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Defensively Speaking: UCLA 2018 – Kevin Bruce

I’d like to tell you that the outcome of the yesterday’s beat down in the Rose Bowl by UCLA was unexpected…it wasn’t. But what was a shock to me was how easily UCLA’s O-line manhandled our run defense and how their coaches out-prepared and out-schemed Clancy. It looked like our defense, in its entirety, was unprepared for UCLA’s offense and in particular their blocking schemes. The facts are that this is the same UCLA offense of the past month and nothing really new or novel was unveiled yesterday. It was an old-fashioned butt-whupping. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this story before…but just not from a 2-8 rivalry team but usually from a more prestigious opponent…like the one we’ll see next Saturday in the Coliseum.

UCLA’s plan was designed to attack us by exploiting glaring season-long deficiencies including our inability to win the one-on-one battles along the line of scrimmage (LOS). Right now, I am solely talking about our defense. I’ll have a few comments about the offense later.

UCLA set out to attack our perimeter defense by running the ball at our cornerbacks. Even the perimeter rub routes were designed to pull our CBs inside. I thought that Biggie played his run defense well. Coach Chip Kelly was prepared to throw the ball more but only if we could force the issue. As it turned out, why bother, with Joshua Kelly shredding the defense for 289 yards of rushing by himself.

The blocking schemes were set up to create number of mis-matches (more or equivalent blockers vs. defenders at the point of attack), exploit our season-long weak LOS penetration, seal off the inside big men, collapse defenders to the inside, cut-off lateral pursuit and get big O-linemen on cornerbacks and safeties. Additionally, the defense was frequently confused by the shifts and motion backs giving us multiple looks of the same basic plays.

What is it about pulling linemen that we don’t get? Fight the against the pressure and never ever get pushed inside and cut off our pursuit. And containment means containment. Kelly’s brilliant offensive scheming contributed to UCLA’s physical dominance. Now, that I didn’t expect. Btw, hate to mention it, but UCLA are babes compared to how Notre Dame runs their read options.

Scheme

We ran our usual (post-Porter Gustin) 4-2-5 (or 2-4-5 depending on personnel). Coverages also were routine with both single-high safety, a few Cover 0’s and an occasional double high stack (safeties). Corners were in and out of press zone, some man and Biggie had man-thru on a few plays including one of the long touchdown runs by Kelly.

CP was teaching his guys the alignment adjustments on the sideline that he wanted sometime in the second half. I’m glad he was trying to get the ship righted but the run fits just weren’t there. UCLA would adjust their blocking based on our reaction, personnel and tendencies.UCLA ran an offense that they know and how to accomplish its game plan. They just needed an opponent to cooperate.  UCLA made the fundamental commitment to out-muscle us as did other opponents e.g. Texas, Utah and Cal. They were widely successful…we were not.

On the topic of offense, I’ll say that there were times that Clay called a good game and there were some horrible play selections (3rd and 21 run call in the 4th quarter…really?). Also, the O-line can’t or won’t run block. Take your pick the outcome is the same. As a group, the O-line must know that nobody fears our run game principally because we don’t block it well and we don’t finish our blocks with the other guy on the ground.

On the matter of “on the ground” maybe during the “clean it up” film session today, QB coach Ellis might want to help JT understand about where to start his self-preservation slide. It would be notably helpful if it were after the line of play mark not before. That is the second time this season that his slide was premature, and a first down conversion was reversed by replay.

Notre Dame is coming to town this Saturday. Hey Trojans, get ready and get tough as ND will bring a level of performance we haven’t seen all season.



Greg Katz
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Greg Katz

Katz started off at WeAreSC in the early 2000's with his "Obvious-Not-So Obvious" column, and is a member of the Football Writer's Association of America.


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