Cal defense and run game improve at UCLA, but Bear Raid bogs down

Stephen Dunn

What are the biggest positives to find from the UCLA loss? Any negatives?

Ruey Yen: Bears ran 30+ running plays on Saturday. I thought that was the most interesting development. With Bigelow now banished to further down the depth chart, I find it interesting that a pair of former Tight Ends in Richard Rodgers and Jacob Wark (also a member of the Cal Baseball team) got some carries. Rodgers in that late drive was not particularly effective, but I do like the fact that Sonny Dykes is looking for more ways to get Richard Rodgers involved.

On the topic of the ground game, I find it disappointing that the Bears went with a running play to end the first half. The choice to run on 3rd and long on a couple of occasions was also a bit odd for the Bear Raid. Along the same line as playcalling, I thought the Bears offense just totally did not have any sense of urgency in the 2nd half.

Defensively, the Bears' troubles continues. The lack of tackling was again on display and too many big plays were allowed.

LeonPowe: I looked at the defensive stats and they don't look any better (except we didn't give up a TD on the first possession!) but it FELT better. We made stops. We made three and outs. We stopped them in the red zone a couple of times. Yes, there were plenty of missed tackles and bad angles, but doing it with the triage crew, I think it was better than what was reasonably expected, no?

On the other hand the passing offense regressed. I think with the passing offense we had against Northwestern or Ohio State, we get two more touchdowns.

Berkelium97

Positives: The defense looked much better. It was still bad, but they actually looked prepared this week. It looks like they studied their tape and had a good read of what the UCLA offense was doing. Even young guys like Demariay Drew were quickly diagnosing plays and flying to the ball carrier.

Negatives: Of course, many of the defense's flaws were again on display last night. Despite some great reads by the D, guys rarely wrapped up and made solo tackles in open space. This plagued everyone, from young players such as Lucas King and Kyle Kragen to veterans such as Dan Camporeale. I cannot count how many times the team had lined up a huge tackle for loss or sack, only to miss the tackle and see a 6-yard loss turn into a 2-yard gain. These namby pamby arm tackles aren't going to bring down big, physical players like Brett Hundley and Steven Manfro. We also saw several instances where multiple players took bad angles (while the rest missed their tackles), which lead to TDs. The fundamentals still need improvement.

One more positive: I'm glad the coaches stuck with the running game. Muhammad decisively made his case for the #1 RB spot for the next several games (especially since Lasco looks like he'll be out for a while). He made quick, decisive cuts and was impressive in the north-south running game. The super terrific jumbo mega bone was an interesting twist. It looks like we finally found a reliable, short-yardage package. I didn't agree with running it three times in a row at the goal line into a box stacked with 10 defenders, but I am glad it finally made its debut.

Leland Wong: I was happy to see the run game start to develop, as well as the emergence of Rodgers as tailback. Sure, that's great in terms of giving defenses more to plan for and giving us a new option for short yardage, but the best part of this development is that it shows the coaches are still tinkering with and trying to improve our offense. They have identified our weaknesses and are creating solutions for them. That is a sign of a great staff.

The biggest positive was the play of the defense. A lot of fans are scoffing at a positive evaluation for a defense that still missed tackles and allowed 37 points, but I'm calling this a positive based on the circumstances. By now, everyone knows our defense is has been severely thinned by injuries, so this was a group of third-stringers against the newly-crowned no. 9 Bruins. We held them to a similar number of points as Utah and a top-25 Nebraska team (UCLA actually scored 4 fewer points against us than against Nebraska). The standalone stat is unimpressive, but we saw the defense rise to the occasion, force some three-and-outs and field goals, and simply improve. That resilience will pay off in dividends down the road.

The negatives from the game is the disappearance of the offense. The offense seems like a shell of the fast-tempo, high-scoring, and exciting team that stepped onto the field against Northwestern. I'm willing to give the Bears a pass for the Oregon game due to the weather, but the offense has disappointed against WSU and UCLA. It might be because opposing defenses have sufficient Bear Raid footage to design their defenses, but I hope the players will be able to out-execute the other teams with such simple plays.
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