Rose Bowl redux - DTR and the surging bears at Pasadena

Got around to watching our FB in 60 vs OS - like I remembered, except it was CP3 who combined with Bishop in stopping Jack Colletto on 4th down after lining up as an undersized LB. What are the chances he watched film for the LB groups, too?

The PAC after Dark analysts looked forward to our second game in the Rose Bowl this year, and granted, they had a really long day and looked like they just wanted to find a couch off set, they pointed out UW’s defensive backfield is not up to the standard they’ve been in recent years, and DTR may find the going tougher vs us on Saturday (as they’d cued up a short vid of a UW DB falling down as the UCLA WR made an easy cut to the EZ for a beach-ball catch).

5-0 UCLA is at 18 in the AP and wants to move up. We’re the highest ranked team with a loss at 11. More importantly, both teams are 2-0 in league, and the game’s on FOX… just 6 years after Joe Williams ran a marathon at that storied stadium… on FOX.

Offensively…

Injuries aren’t a major factor, so far. We miss Kuithe, of course, but there’s ample reason to think Kincaid & Yassmin will rise to the occasion and add more kinetic energy to DBs trying to bring them down, and McClain probably wants to show Los Angeles he made a smart move in coming to SLC from USC.

But more than the TEs stepping up to replace their fallen leader, the WRs have really started becoming a threat. Vele jumps off the screen as a problem for opposing DCs, and Dixon emerged as a guy DBs will need to hold to keep within arms length downfield, not to mention a menace in the run game after he turns upfield on jet-sweeps. And we haven’t even really seen Parks yet, who is a clone of Dixon in the speed & quickest department. Money put in the work offseason & in camp, just hasn’t been featured yet. That might change this week. If Solo’s a quick healer, would be great to see him blasting guys with blocks and continuing his “forget me not” senior campaign.

Definitely time for a fresh look from the OL & the running game. Is this the game Tavion really breaks out? It’s time, but Bernard, Glover and Jackson have shown they can do much more than just carry the ball and get on the box score. Nobody expects another Joe Williams day - that won’t happen unless FB becomes flag FB - but getting the ground game really rolling is important, for this game & beyond.

On defense…

The DL will really be key to how well we handle DTR. Scalley showed we’ll go with a DE-DE-DL-DE-DE scheme up front vs the run-heavy Beavs, and it worked pretty well in limiting their well-blocked ground game.

The scheme against UCLA will be different, but hopefully the unknown nature of what’s in Morgan’s mind can make even the uber-veteran DTR think just a second longer than normal. We’ll see.

Their ground game is quite good, like usual. It’s assignment football and wrapping up. Man on man, do your job, shed blocks, make the tackle.

As usual, take away the run game, create havoc in the pass game, get pressure on, sure tackles and maybe even some INTs on the back end, and get off the field.

Summary - I expect UCLA will be primed to catapult us in the PAC talk this year. DTR has been there for 5 years, has seen everything. But like Whitt said post game, the goal is to get better every week, and if the Utes do that, I like our chances in Pasadena.

There are no rollover games in our league - ASU fought USC hard, Arizona’s playing better, Mike Sanford will remind CU they should play with pride… I feel really uneasy saying “oh yeah, we’ll roll XYZ team” in the PAC.

All that said, UCLA this year is a serious threat.

The Utes can get on the plane Saturday evening with another “W” if we play Utah football. Gotta go grab it, though.

Same. I don’t take any of them for granted.

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Playing Utah has to be the worst grind of any team in the PAC-12. Over the past few years we’ve really established a pattern of just wearing teams out. The physicality on both sides of the ball really starts to manifest itself in the 3rd and 4th quarter - which is when holes start opening up for our run game and opponents offenses grind to a halt.

Here is something to think about:

If my recollection is right we have allowed ONE non-garbage time touchdown since Florida. Wow.

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This is probably the best UCLA team we have seen take the field against us in a while. Their offense has a lot of weapons. As we have had challenges against mobile QB’s, this week will tell us how much we have learned since playing the Gators in the Swamp.

