As the UCLA offense struggled to move the chains against a Virginia team not perceived to be incredibly staunch defensively, it became more and more clear that the offensive line was over-matched.
O-line coach Adrian Klemm made zero excuses. He didn’t even make excuses about the language he used or the frankness of his speech. The UCLA offensive line is better than the one that showed up in Charlottesville, Va., and they will prove that this week in the home-opener against Memphis.
"It’s probably one of the shittiest performances that I’ve ever been a part of as a player or a coach," Klemm said. "I knew we struggled a little bit. There’s been some changes at some key positions but I didn’t think it was that bad to a certain degree."
The offense appeared both stifled and listless. Brett Hundley, playing with new left tackle Malcolm Bunche, was sacked five times. The Bruins rushed for only 116 yards and were faced with 18 third down situations. They converted on only seven. Not to mention, the false start penalties.
Once someone was off track, it led to another lineman getting off track. And another. And with the up-tempo offense the Bruins run, it’s difficult, especially for younger players, to get back on track quickly.
"It wasn’t so much a physical aspect, it was the mental aspect," he said. "When things went downhill it just started snowballing into false starts and other things in that nature."
Center Jake Brendel is still out with a sprained MCL and Scott Quessenberry, only a sophomore with a handful of games under his belt, took over at center. It was the first time since 2011 the Bruins had someone other than Brendel snapping the ball.
But Klemm didn’t see his absence as anything they couldn’t overcome.
"That’s the easy way out, putting it on Jake," Klemm said. "But the fact of the matter is that things happen, as you’ve seen over the course of the last three seasons, and guys come in and out. Unfortunate things happen and guys have to be prepared when the opportunity comes. It’s my job to prep them and sometimes you think a guy is ready for some things and maybe he’s not."
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone likes to mix and match players regardless of their listed positions in his offensive system and Klemm buys into the same philosophy, working out lineman at multiple positions, with the goal of seamless transitions in the event of injuries. And with the way the injuries have hit the line in the last two seasons, they’ve needed every last lineman. They’ve burned redshirts and slid guys over.
"It doesn’t matter who is in there and where," Klemm said. "The fact of the matter is that everyone here is on scholarship and they’re getting paid to play and when their time comes and their number is called they have to perform at a certain level."
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There’s a direct correlation between the inconsistencies on the offensive line and the inability to establish the running game. Klemm and Mazzone aren’t ready to make excuses, and they shouldn’t have to either.
"We’ll go back out there this week and try to keep everything really solid," Klemm said. "We’ll try to bring some continuity to the way we do things. And hope we get better.