Survived. That might be the word that best sums up what the UCLA Bruins did on Saturday night: They survived a game that was tight from start to finish against visiting Colorado. They did so in a manner, however, that was altogether different from what has been typical of UCLA this season: The Bruins got defensive, relying not on its NCAA-leading quarterback to simply outscore its opponent, but instead on its defense to provide timely stops.
What’s important is that it worked, as UCLA beat the 2016 Pac-12 finalists 27-23.
Here’s how the Bruins graded out:
UCLA Offense: B
Colorado has not enjoyed its resurgence because of a high-octane offense. The Buffs have ascended up the Pac-12 hierarchy because of a stout defense that didn’t allow a red zone touchdown until the fourth week of the season. UCLA’s 27 points were the second-most put up on Colorado this season, second only to Washington, which has scored as many as 63 in a game this season.
To be clear, the Bruin offense was not brilliant, but passable. It did everything it should have done in order to win. Quarterback Josh Rosen threw for nearly 400 yards and a touchdown while Jordan Lasley posted a breakout performance, hauling in 7 receptions for 146 yards, including a superb flea flicker that set up a 1-yard Jalen Starks touchdown in the second quarter.
The running game was, once again, absent, as it has been since the departure of Paul Perkins. Soso Jamabo led with 70 yards on 21 carries, and the Bruins averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. What’s important, however, is that UCLA, at the end of the day, got the job done, and for once, the defense was able to give the offense the support it needed.
“I would like to see us be able to finish the game with runs, with more productive runs there, and never have to kick a field goal and never have to kick off and never have to go back out on defense,” coach Jim Mora said in his press conference afterwards. “I think our running game is improving. We’ve still got a lot of room for improvement.”
UCLA Defense: B+
This grade is not relative to, say, Alabama, which is steamrolling whatever poor soul happens to be next on the schedule. This grade is relative to UCLA, and for the Bruins to limit Colorado to 23 points, a week after allowing 58 to Stanford and a third string quarterback, this was a standout performance.
Through the first four weeks of the season, UCLA had posted the third-worst rushing defense in the country, which did not bode well for the run-heavy offense of Colorado, armed with running back Phillip Lindsay. The Bruin defense was a markedly improved unit from a week ago, limiting Lindsay to just 83 yards on 19 carries. Though Colorado quarterback Steven Montez finished with 108 yards on the ground, the Buffs were forced to find offense outside of Lindsay.
“We were in a bit of a battle there against a really good team,” Mora said. “If our young men didn’t have the character that they did and the trust and the confidence and the belief in each other that they did, it would have been really easy to fold up the tents there and say, “Hey, man, it’s just not going to be our day and our year.’ And they didn’t do that.”
UCLA special teams: B
To be frank, not much to report here. UCLA was a perfect 2 for 2 on field goals and 3 for 3 on extra points. The Bruins didn’t return a single punt and neither did Colorado. Lasley returned a pair of kicks with an average of 19.5 yards, which could be improved upon, but it’s certainly nothing ghastly. The Buffs’ four kickoff returns went for an average of 20.5 apiece.
All in all: Just a very normal, unspectacular day of special teams.
UCLA coaching: B+
The vast majority of coaching is not done in the 60 minutes of football on Saturday evenings, but between Saturdays, where adjustments are made and prep for the following week is done. Mora had no small task before him in saving his job — which was being called for en masse — shoring up one of the worst running defenses in college football, adding wrinkles to an offense that featured a heavy dose of Rosen and little else.
He did all of those. Whatever adjustments were made to the rushing defense worked. The playbook was opened up, and it culminated in a 48-yard flea flicker that set up a touchdown. But the offense remained so Rosen-centric that it’s a wonder what will become of the Bruins when Rosen doesn’t throw for nearly a quarter mile.
Up next for the Bruins is a bye week, which precedes a road trip to Arizona.
The post UCLA Football: Grading the Bruins 27-23 win over Colorado appeared first on Diehards.