UCLA entered the year as the favorite to win the Pac-12 South, a National Title contender, with a Heisman candidate at quarterback. Two straight losses, to Utah and Oregon, have dashed those fantasies and left the Bruins with the shattered reality of talented individuals but a flawed team. Utah exposed the Bruins' offensive line by sacking UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley 10 times.
Hundley (#17), is one of the best athletes in the nation, yet he was under extreme pressure in that Utah game. The UCLA staff responded by having Hundley run 20 times (after subtracting 2 sacks) against Oregon. To give you an idea how much of a change that was, he ran only 29 times in his previous 4 complete games (he rushed 3 times against Texas injuring his elbow... while running). In 2013, when it seemed every Bruin running back was injured, Hundley rushed 125 times for 948 positive yards over 13 games (again accounting for sacks.)
So in 2013 Brett Hundley ran 9.6 times per game and to start 2014 he has run 7.25 times per game. I believe that UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora and Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone wanted to present their quarterback as a pro-style, drop back passer before he enters the NFL draft. Maybe that was the deal that kept Hundley in school one more year. His completion percentage has jumped from 66.8% last year to 72.2% this year but his sacks per game (again, not counting Texas) have jumped from 2.7 last year to 4.4 this year.
Lets breakdown how UCLA helped to protect Hundley by emphasizing the run against Oregon...
The Quarterback Run
Early in the game against the Ducks, UCLA established Brett Hundley as a running threat. At 6'3 and 226 pounds with a 40 time projected around 4.6, Hundley is big, fast and elusive: in short, a nightmare for a defense to account for...
Here the Bruins are 1st and 19 from their own 9 yard line. Lined up with 4 Wide Receivers with a long way to go for a 1st down, UCLA is tempting the Oregon Ends to pass rush. Oregon is lined up in a 2-4-5 defense with Linebackers in 2 point rush stances where Defensive Ends would normally be. Perhaps they lined up like this because of the down and distance, perhaps it is because they are facing a spread offense, or maybe it is just because Arik Armstead was injured; whatever the reason, Oregon has speed on the field.
For the Bruins #17 is Brett Hundley and #24 is running back Paul Perkins. The Receivers immediately start run blocking which tells us this is a run and not a run/pass option. The Offensive line blocks down (in this case the player to their left) and the Right Tackle double team blocks the Defensive Tackle at the point of attack then chips up to the backside linebacker (allowing the O-line to get leverage on the left shoulder of the defensive line to prevent them from getting to where the run will be). The Left Guard pulls down the line and lead blocks in the hole.
Paul Perkins does a read option fake but heads immediately to block the End/Linebacker which tells us that this is a designed quarterback keeper.
With the help of a hold (not called) by Right Guard #52, Brett Hundley is able to gain 12 yards on the play.
The Read Option
UCLA also used the Read Option to establish Brett Hundley as a running threat. The Bruins have trips receivers toward the top of the screen with one receiver (#82, redshirt freshman, Eldridge Massington) towards the bottom. #6 Jordon James is in the backfield with Hundley. The Ducks are once again in a 2-4-5 defense with linebackers where Defensive Ends would normally be lined up.
Once again UCLA will block all four players on the defensive line and pull the Left Guard #76 Kenny Lacy (who I mislabeled #74 below) to lead block. The Center and the Left Tackle will double team #44 on the Ducks who is the one player who could stop this play before it starts. The Left Tackle then drops back to block #33.
#6 Jordon James is set up for an outside run but Hundley sees that linebacker #22 has over pursued the play. #17 keeps the ball and makes an ankle-breaking cut to his left...
A big gain is nullified by a penalty by #82 for a block in the back.
Read Option Run/Pass
Oregon is once again in a 2-4-5 look on defense, UCLA has 4 Wide Receivers but is going to motion #7 Devin Fuller to the top of the screen. The Oregon defense will shift to accommodate this pre-snap movement.
This play is set up as a run/pass option. Hundley has the option to hand off to #24 Paul Perkins who will follow his pulling guards or to pass to #7 Fuller. The Right Tackle will seal the end of the line in case of the pass to Fuller.
Oregon, however, has an unblocked Safety in coverage toward the top of the screen. To the bottom of the screen every defender is accounted for by a blocker. Hundley hands this ball off.
Two Duck players look like they could have stopped the play for no gain, but Perkins is past them in the blink of the eye.
