No. 9 UCLA was one of five top-10 teams to lose on Saturday, its 24-10 loss at Stanford dropping the Bruins for the first time this season. You can see read the game story here, but here are a few thoughts from the game that knocked Jim Mora’s surging squad down a peg.
1. The offensive line is in trouble. Already without left tackle Torian White (broken ankle), UCLA also lost tackle Simon Goines (MCL) and backup Conor McDermott (dislocated shoulder) in the third quarter. The severity of their injuries is not yet certain, but Goines returned for a few snaps and couldn’t get into his stance properly. He had his left knee wrapped after the game and was on crutches. In fall camp, it was his right knee that was hyperextended.
Xavier Su’a-Filo would likely be the team’s best left tackle if he spent all his practice reps there, and will likely start getting more regardless of what happens with Goines and McDermott. If the pair are out for any extended amount of time, then the All-American guard will move out to protect Brett Hundley’s blind side.
Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm explained why he had been hesitant to move Su’a-Filo barring a worst-case scenario.
“When you do that, there’s a couple of plays there where you have him pulling that you can’t run anymore,” he said. “So, I’m trying not to be selfish and move him out there and making a little bit easier for me. By doing that, it creates other problems. You limit things Noel (Mazzone) can call and it makes the game tougher on him.”
2. Brett Hundley needs to get it together. For whatever reason — whether a disintegrating offensive line, lack of a run game, or his own nerves — Hundley has struggled in the past few weeks. He’s clearly among the most talented quarterbacks in the conference, but after looking so poised through the first four games of the season, the redshirt sophomore has looked very pedestrian.
His 4.9 yards per attempt against Stanford marked the lowest single-game mark of his career, and his deep ball was almost nonexistent. He started holding on to the ball too long, something that plagued him last season, and even struggled with passes in the flat. Similar issues appeared last week against Cal, but were more easily chalked up as an anomaly.
If he can’t find his groove again, UCLA’s Oregon trip will get very, very ugly.
“Games like this, you want to win so bad,” Hundley said Saturday. “That’s really all I can say. You want to win these games so bad, so bad.”
3. UCLA’s playcalling has flatlined without a run game. A few weeks ago, both Jordon James and Hundley said that the run game was setting up the pass. That has disappeared as James (ankle) remains sidelined and offensive linemen keep dropping like flies.
For the first time since 2010, the Bruins averaged less than 3.0 yards per carry in back-to-back games. Opposing defenses don’t need fear the ground game as much now, and as a result are turning up the pressure on the pocket. UCLA rarely tested Stanford with deep throws on Saturday.
“We should’ve ran the ball better,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “We came out and ran it well; I kind of got away from it there a little bit. Should’ve come back with Malcolm a little bit more later in the game.
“But shoot, it’s just a part of the learning curve. I don’t see it as a setback, just part of the learning process to become a great football team.”