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Huge Wins By UCLA Over LSU And Oregon Over Ohio State Have Legitimized The Pac-12 In The Eyes Of The Nation......
…..As Oregon’s running game was bludgeoning the Ohio State defense, the talk started that this was confirmation of the physicality of the Pac-12. First it was UCLA humbling LSU…..then it was Oregon’s offensive line, on the road, dominating Ohio State’s defensive line, rushing for 270 yards. Every time the Pac-12 was mentioned on a broadcast, the physicality of the conference against top SEC and Big Ten talent was emphasized (I guess anyone east of Arizona thinks their are no weight rooms on the west coast….Just Pilates and TM right?!?!). In any event, I saw Oregon confirm what Chip showed with UCLA……that fast and quick 290 lb defensive linemen and 220 lb linebackers can beat 350-plus lb "road graders" to the point of attack to not only stuff the run but to also pressure the opposing QB. On offense, Oregon v Ohio State looked a lot like UCLA v LSU…..Oregon threw the ball 35 times, while Ohio State threw it 54. UCLA threw the ball only 16 times, while LSU threw it 46. Oregon rushed for 269 yards while Ohio State rushed for 128. UCLA rushed for 210 yards while LSU rushed for 49! Both Oregon and UCLA dominated the trenches…….On defense, the multiple looks presented by the Pac-12 teams consistently confused the offensive lines and inexperienced QB’s running those allegedly explosive Big 10 and SEC "juggernauts." It was great to see the "talking heads" on the "east coast biased" hype-machine that is ESPN eat their words and re-calibrate their assessments of the Pac-12 throughout the day.
……When pondering which Pac-12 team has the best shot at qualifying for a "playoff spot" at the end of the season, one matter of concern came to mind……whether or not our conference could avoid "cannibalizing" itself, thus resulting in a two or three loss team becoming Conference Champion, wherein the potential of not receiving a "top four playoff bid" could become a stark reality. This concern was never more clearly demonstrated than it was in the USC v Stanford game. SC didn’t look great in their opener, but they won handily in the end against an over-matched San Jose State 30-7. Stanford was horrific in their opener. They literally embarrassed the Conference by losing to Kansas State 24-7 (it was 24-0 until Stanford scored with 3 minutes left). Stanford was a 17 point underdog when they played USC Saturday and as all UCLA fans know, they pounded SC 42-28 (it wasn’t that close. SC got two late scores in "garbage time."). Clearly, no one here is going to shed a tear for USC, but that’s not the point. Anyone can beat anyone else here in the Pac-12. We need to keep that in mind.
……After watching our first two games, I am hungry for more Bruins football. Let’s hope "improvement week" went well and that they are focused on Fresno State. Go Bruins!
After Four Years of Misery......Everyone is Discovering the UCLA Bruins....
…..While the LSU game may not completely make up for the "National TV Audience," flogging UCLA took when Oklahoma embarrassed us in the Rose Bowl in 2019, this performance certainly went a long way in re-introducing the latest brand of UCLA football to the Nation. Just as the national consciousness’ memories of UCLA basketball’s improbable, gutsy, NCAA run is finally fading away, Chip shows the country that UCLA football is finally ready to be heard from. After a feeling out stage encompassing all of the first quarter……from that point forward UCLA was ELECTRIC. The announcer’s felt it; the Rose Bowl crowd felt it and certainly the national audience felt it.
…..Offensively: explosive plays from Dulcich (75 yard TD catch and run), Charbonnay (19 yard run with 5 broken tackles; 45 yard run, 40 yard pass catch and run, 14 yard TD run); Kyle Phillips (47 yard catch, twirl and run for a TD); and Chase Cota (14 yard catch a leap for joy into the endzone TD).
…..Defensively: 3 sacks of Johnson; 8 knockdowns, pass deflections and hurries; multiple looks from our defensive front confusing LSU’s offensive line, resulting in just 52 yards rushing for the Tigers (UCLA had over 210 yards rushing).
