Ah, the annual spring game; for the fans an oasis, football at last after four long months, but for the team, a mirage.
Especially at UCLA, where there was little to be gleaned from a sloppy offensive performance with three starting offensive linemen out and the quarterbacks running for their lives.
No Jeff Baca, Sean Sheller and Kai Maiva meant little time for Richard Brehaut, Brett Hundley and Nick Crissman, and the results were mixed. Brehaut had a pretty touchdown pass to Nelson Rosario on a fade route to the back of the end zone and Hundley showed off the dual-threat ability that has drawn him praise. Brehaut, though, finished 11-for-20 for 102 yards and Hundley managed just 57 yards on 7-of-13 completions.
The running game had an impressive effort behind Johnathan Franklin’s four carries for 50 yards, including a breakaway 39-yard run that showed a major hike in speed.
But the offense managed just three scores for the day – aside from the Brehaut touchdown throw, Hundley had a 16-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Jones and kicker Kip Smith hit one of two field goals – while generally looking disjointed.
Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson was not pleased.
“No, not at all,” a stern Johnson said after the scrimmage, which took place at UCLA’s Drake Stadium with the Rose Bowl under renovation. “I don’t think we carried what we had been doing in practice to the game-like situation. … I don’t think we played on offense with the sense of urgency and the tempo with which we’ve been practicing. That’s part of the process we have to go through. We have to make sure we carry what we do from the practice field to the game.”
Upon addressing the crowd following play, head coach Rick Neuheisel was quick to point out that the team was down four offensive linemen, including backup guard Wade Yandall, out with a concussion. But this was not an excuse, it was fact, and the fact remains that UCLA’s second- and third-team defense is far ahead of their offensive counterparts. With emerging players in backup linebacker Eric Kendricks – who had three tackles and two pass breakups – defensive back Tevin McDonald and a loaded defensive line that goes three deep, the Bruins defense toyed with a much more raw offense.
“I felt like our defense really played well,” senior linebacker Sean Westgate said. “Our ones did really well – minus a few run plays that gashed us – and our twos and threes played phenomenally.”