Bruin QB Josh Rosen during a recent game at the Rose Bowl; the sky’s the limit for this true frosh. Photo Courtesy of Fansided.com
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS FOOTBALL – 2015 MIDWAY POINT
Record: 4-2, 1-2 and tied for 4th place in the Pac-12 South
Note: * = leads team
Josh Rosen (QB) – 59% completion percentage, 1,568 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INT
Paul Perkins (RB) – 114 carries, *681 yards, 6.0 ypc, 8 TDs
Jordan Payton (WR) – *31 catches, *486 yards, *15.7 ypc, 4 TDs
Thomas Duarte (REC/TE) – 23 catches, 348 yards, 15.1 ypc, 5 TDs
Issako Savaiinaea (LB) – *44 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1.5 sacks
Kenny Clark (DL) – 35 tackles, *3.5 TFLs (tied for lead with two others)
One word best describes, by about a trillion miles, this true blue and gold-clad football program from Westwood as the 2015 campaign has hit its halfway mark:
If there is any other team playing Division 1 college football that has been rattlesnake-bitten by this nasty season-ending bug, I’d very much like to meet that team as the loss of several key players has maimed the Bruins’ chances at conference glory.
It may not have ended them as of this moment, but they have certainly been damaged as due to, in particular, the loss of standout defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, who tore his ACL in the opener against Virginia and especially linebacker, (sometimes) running back and all-around stud Myles Jack, who likewise suffered a torn meniscus during practice two days after his interception saved Jim Mora’s team against BYU,
UCLA’s defense, specifically against the run, has suffered as they have given up 215.7 yards per game on the ground and 124 points in the last three games, at 41.3 points per contest.
Those numbers make it difficult to beat most teams, as Stanford showed when Christian McCaffrey and his offensive line toyed with the Bruins’ front seven, setting a school record with his 243 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Since Vanderdoes and Jack went down, the word has been out among UCLA opponents past and future: Run the ball down the Bruins’ throats and bring the house against true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen with the blitz (but we’ll get to him and the offense in a bit).
As for that defense, unless things change immediately and during the team’s remaining six games, Bruin Nation can expect teams to do what Stanford and Arizona State have done; the memory of several Bruins being carried 20-something yards by ASU to the end zone at the end of that game continues to induce post-traumatic stress disorder in me.
I understand that some may be thinking right about now – that I’m just a Negative Nellie who’s doing nothing but bashing my alma mater’s team.
To those who may be feeling that way, my only intention is to be completely and unabashedly honest as I have never felt that being a cheerleading, rah-rah “homer” is good for the program that I have been a passionate fan of for over thirty years.
With that statement out-of-the-way…
Wide receiver Devin Fuller (#7) celebrating a touchdown against Virginia. Photo courtesy of UCLABruins.com
I actually had these Bruins at the record they are currently sporting when I did my game-by-game predictions of them on September 3rd, only I flip-flopped the Arizona results as I thought UCLA would lose to Arizona in Tucson while beating the Sun Devils in their Rose Bowl home.
And while it has had a few issues, namely a 38% third down conversion rate that desperately needs to go up, the Bruin offense has been a good one overall to this point.
Rosen has definitely not been a disappointment as he is having a perfectly good first season in Westwood; the numbers he has put up so far would be good for an upperclassman, let alone an 18-year old kid who was wearing the uniform of the St. John Bosco High School Braves at this time last year.
Enrolling in school in January and joining the team for spring practice has paid off in a pronounced way, and the best thing is, I – and I’m sure every other UCLA student/fan/alum – expect even bigger things from him in the years ahead.
The two things I would like to see Rosen improve upon now:
1. Getting rid of the ball quicker as defenses will continue to blitz him like crazy, and…
2. Using his legs to escape pressure and get yards, the way Brett Hundley did and was so good at as the now-Green Bay Packer won many games that way.
If Rosen does that, there’s a good chance he’ll be called “The Greatest Quarterback In UCLA History” when his days as a Bruin are over.
Paul Perkins, the defending Pac-12 rushing champ, hasn’t been a slouch either as he is on pace to get nearly 1,400 yards on the ground this year.
He and the rest of the running game remains the key to UCLA’s success as if they can get the third down conversions up and keep opponent’s offenses off the field, the Bruins’ chances of winning nine or ten games if not a Pac-12 South title improve greatly.
Speaking of UCLA’s chances for the remaining six games…
I wish I can say that the Bruins will go on a tear, rattle off six straight wins, and earn a bid to a prominent New Year’s Day or Group of Six bowl if not the Pac-12 Championship game, but in all honesty…
That remains to be seen as because of the run defense’s issues, there are no more “gimmes” among the remaining opponents UCLA is scheduled to face.
They will have to bring their “A-Plus” game every week, even against Colorado, Oregon State and an improved Washington State team (check out how those Cougars did against Oregon in Eugene sometime).
In fact, the Bruins’ next battle – tomorrow against a California Golden Bear team that is arguably the most improved squad in the country at 5-1 with a quarterback, Jared Goff, who can absolutely sling it – will tell me loads about what the rest of 2015 will look like for UCLA.
Simply put, lose this game and the season, for all intents and purposes, is over.
Can the Bruins do it? Can they turn things around?
Sure, it’s quite possible.
It will all depend if the defense, particularly the defensive line, steps up in (especially) Vanderdoes and Jack’s absence, because they haven’t done a very good job of that so far.
I will certainly be watching with great interest.
The Solid Gold Sound of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, entertaining the crowd. FUN FACT: I was a member of this band from 1988-1990, playing the tenor saxophone. Photo courtesy of GoJoeBruin.com