…..One thing that is going to be a tough reality for some to wrap their heads around is that UCLA, a Pac-12 team that hasn’t recruited at an elite level, just dominated a yearly, top 5 recruiting class, SEC team, up front in the trenches. But it’s the reality of what occurred Saturday night. The Bruins are a veteran squad, and once again I can’t say enough of how well both Chip and J. Frye have out-schemed their opponents. UCLA’s offensive line opened some big holes at timely moments for Brown and Charbonnay to hammer through. Conversely, the LSU offensive line could not hold off UCLA’s pass rush and could not generate holes for their running game. LSU had the 5-stars, but they were consistently confused by both our offensive and defensive schemes (forced to think instead of being allowed to play to their athletic advantage) and it showed all game.
……Oh, and one final thing……If I hear one more announcer talk about what a genius Azzinaro is, I’m going to puke! UCLA was ranked No. 102 out of 130 major college teams in total defense in 2018 before falling to No. 113 in 2019, when the Bruins gave up 456.2 yards per game and a school-record 3,729 passing yards for the season. That was Azzinaro’s work………Despite his being asked by the administration to fire his long time friend (Azzinaro), Kelly refused. He retained him as defensive coordinator but imported two new assistants to completely overhaul the Defense. Enter Brian Norwood, who brought with him a unique 4-2-5 defense that helped Navy generate a school-record 11 wins in 2019, and defensive line coach Johnny Nansen, who brought attitude and "juice." Together, it is these two who have created a whole new defensive identity for UCLA…..and it kills me every time I hear pundits give Azzinaro the credit……But enough negativity. UCLA is off to a great start…..and although I am pretty much talking to myself here on this site, it is cathartic to write about how well we are playing. Go Bruins!
Well That Was a Blast to Watch.........
………UCLA won in all three phases of the game. It was a dominant, wire-to-wire victory opening the year with Chip’s first non-conference win. The stars of the game were clearly Charbonnet, Brown and the rushing offense. Kudos to Chip and Frye for the rushing schemes and to the offensive line for their execution. They consistently delivered effective blocks, not only at the point of attack, but on the secondary and tertiary levels as well (tight ends and wide-outs should also be commended here).
………On defense, Hawaii’s QB was getting knocked down nearly every time he dropped back, and even when he escaped untouched, his passes were knocked down, deflected or at the very least, well defended. Our defense was penetrating and for the most part stuffed the run.
………Our TPP’s (Transfer Portal Players) contributed greatly to this win. In addition to Charbonnet, Cam Johnson flashed his defensive skills and gave a clinic on open field tackling; Kam Johnson was open on some deep routes that DTR missed; Ale Kaho blocked the punt that resulted in a TD; Jay Toia roamed the defensive line assisting on several tackles and Garber played most of the second half at QB demonstrating the kind of arm and accuracy that should alleviate some concerns should DTR suffer an injury. In addition, our super senior TPP’s (Brown, Grattan, Eboh and Knight) all played well. It was a great start.
……….Now for LSU. This is a team loaded with SEC (as opposed to Mountain West) talent. Although, in all honestly, we do not have the innate skill level on our roster that LSU has, we do have a talented, veteran team with a game under its belt. This will be LSU’s first game, with a new, inexperienced QB, on the road. Given our multiple defensive fronts and blitz packages, LSU’s offense will invariably make mistakes. We have to create and take advantage of turnovers and not make them ourselves. LSU will want to run the ball because of their QB’s inexperience. We will be confronting 4 and 5 star offensive linemen and running backs. If Norwood and Nansen can continue to confuse opposing linemen with our fronts and we are able to contain the run, we will then be faced with having to defend 4 and 5 star wide outs and tight ends with our Linebackers and DB’s. TFL’s (tackles for losses) setting up long second and third downs along with QB pressure will be a key to this game. Face it. This game will serve as the barometer for our season. If we win, we will become one of the favorites for the South and Pac-12 Titles. We will get recognition nationally. If we lose, we will have to see how healthy we stay for the Stanford, Washington and Oregon games to see if we can compete for the South Title. But……Let’s not look ahead. Right now, let’s get LSU.