A quick take on the game plan

I am a beat reporter and not a columnist, so typically I don’t like to opine that often.

But last night was my 20th UCLA game, and I think that’s a large enough sample size for comparative measure.

Quite simply, it was the worst game plan I’ve seen out of the UCLA coaching staff in my short tenure, and I’m not sure where they go from here.

Look, everyone knows that Oregon is going to score points. You do not shut down this offense. In its worst game this season, it scored 42 points on a pretty good Arizona State defense. It combines good-but-not-great players with a great-but-maybe-fantastic scheme and fantastic-but-maybe-phenomenal coaching.

Simply put, UCLA was not going to contain the Ducks. No way, no how. With the misdirection – an ESPN commentator called it three-card monty – and the team speed, they are GOING to break off big plays. It is simply unrealistic to expect 11 18-to-22-year-old kids to stay gap responsible for 70 plays.

You go into the game knowing that. You prepare for the game knowing that, you coach for the game knowing that, you scheme for the game knowing that.

So what you do, or at least should do, is ignore the big plays. They’re going to happen. Deal with it, move on. But focus on stopping the eight-yard gain, focus on getting to the quarterback, focus on trying to control the tempo.

A blitz is designed to do all of those things. It is a simple tactic. You send more people than they can block, and you either confuse them, speed them up or cause improvisation. Because don’t forget, THEY ARE 18-to-22 ALSO. They are just as young, just as naive, just as scared, just as nervous. They may be more proficient or more experienced, but I can guarantee you, a 20-year old kid rarely has savvy.

You essentially tell them: “Yeah, you’ll get your points. But you’ll have to scramble the whole time.” And yes, they’ll adjust with some trickery, and yes, they’ll get you a few times because they’re just that good. But it at least it won’t make them look so damn pretty.

Instead, the UCLA coaching staff did nothing.

I don’t have official blitz stats – I’m writing notes, following the action, typing, chatting, etc., and I simply can’t watch the linebackers all game – but I cannot recall more than three blitzes the entire game.

Last year, UCLA could afford to be conservative at times, because Brian Price was a three-man wrecking crew, Korey Bosworth was a capable run-stopping defensive end, Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth, while slower than others, knew what they were doing, and Alterraun Verner was a star. Oh, and Rahim Moore was Rahim Moore.

Guess what? There is no Brian Price anymore, Chuck. There is no dominant defensive tackle on this roster – yet, I’ll add, because I think Cassius Marsh can become a monster – and for that matter, there is no seasoned fifth-year defensive end, no fifth-year middle linebacker and outside linebacker, no sensational cornerback. They are not here anymore, Chuck.

You have what you have, and you have to put them in position to succeed.

Tightening up against one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory – Oregon has more points through seven games than they’ve ever had through eight – is just about the worst option.

The Ducks were going to score. We all knew that. But it didn’t have to be so easy.

* A side note: One of my best friends was in town for the game, as a guest of family friend and Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who missed the game with a head injury. We went to a party with Barner after the game, and I got a chance to talk to a few of the Oregon players, in particular former Crespi wideout Blake Stanton, whom I covered in high school.

We talked a lot about the Oregon offense, and at one point he just paused, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Man, we have so much to learn.” I asked him to explain further, and he basically said that half of that offense is just knowing how every player is supposed to move within it. I said is it the players or the scheme, and he just looked at me and smiled.
“It’s the scheme. It’s too good.”

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  • Sunset Bruin

    Great article, Jon. I thought that both the defense and offense were unimaginative.

  • grumpybruin

    Good story. You expressed my feelings toward UCLA and the coaching staff. I think the team quit on the field and that cannot be allowed. I hope the team runs the stairs until their legs fall off.

  • Good story. You expressed my feelings toward UCLA and the coaching staff. I think the team quit on the field and that cannot be allowed. I hope the team runs the stairs until their legs fall off.

  • robear20

    Jon, thank you for that.

    I agree 100%. The only time the Duck QB looked “bad” was on the few pass plays where he was hurried by the blitz.

    I cannot believe Bullough did not notice this, and if he indeed did not notice it he needs to take a refresher course on defensive schemes 101.

    The Bruins were going to lose that game regardless, but with that being said they could have given a better showing and it falls on the coaches for the play/scheme calling or lack there of.

  • Coach Harry Nutz

    I hope the COACHING STAFF runs the stairs until their legs fall off.

  • WikiSnake

    Well done Jon, you hit it right on the head with this one.

  • Anonymous

    Chuck Bullough is way in over his head as DC. Hey Chuck, did you think of having the Monster Man split the A gap? It puts fear in the QB’s eyes.