Their defense is better, but hasn’t been great. We should be able to move the ball and score.

Hope we can keep this from turning into a track meet. If we can control the ball and score touchdowns, we should win…but the road does weird things to teams sometimes. Hopefully we can avoid getting tripped up.

GO UTES!!!

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Utah has performed quite well against UCLA as of late. There are some interesting numbers to look at. Utah has won five in a row over the Bruins and has scored at least 41 points in each of those games. You can’t find better numbers against any other conference opponent since Utah joined the PAC-12. Also, four of those wins have been by at least 20 points, with the 52-45 win in 2016 being the only exception. Utah’s 49-3 win in 2019 is the largest margin of victory over any PAC-12 team since joining the conference. Utah has won the last three games at the Rose Bowl vs. UCLA and have lost just once to the Bruins there since joining the conference (2012).

In the last two visits to UCLA, Utah has put up huge rushing numbers. In 2018, Zack Moss had 211 yards rushing. In 2016, Joe Williams shattered the school record by rushing for 332 yards. Also, since 2011, Utah has scored non-offensive TDs against the Bruins in six of the 10 meetings (two fumble recoveries for TDs, a kickoff return for a TD, and three pick-sixes).

This looks to be one of the best UCLA teams Utah has faced since coming into the PAC, so let’s hope these kinds of numbers can continue.

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Yes, we’ve been really fortunate there.

This year I’m expecting a dog fight. The Bruins are tired of being the little brother in LA, they’re tired of all the derisive BS they’ve gotten from their offseason announcement, they’re really pissed off about the Rose Bowl being so vacant… massive chip on their shoulders, good talent and a 5th year starting QB. Dangerous combination.

At this point, I don’t care if we win 2-0. Just win. (I’ll take 31-24 or any other number that has us as victors, of course.) Not expecting style points - that’s off the table. Just find the “W”.

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In every remaining game…

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I’m concerned we run Rising too much. I realize some of those are reads he is making to pitch or hand the ball off and opting to keep it. Im fine with those. But maybe limit those other run plays to preserve his health. We’d be okay with Bryson Barnes, but I’d hate to see it come down to that.

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Rising was the leading rusher against OSU and it seems that despite having talent behind Thompson, without Thompson just chewing up yards, we are little light on our running attack. In order to have any sustained run game, maybe they see it as Rising freeing up the others. Don’t know.

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Every game is it’s own story, and every gameplan is designed to take away the opponent’s strength, what they want to do. The Beavs were just following a fundamental truism of FB - run the ball and take away the other team’s ability to run the ball. FB 101

Oregon State’s DC really knows what he’s doing and has a lot of very athletic, very experienced guys on the back end, can dial up pressure, attack creases based on reads or down/distance scouting, etc. Their front is far better than it has been, so… yeah, cracking their defense took time, with some help from our D in shifting the whole complexion of the game.

One of the weird dichotomies of the NFL vs CFB is how the pros rarely have really exotic schemes on defense. Pretty much base & nickel, with some blitzes & some coverage changes, a little.

In CFB - epitomized by what Scalley does just about every week - there are some really innovative schemes to disrupt what the opposing offense is doing. Like the very atypical DL front we deployed vs OS: DE-DE-DT-DE-DE This really messed with what they were trying to do up front, gap control was air-tight, and the quicker DEs could move off blocks to apply pressure.

(EDIT - I should point out OS had some success going up the middle even with our 5 man front, getting 3-6 yards on straight run plays. I think this was mostly from the tradeoff of using DEs vs Guards.)

The real dichotomy is how much prep time is involved between the NFL and CFB. By rule the college guys can spend 20 hours a week in prep. In the NFL, it’s 50+ hours a week, there’s no limit.

In the NFL if there’s a mismatch, the QB usually sees that immediately and changes the play to exploit it. In CFB there’s a lot more of running the play called & less play breakdown innovation, in general. Rising was excellent on Saturday in bailing out of a pass play that was well covered and getting what he could with his legs.

