For the second time in a row, the Bruins got mad at home.
UCLA Football (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) lost to Arizona State (4-1, 2-0) 42-23 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. A close game in the first two quarters turned into a blowout down the stretch, and that’s another key turning point for the Bruins, their coaches and fans.
These are four of the biggest takeaways, stories and questions to come out of Saturday’s game.
Nothing cost UCLA the game
By the nature of how they lost their last games, there was always a “What if?” Â»Quite clear. when it came to the Bruins.
Whether it was a single bad read, a bad fumble, a misplacement, an inappropriate choice of six, or a bad cover on a single drive, it didn’t take a expert at diagnosing UCLA’s mistakes in its five losses over the past two seasons. And once those holes were identified, it was easy enough to tell that if they hadn’t happened, the Bruins would have come away with a win – their last five losses totaled 18 points.
Saturday was another story.
Not only did UCLA drop 19 points instead of just one, but so much went wrong in the second half. Bad coverage, bad tackles, bad snaps, penalties on both sides of the ball, not completing practices, decisions by coaches scratching their heads, etc.
Stopping Jayden Daniels would have helped, but it wouldn’t have won the Bruins game given the way they played on offense. And while Dorian Thompson-Robinson had bad goalies and late sacks, he could have made all the plays in the fourth and it still wouldn’t have been enough.
Thompson-Robinson keeping him in fourth instead of handing him over to Charbonnet for a touchdown is the clearest moment, given that that would have made it a two-point game. But even then, the Sun Devils still called with a touchdown of almost seven minutes.
The second half was as bad as UCLA since the Utah game in 2019. They were totally and completely dominated, and of course that happened when they got the chance to become the team. to beat in the Pac-12.
Jerry Azzinaro has to go
With all of that being said above, it’s pretty clear the defense was horrible again on Saturday.
Almost halfway through its fourth season in defense, Azzinaro’s unit is allowing 321.4 passing yards per game after being sliced ââup by Daniels overnight. Daniels entered the game struggling to throw the ball on something other than button hooks and screens, but he was gaining the upper hand on the UCLA defense and playing big chunks between his long touchdowns.
The Bruins have also allowed over 40 points in two of their last three games.
It was meant to be the final form of that defense, using their experience, comeback skills, and veteran transfers to put everything together into a unit that was at least respectable, if not good enough. But again, Azzinaro’s defense costs his team games, and there hasn’t been much improvement on the stat sheet or with the eye test three and a half years after his tenure at Westwood.
Prior to Azzinaro’s arrival, UCLA had never allowed more than 274 passing yards per game in its 90 competitive seasons. Under Azzinaro, they are now on track to do so for the third year in a row.
Cutting ties with a mid-season defensive coordinator is extremely rare, but drastic action is needed when the going gets tough. If Kelly ends up staying beyond this season, Azzinaro returning to his side would be borderline crime with the way he’s handled things horribly at this point. He can have the support of the guys in the locker room and he can have full Kelly’s confidence, but it comes to a point where the production and the cover have to mean something, and Azzinaro certainly doesn’t belong to a Power Five defensive coordinator anymore. (if they have already done so).
Things could be just as bad under alleged replacement Brian Norwood, but at least at this point there would be a streamlined chain of command on that side of the ball.
Kelly canning Azzinaro in the middle of the 2021 season is not going to happen, although it certainly should.
Fans, students deserve better
The attendance announced on Saturday was only 40,522 people, so nothing great at all. On the face of it, it’s pretty bad, actually.
But one group of fans that showed up in droves was the student section.
The den was literally overflowing, filling both the new and old sections for students. It was the first home competition for UCLA since classes started, so it was good to see the students keen to come out and support their team in a big game.
However, these dedicated and rowdy young fans were treated to a brutal collapse in the second half, and it didn’t take long for them to storm the tunnels and out of the Rose Bowl once the game started to pull away. Chances are many of these students won’t stumble on their own to get back on the Rooter Bus on October 23 for the Oregon game, given what they witnessed the last time they did. the trip.
Many college football programs can count on their students to be a constant at their stadium. UCLA has a fan base that will come to the Rose Bowl every time, but having a stadium nearly an hour from campus makes it a real barrier to attending games.
If they win, the students will make the trip and will happily clap, heckle and go crazy. If they lose, that hour’s drive is enough to scare away hundreds, if not thousands, of students.
Mike Martinez really misses the offense
There are a lot of factors that played into the Bruins’ difficulty on offense, but it sure would have been good for them to have their TE2 blocking specialist there all night.
With Martinez against Fresno State and not appearing since, Kelly hasn’t been able to run as many close sets of ends as he has with Martinez at full power. Without that extra blocker on the edge, Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown averaged 3.8 yards per carry, compared to 6.7 on average on Saturday.
What makes it worse is that the few times Kelly pulled two tight ends, Michael Ezeike was once again a complete non-factor.
The one time he hit a target, he landed a wide open hold and tripped out of bounds when he could have given the Bruins a first try. If Ezeike can’t thrive as a wide receiver, he might as well not be there at all, further discouraging Kelly from using 12 people.
And in the face of an aggressive defense like the one Arizona State brought onto the field on Saturday night, that means Thompson-Robinson will run for his life. It didn’t hurt the Bruins too much in the first half, and Thompson-Robinson even had some good scrimmages in the third quarter, but it eventually caught up to him and UCLA certainly could have used an extra blocker in protection. against passes too.
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