Coming off its first loss of the season, one particular set of UCLA players may particularly eager to hit the field again for Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Oregon.
“It’s redemption time, man,” said Bruin left tackle Malcolm Bunche. “As an offense, we gave up what, 10 sacks? It’s time to redeem ourselves. And we know it.”
Them, and just about everyone else who saw Utah pull a 30-28 upset at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. The Utes unleashed 10 sacks, including three straight to snuff a fourth-quarter UCLA drive just inches in front of its own goal line.
Those 10 sacks, Utah’s highest single-game tally since 1983, again exposed an offensive line that had appeared to improve through its first four games. After allowing five sacks at Virginia in a performance that offensive line coach Adrian Klemm called “one of the sh–iest performances I’ve been a part of as a player or a coach,” the unit buckled down: four sacks given up to Memphis, three to Texas, one to Arizona State.
Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff (broadcast on FOX) will provide the 18th-ranked Bruins a tremendous stage to either bounce back, or reaffirm the growing criticism.
Admittedly, it’s not entirely fair to pin every single sack on the offensive line. On several plays against the Utes, quarterback Brett Hundley — who has now taken 107 career sacks — could have gotten rid of the ball earlier. Coaches could have called for plays better suited against Utah’s heavy pressure off the edges.
Head coach Jim Mora’s standing argument has been that sacks are a product of the offense as a whole, and he stuck to that line again on Tuesday.
“It was some individuals that needed to play better,” he said. “It was us as a staff, putting them in a better position, maybe giving them some help when they were struggling. … We can run the ball. We can stay out of third-and-long. We can offer them help chipping or getting rid of the ball quicker.”
But Bunche also offered another cause for the offensive line’s troubles against the Utes.
“The environment, it was loud,” he said. “People weren’t speaking up, as far as between the center and the tackles. The tempo, we’re going fast, so sometimes we didn’t get the calls throughout the whole offensive line. We worked on it today, and we did a great job today.”