We saw their basic gameplan of crashing the DEs/LBs in to limit our run game - ie, no respect for the QB run option outside - with even Barnes in mop-up duty tucking it and grabbing 15 yards for himself.

UCLA’s defense will be different. I haven’t seen them a lot this year, but parts of our offense will perform better against them, IMO. Again, credit Oregon State for being a pretty good FB team, even if the lopsided score masked that truth.

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(I’m on staycation this week, digging in more than usual.)

Saw a video of new UCLA DC Bill McGovern from August where he answered a bunch of questions from LA media about how the Bruins D is coming along and what they’ll be like, etc.

McGovern is a NE guy, time at Boston College & the NFL, was a LB coach for Kelly at Philly . He’s been around a long time, knows his stuff.

  • Biggest difference between NFL and college - “in the NFL it’s a full time job”
  • wouldn’t commit to scheme - “will we be 4-3 or 3-4? The answer is you have to be everything, depending on what the offense is doing” (BS answer, see first question.)
  • Similar answer on whether they’re man or zone. “You have to do both”. (Be nice to have the 50 hour weeks, or try to be “solid” at both, but hard to be elite.)
  • If McGovern is truly trying to be super-flexible - which I’m doubtful of - it might be a steeper hill than perceived. Hopefully we’ll be the team to drive that point home.

I’m not a film nerd, don’t have all their games in 22 view or anything, but I think the chess-match aspect favors Utah, a little. Here’s some thoughts on the 7 on 7 game-within-the-game:

Ludwig has seen everything there is to see, he’ll have a solid plan with options. Rising is where we have the advantage.

All those years where U fans were angry at KW for hamstringing QBs because of a bias against turnovers - ie, being a defensive minded coach - have led us in 2022 to having a QB who can actually be (generally) careful with the ball, while having the skills to pull the string when it’s apparent where to go with the ball. And Cam can read defenses about as well as any CFB QB.

It’s really hard to look at their 2-deep and make assumptions about matchups without knowing what schemes will be used or what’s going on up front, but they have big CBs (on paper), which I think may give us an advantage in man coverage with JD and Money - unless it’s press. Vele, Solo and/or Cope are less likely to be bumped, Vele presents both size & athleticism matchup problems.

And if they’re trying to do both man and zone, they’ll be good in both, but not great, so I expect the outside matchup may be a factor.

Now it’s Kincaid, Yassmin, McClain in featuring our traditional TE game, which is difficult to deal with. McGovern knows Kuithe is out, so they’ll have to try and cover all the throw game options, which is a lot, which really tests McGovern’s words about being able to do it all. Could be a good game to get the RBs involved in the air game. I really hope Solo is ready to roll - he could be a difference maker, on slants, in downfield blocking, etc.

I think the biggest aspect of the Utes O vs Bruin D will be sustaining drives. All the stuff McGovern is putting in their heads starts to break down on long drives as the game goes on. Going over their coaching staff, I noticed Chad Kauha’aha’a is the DL coach. I’ll always appreciate what he did here as a player, but by Week 6, this might be a tiny game-within-the-game-within-the-game if Harding & Lud get some good OL play keeping them off Cam and getting a run game going. They have a lot of veteran coaches, but if their DL is responsible for us having success… it could get interesting. I don’t believe they’ve really been tested yet, and the stakes are quite high, for them.

It will be interesting to see how Lud decides to attack McGovern’s D. Given the intensity of the game, the attention, the giant chip UCLA has on their shoulders, etc, the most important thing may be to get beyond the surge of energy they’ll likely have without big mistakes. Once the adrenaline wears off, things get a little easier to dissect and deal with. (Or they should be.)

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While I agree with the sentiment about what we’ve done in the past, we just aren’t as strong at the line of scrimmage this year. I think we’ll need to score a lot of points and may need to get that in the air. Just not as big and bully as we used to be up front on both sides.

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