Read Option Run/Run
The Bruins are backed up 2nd and 9 on their own goal line. They are lined up with Perkins and Hundley in the back field. There is a H-Back off the the left of Hundley. The Offensive line will block the players in front of them with a double team by the Center and Right Guard at the point of attack. The Right Guard will chip to the backside Linebacker. The H-back will come across the formation and block the Duck lined up outside.
Brett Hundley is going to read the play-side linebacker #48 Rodney Hardrick. Hardrick is assigned to either B-Gap or C-Gap. If he takes B-Gap Hundley will keep the ball and run outside. If #48 takes C-Gap Hundley will hand off to #24 Perkins.
UCLA used plays like these to set up passing plays designed to get chunk yardage...
The Play-Action Pass
The Flea Flicker
In the game Paul Perkins had 190 yards rushing while Brett Hundley had 114 positive yards, yet Oregon led comfortably. The above plays illustrate part of the reason why: Hundley had only 216 yards passing and his longest pass was only 27 yards. We can see on the Play-Action and the Flea Flicker that the pass rush is utterly unsuccessful, Hundley could have taken minutes to throw the passes but the receivers are not open and equally important the Oregon Defensive Backs are not beaten deep. Oregon did not allow the big passing play nor did they allow a big Special Teams play and the UCLA offense could not keep up.
Of course there was also...
It is the second quarter and while the UCLA offense has been frustrated the Bruins trail only 8-3. The UCLA defense is backed up into their red zone but they have forced 3rd and 10. Oregon shows a formation that UCLA is not prepared for and a time out is called by the Bruin coaching staff. After the time out Oregon is in a different formation: this one...
Oregon has 3 Wide Receivers toward the bottom of the screen and a Tight End on the Left of their line. UCLA once more looks confused and the Safety #21 is directed to line up over the tight end by the Safety off the screen. Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has called an all out blitz and all three linebackers will rush, the Devensive backs on the screen are matched up Man to Man with the Wide Receivers and Tight End. There is one Safety deep but who is accounting for the running back #24 Thomas Tyner?
No one is there. Oregon has called the perfect foil, a Screen Pass to Tyner.
Jim Mora loses it, and incredulously gestures "how could you call that blitz in the red zone with no safety to cover the weak side?" (all paraphrased). Ulbrich responds by quitting, right there. He hands over the defensive play card "if you think you can do better, you call the plays" (paraphrased again) removed his head set and starts to walk off the field. What are the chances that this confrontation makes this week's episode of The Drive? I would hazard 0%...
Down 15-3 UCLA is mentally defeated. The pressure of this game is too much, the Oregon Offense too efficient and the Oregon Defense too frustrating. The Bruins would rally in the second half but this 12 point margin would prove to be insurmountable. Oregon wins in Pasadena 42-30 keeping their playoff hopes alive and dashing UCLA's.
The Misfit Plays
The following plays don't fit into the narrative of my post but I wanted to show them anyway.
The Trick Play
Lined up in the Pistol with former high school quarterback Devin Fuller lined up as the running back behind Hundley. Hundley walks over to the sideline like he is going to ask a question. The color commentator and just about the entire stadium see a trick play coming.
Fuller actually seems to have multiple reads but the eventual pass is easy... Hundley is uncovered, seemingly forgotten, by the sideline. UCLA gains 9 easy yards. This was probably a one time play, saved for the showdown with the Ducks, but with little to lose Noel Mazzone and the Bruins may dig deep into their bag of tricks on Saturday.
Oregon managed to Sack Brett Hundley twice last week, despite all the precautions the Bruins took.
Oregon Linebackers #91 and #86 are coming on a blitz. #86 is picked up but there is no one to block #91. Meanwhile the Defensive Tackle drops into zone coverage after faking a pass rush for one step. The way to defeat this blitz is to throw the hot read to #18 Thomas Duarte who is running a pattern to the area vacated by #91. But Hundley does not see the blitz, even though his left side is his blind side, not his right side where #91 is blitzing from.
Hundley gets crushed and fumbles the ball. Brett Hundley's problems with being sacked may not entirely be the fault of his offensive line. If he cannot recognize blitzes he is not going to survive long in the NFL.
I noticed on this play that after he saw his first read was covered, Hundley did not look to another receiver, he just took off on a scramble. I wonder if this was something he was coached to do. If so, the Golden Bears are going to have to have a plan for it.
Brett Hundley is the key to the Bruins success. I wonder if Jim Mora is going to polish his NFL resume and leave Westwood or if he believes the hype and thinks he can continue to win without Hundley...
SB Nation has changed the way that GIFs upload and I am no longer able to resize them. I am uploading them through GFYcat. Does anyone know how to resize them within the post?