I LOVE this pic of the Bruins; such a perfect shade of blue! Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS FOOTBALL – 2018 SEASON
Final Record: 3-9, 3-6 and fifth place in the Pac-12 South
- Most losses in a season since 1940
- Fewest wins in a season since 1989
- Beat USC for the first time since 2014, 34-27 at the Rose Bowl on November 17th
- Wilton Speight, QB: 1,527 yards passing, 60.58% completions, 6 TD, 6 INT
- Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB: 1.057 yards passing, 57.14% completions, 6 TD, 4 INT
- Joshua Kelley, RB: 1,243 yards rushing, 5.5 ypc, 12 TD
- Caleb Wilson, TE: 60 receptions, 965 yards, 4 TD
- Theo Howard, WR: 51 receptions, 677 yards, 4 TD
- Adarius Pickett, DB: 123 tackles, 2 INT
- Krys Barnes, LB: 85 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 1 sack
- Darnay Holmes, DB: 48 tackles, 3 INT
- Keisean Lucier-South, LB: 46 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks
- Osa Odighizuwa, DL: 29 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks
- Lokeni Toailoa, LB: 32 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks
- Quentin Lake, DB: 67 tackles
My Choice For Most Valuable Player: Joshua Kelley – by about ten million miles!
- Six consecutive games of rushing for at least 100 yards
- UCLA’s first 1,000 rusher since Paul Perkins in 2015
UCLA FOOTBALL’S TOP HIGHLIGHT OF 2018 – BY A LONG WAY: The Bruins’ 34-27 win over USC in the 88th version of the Crosstown Rivalry Clash on November 17, 2018. Courtesy of YouTube (click on the link).
Analysis, Comments and Thoughts:
You know what?
In 2018, this football team of my collegiate alma mater’s had the fewest wins in nearly thirty years – I should know, I was there as a member of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band and witnessed that 3-7-1 season in 1989.
And they had the most dubious distinction of having the most losses in nearly eighty years.
And yet, people seem to be higher on these Bruins, seeing them as trending upward and having a potentially better future, than their rivals across town.
I think it’s not only because they beat USC and won back the Victory Bell, but also because of this pertinent statistic…
- Record through first five games: 0-5
- Record through last seven games: 3-4
Which, without a shadow of a doubt, was an improvement as UCLA showed growth, grit, determination, and just plain guts.
As one of my high school band directors used to say,
“It’s better! It’s not good yet! But it’s better!”
Which described this Bruin team perfectly over the last several weeks of the season.
Joshua Kelley was the number one reason for this improvement along with the maturity of the offensive line that made room for him to become UCLA’s first 1,000 yard rusher in three years.
Being that he transferred from UC Davis and sat out 2017 as a redshirt, to say that UCLA and the Bruin Nation is lucky to have him is a pronounced understatement.
I, for one, am more excited to see Kelley running the ball next year.
In fact, the running game made it possible for the passing game to improve as well; the fact that Speight, a graduate transfer with experience, was able to come in after Thompson-Robinson’s, or DTR’s, injury and settle things down didn’t hurt.
The UCLA Bruin football team’s biggest accomplishment of 2018: That’s sure a nice shade of blue, don’t you think? Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
Speaking of DTR, I’ll put this plainly…
Barring another four or five star quarterback coming in and dazzling coach Chip Kelly and his staff so much that they have no choice but to play him, DTR is the man in the Bruin offense now.
For all intents and purposes, the future is now for this young man from Las Vegas, as he needs to have the spring and summer of his life as far as his preparation for next fall.
When the Bruins kick things off in Cincinnati next August 31st, I expect DTR to hit the ground running and run Kelly’s offense in a similar way that Marcus Mariota ran Oregon’s offense in 2013 and 2014.
Of course I don’t expect DTR to win the Heisman Trophy like Mariota did, but I do expect to see significant growth from what he did this year.
Another reason why people are seemingly high on UCLA’s future is the fact that you could count their seniors on one hand, so many underclassmen, particularly freshmen, getting such significant playing time that I expect that valuable experience to begin to pay dividends in 2019.
With Kelley and receivers like Howard returning, I certainly expect the offense to be putting up big numbers.
As for the defense…
Sure, they were a sieve for most of the year, their cornerbacks and safeties in particular getting torched in the last two games against USC and Stanford.
And the front seven tackled about as good as a wet noodle for quite a bit of this season before showing some improvement in the last few weeks, in a “It’s not good yet, but it’s better!” kind of way.
If I were Kelly, I would focus on signing four and five-star guys on that side of the ball in particular.
UCLA’s MVP – or at least my crystal clear, unadulterated choice for MVP – doing his thing against USC, setting a Crosstown Rivalry record for most rushing yards. Photo courtesy of youtube.com
In fact, the next couple of months will be absolutely crucial as far as recruiting, as while I don’t expect UCLA to snag a top five class, I do expect a class that will be able to make an immediate positive impact starting in Cincinnati against the Bearcats in August 31st.
Along with the other teams in a schedule that includes Oklahoma at home on September 7th and major tests on the road against Washington State, Utah, Stanford, and USC.
That – along with the continued growth among the Bruins that are currently in Westwood – is the only way that this team will continue to grow and re-establish its place among the upper echelon of the Pac-12.
After the Stanford game at the Rose Bowl (yes, I was there), I was telling my fellow members of Bruin Nation sitting around me that I fully and completely expect UCLA to, at minimum,
Double their win total in 2019 and get bowl eligibility,
On the way to them fulfilling my, for lack of a better term, prophecy of those Bruins being strong contenders in 2020 and the Pac-12 Champions in 2021, as I stated in the mid-season report.
I recall being so embarrassed, frustrated, and just plain pissed off at that 0-5 start that I was calling UCLA the “Bad News Bruins”, resolving to do so until they won at least two games.
The good news is, with the growth and progress that they showed since they blasted Cal in Berkeley by thirty points, that team more than earned the right to not have me refer to them as the “Bad News Bruins”.
Along with earning my respect for the grit and utter guts – no, I will NOT use the term “Gutty Little Bruins”; that’s SO tired – that they showed on the field in the second half.
Of course beating ‘SC and getting that bell painted blue didn’t hurt at all; it was so much fun wearing my UCLA gear to the supermarket and while I was getting additional newspapers with the coverage of that 34-27 triumph the next morning.
OK, summing up…
Not only are the words progress and growth words that perfectly describe the UCLA football team in 2018, namely from the middle of October on,
What that team did against Cal, Arizona, ‘SC, and even in games that they lost against Washington and Stanford showed what they could accomplish in 2019 and particularly beyond.
All they need is continued growth and progress and a few more (preferably) four and five-star recruits – though three stars who can be coached up to make an immediate and positive impact in winning games is fine with me, too – to bring it all together.
I’m certainly looking forward to the Spring game and next season to see that continued progress.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly on the sidelines during a home game this year. Photo courtesy of AZcentral.com