UCLA held off a two-win team to stay on top of the Pac-12 South, but Saturday night’s 44-36 victory (game story here) was one of the ugliest games the Bruins had played all season. The team — which held on to the No. 17 spot in the AP poll — generally stuck to the line of “We’re just enjoying this win for the next 24 hours.” Few players looked particularly overjoyed while saying it.
In the middle: The Bruins aren’t as bad as they looked against the Cougars, but they also aren’t as good as they looked against Arizona. UCLA took advantage of an ideal match-up and great game-planning against Wildcats and played out of its mind to seize the Pac-12 South lead. The Bruins tried to shut out all the “trap game” talk leading up to WSU, but couldn’t shut the door after going up by 30 against one of the conference’s worst teams. There’s nothing left to look ahead to now, which should help UCLA heading into its biggest rivalry game in years.
Hundley needs run game: Brett Hundley completed his first 11 passes before throwing an interception into heavy coverage, and finished with a deceptively impressive line: 18 of 21, 261 yards, three touchdowns, one interception — good for his highest single-game passer rating (227.73). But Hundley also took four sacks, a couple of which he probably could have avoided by throwing away the ball. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone called the performance “so-so” and said the lack of an established running attack made the game much more difficult for the quarterback. Johnathan Franklin’s 3.47 yards per carry were a season-low, and Hundley had only his second game of negative rushing yardage.
Rest up: Some players tried to deny a dip in intensity in the second half, but chalk that up a bit of denial. Marsh said flat out that the team “let up” in the second half, and Mazzone said they reined in the offense because too many players were banged up — including Shaq Evans, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen (who didn’t suit up due to a minor knee injury). It’s not a good day when Franklin winces from a post-game handshake. The coaching staff will almost certainly give players some downtime heading into the next week of practice.
Waving flag: UCLA gave away 126 yards on tossed flags, the team’s dozen penalties bumping up its per game average to 9.2 — worst in the country. There were some testy moments during the game, and Marsh grumbled afterward that it was a “sloppy” affair with “lots of bickering.” That needs to be cleaned up, but the refs didn’t help out either. The coaching staff was visibly upset during their final minutes on the sideline, particularly on the last illegal procedure penalty. Mora didn’t explicitly call out the refs, but it was clear how he felt.
Danger looms: It won’t be surprising if UCLA plays a tight game against USC this Saturday. It also won’t be surprising if the Bruins lose by double digits. Jim Mora has coached a team that won’t roll over against anyone, but that doesn’t solve the glaring problems in the secondary, which just got gashed by a team without its all-time leading receiver. Both cornerbacks will need to play the best game of their careers to shut down Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, whom Mora said a few weeks ago could already start in the NFL.