  • Accountability Check

    UCLA Head Coaching History
    Years Coach Record
    1919 Fred Cozens 2–6
    1920–1922 Harry Trotter 2–13–1
    1923–1924 James J. Cline 2–10–3
    1925–1938 William H. Spaulding 72–51–8
    1939–1944 Edwin C. Horrell 24–31–6
    1945–1948 Bert LaBrucherie 23–16
    1949–1957 Henry Russell Sanders 66–19–1
    1958 George W. Dickerson 1–2
    1958–1964 William F. Barnes 31–34–3
    1965–1970 Tommy Prothro 41–18–3
    1971–1973 Pepper Rodgers 19–12–1
    1974–1975 Dick Vermeil 15–5–3
    1976–1995 Terry Donahue 151–74–8
    1996–2002 Bob Toledo 49–32
    2003–2007 Karl Dorrell 35–27
    2008– Rick Neuheisel 14–18

  • Anonymous

    Neuheisel, just do us a favor and resign. don’t embarass your alma mater. You and your coaching staff did not earn a single dollar last night.

  • HomeBru

    Sometimes being a fan makes me absolutely want to die. I had a hard time getting out of bed for work today (I HATE Thursday games). It makes me feel better to read the comments of other bruin fans who feel just as crappy as I do right now. My misery definitely loves company. Hopefully you all, like me, will continue to support our team no matter how bad it gets.

  • Fed Up Bruin

    I know you and Neuheisel are close, but I don’t get how you think he should keep his job after this. he has to go 5-0 to have the same record Paul Hackett did at SC, and we spent that entire time ripping on them for having Paul Hackett. Now we have to get on a roll to be as good as the guy we ripped on for years? Fire Rick, he’s never done anything with his own players, and it doesn’t appear like he’ll start anytime soon. Maybe we can hire Hackett, you’d love that.

  • NorthCampusBruin

    Am I an ESPN commentator because I was the one that said the three card monty thing in the game chat?

  • Anonymous

    I just don’t think Chuck is experienced enough to be a DC right now. We should’ve gone after an experienced DC after DeWayne Walker left. The D is not adapting, the game plan has always been weak since Walker left.
    As for the O, Norm is calling plays like he is scared. Mix it up. 3 and less than 1, why are we in the pistol taking forever? A qb sneak would’ve gained it for sure. Oregon was spread out in a 4-3. our oline is big enough to push for a yard through the middle.

  • jed and gold

    that was one of the best and most honest things you have ever written about UCLA football.

    I agreed on every point. When RN kicked that first FG I knew he had no clue about what his team or what Oregon was capable of.

    This coaching staff is overmatched vs Harbaugh, Kelly, Stoops, Riley and Tedford…shoot maybe even Kiffin…
    sad days indeed. stick a fork in us, were done!!!!!!!

    changes need to be made right now

  • Backdoor Cut

    strong stuff, Pure!

    not sure I agree; but well-written!

  • RW13Heisman

    The Bruins looked like SC did against Stanford last year……….some of them just quit……and waved the white flag!

    This doesn’t look good for CRN, if his guys are willing to quit and get beat up and down the field by the Oregon 3rd string scrubs no less

  • Superbruin

    Amen Jon.

  • gilligan

    All of the momentum that UCLA earned from the UT and Houston game is gone. UCLA needs to finish strong but he problem is that the rest of the games are all against PAC 10 teams and this conference is the best in the nation. The best chance for some Ws probably lie in the UW game and maybe ASU game. I think it will be hard for UCLA to win the other games. The one thing that would help Neuheisel’s cause is a win against my beloved USC but I am pretty sure Kiffin is going to let Barkley air the ball out since we don’t have a bowl game this season.
    I am not sure if anybody in the D-line is capable of getting double teams like Price in previous years b/c the D-line looks VERY weak.

  • Anonymous

    i agree about the defensive game plan completely. one thing that somehow didn’t seem to sink in with crn and his staff is that Oregon looked at this as their best opportunity to show the nation that they deserved to be seen as the best in college football, and they closed their practices to achieve that, even if it was against an overmatched UCLA team. they wanted to ensure a title game invite. knowing that, wouldn’t you want to change up the defensive game plan after you saw how they just tore up the field the first two scores? seems like one would do anything to get hits on the qb, again and again, at any damn cost. coach rn/cb slipped up more than any other time this year.

  • Anonymous

    Rick Neuheisel is a pansy who has his players playing soft and not to lose. Get your act together Rick and PLAY TO WIN!!!!!!!!! LANE KIFFIN PLAYS TO WIN!!!!!!!!!

  • PUSC 3

    We had a game plan??

  • Jon, you are correct on all accounts…when the season started most of thought that nothing less of an 8-4 season would be acceptable…today? I think most of us would be ecstatic with a 6-6 season. I love RN, I think that he is a good coach, I just don’t believe that Norm Chow knows what to do with the talent he has. Sure our QB position is lacking but I don’t see any creativity on his play calling, everything is so predictable. As for the DC, wow! just wow.