Another week, another ranked opponent, another example of two teams heading in opposite directions. In 2011 Rick Neuheisel led the Bruins to their second consecutive 8 loss season and even though they won the Pac-12 south by default Neuheisel was converted into a television personality. Taking over in 2012 was Jim Mora Jr., who to that point was best known for being unable to win consistently with Michael Vick in Atlanta. How did Mora the Younger manage to win the Pac-12 South outright in his first year and set the team up as the leading contender to win the South for the third year in a row?
When Mora took over the cupboard was more than half full with 6'3'', 227 lb quarterback Brett Hundley (and Jonathan Franklin last year). Hundley's impact on the team could be seen last week in a close game against Utah. Hundley had an eye issue and backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel had to come in for a series, all of a sudden the UCLA offense was completely ineffective. Lets take a look at what Brett Hundley brings to the Bruins.
Here Utah has the Bruins held to 3rd and 11 at the UCLA 29 yard line. UCLA is in a spread formation with trips receivers toward the top of the screen: #1 Shaq Evans, #7 Devin Fuller and #3 Darius Bell while #9 Jordan Payton is the lone receiver at the bottom of the screen. Brett Hundley (#17) is joined by running back #6 Jordan James in the back field (you don't need to visit the Berkeley Optometry school, the baby blue color is hard to read which is my fault). Utah has a nickel package with 4 defensive linemen and 2 linebackers. I have added the Bruin pass patterns.
Utah is bringing a creative blitz on this obvious passing down. The defensive ends #8 Nate Orchard and #9 Trevor Reilly drop into pass coverage (looks like man at the top of the screen and zone at the bottom), the defensive tackles head into B-Gap (I have an explanation of Gap terminology towards the end of a previous post if you missed it), while the linebackers blitz A-gap. That isn't enough pressure for the Utes, they bring the Safety #18 Eric Rowe on a blitz behind the linebackers. Utahis bringing more defenders to the middle of the line than UCLA has men to block with.
Jordon James plays the hero on the play by blocking two blitzers. Brett Hundley stays cool in the pocket and finds his receiver going to the area vacated by the blitzers.
Even though the pattern is run only 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the fact that half the defense was pass rushing means that Payton is able to run for the first down.
Brett Hundley is the second leading rusher on the Bruins with 289 yards and 3 touchdowns after 4 games played. Just because he can run, don't be fooled into thinking Hundley is a running quarterback. On this play it is 3rd and short, Utah has another blitz called and the running back #24 Paul Perkins has been sent in motion before the snap resulting in an empty backfield. UCLA is in the spread with 2 receivers on either side of the formation, Utah is in man coverage and no safety.
All 4 defensive linemen bull rush the offensive lineman across the ball leaving only the center to block both linebackers blitzing A-gap... One is going to get through.
Hundley has a blitzer in his face and all there is tight coverage all over the field. Where another quarterback might tuck and run, Hundley throws the ball before his receiver Devin Fuller comes out of his break.
The ball arrives where only the UCLA receiver Devin Fuller can catch it. First down.
Hundley's hands were on display against Utah as well. Check out this trick play where Hundley moves to the right pre-snap like he is making an audible and is trying to be heard by the linemen over crowd noise. The running back in the pistol gets the direct snap similar to a wildcat play, runs to his left and pitches to the wide receiver on a sweep. Except the wide receiver pulls up and throws... To a open Hundley in the end zone.
Oh, and even though Brett Hundley is showing patience in the pocket, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will call designed runs for his quarterback. It is 4th quarter, UCLA leads by 3 points and has 3rd and 5 with 3:45 left in the game. Mazzone has noticed Utah's trend of bringing pressure on 3rd down.
This time Utah is rushing two defenders at the right tackle, the coverage is Man-Free (man to man coverage with a free safety to help). UCLA puts the running back, Perkins, in motion removing all linebackers from the middle of the field. Defensive tackle, #58 LT Tuipulotu, is the only defender in the middle.
The linebacker has a free rush at the quarterback, but this isn't a pass but a designed run. The center gives Hundley a 2 way go (Hundley can run to the right or left depending on which is more open), the right guard #51 Alex Redmond goes downfield to block but the only defender there is the Free Safety. When the safety is blocked bad things happen to a defense.
UCLA scores a touchdown that should have put the game on ice.
Utah battled back with a field goal and successful onside kick. While driving down to the UCLA 28 yard line with 25 seconds left this 4th down pass was picked off by UCLA freshman linebacker #30 Myles Jack.
Jack leads the UCLA defense with six passes defended. He is an example of the second key to Jim Mora's success, recruiting. Mora has used his name recognition, USC's sanctions and the NFL's reluctance to put a team in LA and risk blackouts to boost UCLA's recruiting.
Finally, Mora and his staff turned a struggling H-back into the premiere defensive player in the country. After four games Senior #11 Anthony Barr is third on the team in tackles (behind only inside linebackers #6 Eric Kendricks and #35 Jordan Zumwalt) with 23, eight (!) tackles for a loss, three sacks and three forced fumbles.
Utah lines up in spread formation with 2 receivers at the top and bottom of the screen and a running back to the right of the quarterback. The UCLA defense has five defensive backs (nickel) four linebackers (#11 Barr, #6 Kendricks, #30 Jack and #8 Freshman Deon Hollis), the two defensive linemen are #90 Ellis McCarthy (sophomore) and #99 Cassius Marsh (senior).
At the snap UCLA runs a stunt with the four players on the line. #8 and #99 both slant hard right while #11 Barr and #90 loop around to the left in a twist. In case you are wondering the UCLA coverage looks like it might be a cover 3.
The Utes are running, Barr's stunt puts him directly in the path of the ball carrier and the movement has caused enough confusion on the offensive line to leave him unblocked.
It is Anthony Barr's combination of size and speed which make him so good. On this play Utah is in the spread with trips receivers at the top and a lone receiver at the bottom. UCLA is defending in nickle with a single middle linebacker and Barr lined up at right End in a 2 point stance.
#47 is Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA's best pass rushing lineman. Normally a defensive end, he is lined up at tackle fot the start of this play. Vanderdoes and #90 McCarthy are going to run an inside twist where Vanderdoes will occupy the center while McCarthy loops around.
This looks like a passing play but the Utah receivers and running back are run blocking. It is a delayed quarterback draw.
The running back throws a vicous block on Eric Kendricks lifting him from the turf. Unfortunately the draw was too delayed as Barr's speed on the edge blew past the left offensive tackle while Vanderdoes completely overpowered the center.
I don't know if this counted as a sack of tackle for a loss but UCLA dominated the Utah offensive line on this play with just four pass rushers.
UCLA is a complete team, if the Golden Bears can stop just one player on offense then Brett Hundley should be the target. Unfortunately I don't know if he can be stopped. Cal may have to employ the strategy Colorado used against Oregon, onside kick early. In fact Cal should onside kick every kickoff and go for every 4th down. Anything to keep the ball out of UCLA's hands.
The Cal offense is going to put up enough points on some team to pull off an upset. The team may be inspired playing in front of family in Los Angeles, Goff may break more records, the offensive line could open holes for two 100 yard rushers, the defense may mature, UCLA could be the team we upset. It is more likely than these guys succeeding at rocket science.