. The offense was only 5/18 on 3rd down, which suggests the play-calling isn’t quite right.
Finally, the decision to kick a field goal with 7 seconds left at the end of the first half (instead of running one more play) could very well have cost the Bruins points and cost them the game in the end.