UCLA Recap: Another week, more questions.

Well, that was one of the most unexciting football games I've ever watched. A lot of Duck fans are not happy with the performance, and there were definitely highs are lows. Lets look at both:

Offense:

Well, it's nice to have a QB that can run the spread option again. Instead of just turning it into a simple run play, Masoli learned this week that it's OK to take it and run, and this ripped apart the UCLA defense in the 1st quarter. Unfortunately, this was moved away from in the 2nd quarter, leading to some big 3 and outs, but seemed to be successful whenever run.

However, the one running play that I am absolutely hating is our version of the Indy stretch play (I don't know what exactly it is, but this is what I'm calling it), in which the handoff goes to Jeremiah in an attempt to get him outside, with the entire line pulling, and hopefully he'll find a hole and get upfield. Unfortunately, this didn't work. I may be wrong, but I have not seen this play go for any sort of significant gain all year. Purdue jumped all over this, as did UCLA. There is no other threat on this play, and is one of the most predictable that we have fun. I hope this play is never run again. Get the RBs upfield quickly, as opposed to just running toward the sideline.

As good as Masoli looked on the spread option, he looked absolutely terrible in the pocket. After getting some initial running success, he had a complete inability to stand in the pocket. He would constantly flee the pocket to the sides, even if there was little pressure. In some cases, this worked out, but this was a key factor in Oregon being 2-17 on 3rd downs. Oregon got into 14 situations deemed 3rd and long (5+ yards to go), and converted only 2 of these, both on runs. Not one 3rd down was converted by pass.

On top of this, besides the 31 points, Oregon moved the ball in spurts. In some cases, they moved the ball beautiful, getting yardage in chunks, and not even getting to 3rd downs. Other times, it was 3 and out, which happened especially in the 2nd quarter and early 3rd, giving UCLA great field position for their first scoring drive.

Overall, it was great to see the spread option work again, and see someone who is making the right reads on that play. But...the passing game in every respect was absolutely terrible. 19 passes were thrown, but many more pass plays were called. No one made anything happen (besides the play by Chris Harper). Receivers dropped passes, Masoli had little touch, and threw passes late. At least we had the threat of pass, unlike when Harper was in against BSU.

Unfortunately, despite the gains in some areas, there were major regressions in others.

Defense:

Well, I wasn't too disappointed with the defense. They had a very good first half, and got screwed a bit and couldn't hold onto any interceptions in the 2nd.

But here's the main thing. Everyone was pissing about the big plays in the USC game, and the opposite of that is what we saw this weekend. We saw short passes the entire game. UCLA passed it short almost the entire game. And they didn't execute well in the 1st half, but did in the 2nd. Despite that, they still didn't manage very many points, and it should have been less, if not for one of the worst calls I have ever seen.

There were a few plays that stuck out. First, the long pass over the middle (I think on a 3rd down), into a crowd for a longish first down. This was Craft's best throw of the night. Second, the missed tackle on the short curl by Talmadge Jackson and Willie Glasper, if I recall correctly, which went for a big gain, and then TJ Ward picked up a late hit, which helped on UCLA's only real long drive of the night. Lastly, a couple plays later, a 20 yard pass down the sideline which Chung misplayed horribly. He may have been able to intercept the ball, or at least knock the receiver down, but did neither.

UCLA found themselves in decent 3rd down position all night long. It seemed like every drive they would get into an easily convertible 4-6 yards to go situation. When they got into 3rd and 7+ yards to go, they converted only 1/6, and were 2/10 on 3rd and 5+.

But props to Chow, because they did what they needed to do. They went with quick passes that didn't allow Craft time to get much pressure. Whenever his early looks didn't work, he usually went down. The D-line played an excellent game, especially Nick Reed, who is an absolute beast.

But overall, UCLA executed, and did what they needed to do, got a few breaks, and scored 24 (7 of which came after the game was basically over and it seemed like our D expected them to roll over and die). Again, they went short, got positive yardage and into favorable 3rd down positions, and moved down the field in small chunks. I can handle this, because these drives are not sustainable through an entire game. One negative play, which Oregon is good at creating, will effectively ruin a drive. When given a long field, this type of offense will not be very successful.

But honestly, I don't blame our D too much. They gave up one long scoring drive when it mattered. The others came with a shortened field, a position the offense put them in. Really, I'm surprised it wasn't worse. UCLA's average starting position was the 32 yard line. From missed field goals to 3 and outs, the defense was up against a wall most of the night, and did a good job for the most part.

Special Teams:

Well, Evensen is totally inconsistent. He has a leg, but will put it together about every other game. Returns and punting seemed average, though unfortunately, field position was severely hurt by a great game by the UCLA punter, who got very lucky multiplie times.

Conclusion:

So...the game sucked. It was not fun to watch. It was brutal and ugly. I can't take this team seriously until they pull it all together. The talent is there, but there are just too many questions at this point.

GO DUCKS!

[UPDATE] If you have not yet read Ken Woody's recap of the game, do that now.

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