The UCLA Bruins fell short in their bid to open 4-0, losing at home against the Oregon State Beavers, 27-20. It never felt as close as the score would indicate. The offense had a miserable time getting started and couldn't get a tempo going. The defense struggled to bring any pressure and the secondary was carved up. A lot of college teams would love to be 3-1, but anybody saying to themselves "Hey, 3-1 is still pretty good!" didn't see Saturday's game.
Each team's first drive gave some signs about how the game was going to go, and for the Bruins, they were ominous. UCLA opened the game going three-and-out, and Johnathan Franklin's only rush was stuffed at the line for a one yard gain. Jeff Locke punted, and UCLA was lucky to see the resulting drive end in a field goal. Oregon State's went 81 yards on 12 plays, connecting on screens and making effective use of catching the ball in space to tack on yards after the catch. UCLA's next six drives went for five punts and a field goal, while the Beavers would collect two passing touchdowns on the same stretch.
One of the Oregon State touchdowns came on an 11 second, 75 yard drive. Quarterback Sean Mannion connected with Brandin Cooks with an 11 yard pass, and Cooks burned Sheldon Price and Andrew Abbott for 64 yards after the catch. It was a long night for the UCLA secondary. Mannion had a nearly 70 percent completion rate and threw for 379 yards, with Cooks and Markus Wheaton both collecting more than 150 yards receiving. UCLA's front seven didn't fare much better; Storm Woods rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries. The defense did make some corrections at halftime. Anthony Barr forced a fumble on a sack early in the third quarter, and on the next Oregon State drive Stan McKay picked off Mannion. Back-to-back turnovers would have been the perfect point for the Bruins to turn things around.
It wasn't to be. The offense struggled to turn the fumble and the interception into first downs, never mind points. The drive coming from the fumble was a Franklin rush for two yards, a false start penalty, a Brett Hundley rush for five yards, and two incomplete passes to turn it over on downs. The following drive netted one first down, but an offensive holding penalty and three straight incompletes forced a punt on the second set of downs.
So as to not make this an endless listing of things that didn't work, it's worth taking a second to highlight punter Jeff Locke. Locke averaged 44 yards on eight punts, including a long of 58. He pinned the Beavers at the inside the 20 five times, and once inside the 10. Oregon State had a single return, for five yards. Lock had four kickoffs, all of which were touchbacks. You really couldn't have asked for a better game from the senior.
Anyhow, back to things that didn't work. The temp that carried the UCLA offense through the firs three weeks was nowhere to be found. There was a lot of huddling, and plenty of time for defenses to make substitutions. The explosive rushing attack was also missing. Oregon State shut down Montee Ball in their win over Wisconsin, holding him to less than half of his 2011 yards per game average, and they were even harder on Franklin. Averaging 180 yards per game coming in, Franklin had only 45 yards on 12 carries. Simply put, the man who opened the day leading the FBS in rushing yards wasn't a factor.
With Franklin neutralized, Hundley and his receiving corps had to carry the offense. Neither was capable of doing so. Hundley finished 27-for-42 for 379 yards, but he came up short on third down eight times in the game, with UCLA finishing 2-for-15 on third downs overall. Hundley made some bad throws, but plenty of good ones fell incomplete when receivers let the ball bounce off, through, and/or around their hands. On the drive following McKay's interception, Hundley missed a wide-open Kenneth Walker on what would have been a touchdown, and Steven Manfro dropped the third down pass that might have kept the drive alive. Joseph Fauria caught two balls for 20 yards, but he also dropped two he should have had. It would have been a toss-up of a performance, but he was also flagged for a false start. A week after UCLA's defense covered up for a five-turnover performance by the offense, the offense couldn't retun the favor.
UCLA, out of the top 25 for now, travels to Colorado for Week 5. A lot of UCLA fans woke up on Sunday not knowing whether or not to to dust off "Same old..." platitudes. A big win at Colorado would go a ways in convincing them that it isn't the time.
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