The UCLA defense has had enough trouble stopping opposing offenses, but the Bruins suffered from friendly fire during Friday’s 48-17 loss to Utah.
UCLA defensive backs Jaleel Wadood and Darnay Holmes ran into each other on the first play of the third quarter against Utah, allowing Utah receiver Troy McCormick to come free on a simple wheel route for a 75-yard touchdown.
The Bruins (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) fell to the bottom of the Pac-12 South with the loss and have to win two out of their final three games to secure bowl eligibility.
Links to wrap up Friday’s game:
- Utah crushes UCLA as the Bruins pick up even more injuries
- Notebook: Devon Modster makes his first start with Josh Rosen (concussion) at home
- Game GIFs: Not a pretty picture as fans react to another blowout loss
- Video interviews
- On Utah
- From the Salt Lake Tribune: UCLA’s non-existent rushing defense was the cure for Utah’s recent struggles
- From the Deseret News: Tyler Huntley stirs Utah’s drink
- Not game related: UCLA lost two more commits over the weekend with three-star safety Dayven Coleman backing out Friday morning before the game and three-star defensive back Kendrick Torain Jr. decommiting Saturday. That’s four decommits in the last week, three defensive backs and one offensive lineman. The Bruins still have 20 pledges for its 2018 class.
Much love for UCLA but After talking to my family I have decided to decommit from UCLA and to open my recruitment back up #Godsplan
— Slimeball (@Kentorain) November 4, 2017
An in-depth review of Friday’s game:
- Devon Modster’s start: Modster was 7-for-7 in the first half with 101 yards and a touchdown to Darren Andrews. Not a bad way to get your first career start going. Jedd Fisch relied heavily on the run at start and dug into his playbook with double reverses and double passes, but allowed Modster to also show off his arm late in the first half. The redshirt freshman came up big with a beautiful 42-yard pass to Darren Andrews and then found the receiver again in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Modster throws it best when he can push the ball downfield with a little air under it like he was able to late in the second quarter. However he (and the offense) cooled considerably in the third quarter and he completed only 1 of his 5 second-half passes before injuring his thumb. Josh Rosen‘s status is unknown for this week, as is Modster’s. But if Rosen is out and Modster has to start again, the backup has a decent performance to build on.
- Theo Howard’s one-handed catch: It didn’t mean anything in the end, but it was a highlight for Howard. It might be a positive step for the sophomore who has struggled with confidence this season. The Bruins will need the best version of Howard they can get because they have to replace Andrews, who suffered a significant knee injury.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 4, 2017
- Defensive mindset: It seems that the Bruins are breaking down both mentally and physically. When asked of the defense’s demeanor on the sideline during the second half, Mora said “it got tough after that third quarter. It got real tough. They just, you know, we were trying to piece it together as we went.” I feel like that usually would have been a time when Mora said something more along the lines of he didn’t see any negativity or defeat in his players even though the score had gotten out of hand. He spoke about the defense’s “fragile” confidence a few weeks ago and it seems that that mentality is rearing its ugly head again. Similar to last week’s game against Washington, the defense started well. Utah was rushing for just 1.7 yards a carry through the first quarter. Then Utah started to impose its will in the second quarter, running the ball 14 times for 90 yards and scoring on a 10-play, 73-yard touchdown drive. That was the first of five straight scoring drives for the Utes (four of which were touchdowns). Once one bad thing happens to the UCLA defense, it doesn’t seem like the young Bruins have the maturity or mental fortitude to persevere right now. That, to me, is the most concerning thing about the unit that is on track to be one of the worst in school history.
- Third downs: UCLA used to be one of the best third-down offenses in the conference. Technically, it still is (third in the Pac-12 at 43.3 percent) but the Bruins are just 5 for 25 on third down in the past two games. UCLA was 1 for 9 on third down in the first three quarters against Utah. Jalen Starks got stopped on short on third-and-2 in the first quarter and dropped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-4 in the second quarter. Recall that a few weeks ago, Starks was almost automatic on third-and-short situations. He was coming back from an ankle injury that cost him two games, so maybe he was not at full healthy yet. Due to the lack of third-down conversions, UCLA ran just 48 plays to Utah’s 72.
- While the offense struggles to sustain drives, the defense has struggled to end them. Washington and Utah were 12 for 25 on third downs combined. The Utes were 7 for 14. Long drives are a death sentence for an injury-riddled defense that’s struggling with confidence.
- Third quarters: UCLA has been outscored in the third quarter 38-0 during the past two games (17-0 against UW and 21-0 against Utah). On Friday, the third quarter was especially costly because it was only a seven-point game at halftime. The defense then gave up that 75-yard touchdown pass on a blown coverage on the first play of the second half and UCLA’s downward spiral took a sharp turn for the worse. Third quarters are often about coaching and halftime adjustments. UCLA likely feels limited by its lack of personnel with all the injuries, but the Bruins have to find a way to keep things manageable in that quarter.
- 18 touchdowns on 44 red zone trips (48.6 percent) for Utah leading up to Friday’s game
- 4 Utah touchdowns on 5 red zone trips Friday (80 percent)
- 249 total yards for UCLA
- 364 punting yards for Stefan Flintoft on eight punts
- 19 yards for UCLA in the third quarter
- 70 yards for UCLA in the second half
- 63.7 percent of UCLA’s receiving yards are from Andrews, Caleb Wilson and Jordan Lasley. Andrews will likely miss the rest of the year with a knee injury, Wilson hasn’t played since Sept. 30 with a broken foot and Lasley’s status is still in question after he missed a third straight game due to disciplinary reasons.
“We just focus on the game, the upcoming game, focus on the team that we’re playing that Saturday. That’s the best we can do and hopefully if it’s in God will that we can come up bowl eligible.”
~Jacob Tuioti-Mariner on whether he thinks about UCLA’s bowl hopes
- New injuries
- DL Ainuu Taua (ACL, MCL, dislocated kneecap)
- Andrews (ACL)
- Modster (thumb) — unsure of status for future
- LB Krys Barnes (recurrence of fluid in lungs)
- Dressed for game, but did not play: DL Rick Wade (knee), TE Austin Roberts (ankle)
- Holmes was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter and will miss the first half against Arizona State on Nov. 11 at the Rose Bowl.