UCLA had a promising showing in the 31-24 loss to Washington. Look for the momentum from this gritty performance to translate into our first win against Cal this week.
Our O-Line was tremendous in finally giving QB Dorian Thompson Robinson time to make plays, with a respectable stat line of 27-38 for 272 passing yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. On UCLA’s 3rd quarter TD drive in which DTR drove the ball 90 yards, he did a great job of finding his Howard and Wilson down the field; this was especially impressive considering UW was rushing 5-6 pass rushers to apply pressure for majority of the drive. I would like to see a few more QB keepers on the zone read for DTR, as he has usually netted about 8 or more yards when he keeps the ball in previous games. It would be a great way to keep the defense honest. It would better utilize DTR’s skillset as a runner and open the holes up more for Kelley as a result.
DTR did a great job of evading pressure at times, but our solid O-Line play helped establish the run with Joshua Kelley, which opened up the passing game. Joshua Kelly looked like an RB with workhorse potential on Sunday with 20 carries for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns (6.2 YPC). I found it interesting that Bolu and Jamabo got no playing time this game, with Kazimir Allen and Martel Irby the only two backups to take carries. I love that Allen is getting reps, but Kelly is utilizing him incorrectly. Because he has speed, he should not be getting him inside handoffs. Kelly should give him more outside runs or quick swing passes because he is more likely to make something happen in the open field. Seeing that Allen is just 170 pounds, giving him inside handoffs increases the likelihood of him getting crushed and injured by opposing linemen, with most of these inside runs for Allen netting between just 0-3 YPC.
During the first 4 games of the season, our defense has lacked a true playmaker. 2 came out of nowhere against UW and made great plays: LB Krys Barnes and DL Osa Odighizuwa. Odighizuwa (5.5 tackles, 1 sack) set the tone early with fantastic run support to tackle UW RB Myles Gaskin on the first play of the game. He later sacked Browning and allowed to us to get some pressure on Browning, which forced him to make a lot of plays with his legs. Barnes (7 tackles, 1 sack) in my opinion had his best game of the season, most notably on UW’s first scoring drive. UW had converted multiple 3rd and longs and looked primed to score a touchdown on the 1st quarter drive, but Barnes made a great tackle on 2nd down and had a massive sack on 3rd down which forced UW to take a field goal. With leader LB Josh Woods out for the year, Barnes made tackles all over the field and asserted himself as an impact player for our defense. FS Adarius Pickett filled up the stat sheet with 16 tackles and an interception and his sure tackling helped prevent UW’s defense from being more explosive.
Senior CB Nate Meadors has seemed to have been picked on by opposing offenses the entire year (most notably with OU WR CeeDee Lamb having 146 receiving yards and a TD in Week 2) and this trend continued on against UW. He always appears to be in the right position to make plays, but failed to do so on Sunday against Aaron Fuller (100 receiving, TD). Hopefully more pressure from our Front 7 can help alleviate QBs from exploiting these one-on-one matchups in the future.
Overall this was UCLA’s best performance of the season. It will be exciting to see if we can continue our growth and hopefully win our next 2 games against Cal and Arizona respectively.