No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, this is really the Eye Test, a week late. Or rather, this is really an Eye Test that took advantage of the bye week to mentally reset because boy howdy watching this team is a chore at the moment.
UCLA is, in many ways, playing out the string on the season. The Utah loss firmly puts to bed any hope the team had at winning the Pac-12 South and honestly killed any remaining enthusiasm I have for the current iteration of this team. The on-field stuff is just unfun to watch at the moment. The offense will fluctuate between doing really good and fun things to mind-numbing stupidity at the drop of a hat because the guy at the wheel thinks he’s being clever. The defense is fun in the same way that watching compilations of trainwrecks is fun. If I wasn’t a fan of this team, I would watch UCLA on purpose because they are on some prime Sickos business, but they are a team I actively root for so I would like them to not suck.
The good news is UCLA basketball is back, and UCLA basketball is good. You can check out the previews I wrote over here (there are two parts!). But the return of basketball means I have even less brain space for a bad football team, so this is going to be a shorter-than-usual Eye Test. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.
For his first career collegiate start, Ethan Garbers looked pretty good! He wasn’t “this guy should be starting over Dorian Thompson-Robinson right now” good, but good enough that you can see him having a pretty good season next year when Lane Kiffin takes over the program.
That was a joke, but not really.
Anyway, Garbers looked fine. He was really the bright spot in this game.
Running Backs: C
It did not feel like the running backs were much of a factor in this game, for better or worse. How much of that was the fault of an offensive line that is continuing to slide backward? Probably a good amount, considering 20% of UCLA rushing attempts were stopped for no gain or a loss, and the Bruins, in general, saw an abysmal rushing success rate of 21% in this game. And it probably did not help that the defense was such a sieve that the offense had to rely on the passing game to keep up (UCLA passed nine more times than they ran the ball in a game where a freshman was making his first career start on the road. Not ideal!). But Utah’s run defense is their weaker point, so it is not a good look for this group to have a quiet evening.
Generally good? Garbers was much more egalitarian in his targets than Thompson-Robinson usually is, which led to eight players catching passes. Kyle Philips and Greg Dulcich still led the way as far as catches, but you had Chase Cota taking part, Michael Ezeike getting his first catch in what feels like three years, and Kam Brown seeing multiple targets. With a freshman QB in his first career start, it was nice to see this group step up and help him.
Offensive Line: D
I don’t know what we’re doing here anymore. Jon Gaines is not a tackle, but he was stuck at right tackle with Alec Anderson out due to injury, and Utah took advantage of that fact all night. The rest of the issues felt like a cascading series of problems stemming from this miscasting of personnel. If UCLA does not have a third capable offensive tackle on the roster, that’s a huge roster management screw-up and heads should probably roll. If Gaines is starting because the offensive coaching staff believes they should only roll with their best linemen regardless of fit that’s also a major roster management screw-up and heads should probably roll.
The offense wasn’t the reason UCLA lost this game, but they didn’t play well enough to win a shoot-out. That’s all, moving on.
Run Defense: F
Remember back in the halcyon days of a few weeks ago when we held on to this belief that the run defense was the saving grace on this side of the ball and would at least give UCLA a chance defensively? Turns out the Bruins just haven’t faced many teams that can run the ball well. Oregon kinda showed this last week, and Arizona State did run well against UCLA prior, but Utah really opened the floodgates and ran at will on the Bruins. And the fun part is that I don’t think this is a talent issue! This is a coaching issue from both a scheme and personnel-usage standpoint. Seriously, how does Carl Jones not see the field while Bo Calvert gets to defecate all over the field for an entire game? Just fire this entire staff and be done with it.
Pass Defense: D-
Only because the run defense was so bad that Utah really did not have to throw the ball a ton. At least someone on the coaching staff has finally realized Jay Shaw is the best corner they have and should probably be playing more often.
Next. Sim to end. I just don’t care anymore. This whole side of the field is broken and firing Azzinaro at this point wouldn’t fix anything, so might as well let him finish out the season to really drive the point home how terrible Chip Kelly has been as a program manager for allowing Azzinaro to stink up the place for four straight years.
Not bad? Nick Barr-Mira missed a field goal but honestly, he was only in that situation because there was no time left on the clock and asking most college kickers to make a 55-yarder is a tough ask in general. Luke Akers didn’t get a punt blocked! That’s progress. This group didn’t make or break the game so let’s move on.
Offensive Gameplan: D
Defensive Gameplan: F
I’m not even touching the defense at this point, it’s just broken beyond repair. And it is beyond infuriating that the offense continues to not recognize the various strengths and weaknesses of the PERSONNEL IT RECRUITED TO COME HERE and keeps asking that group to do things they aren’t equipped to handle. Truly impressive stuff from a coaching staff that has to know they will likely be looking for a job in a few weeks.
Here’s the thing: the players were absolutely prepared and knew what the coaching staff wanted them to do. They executed that game plan the way it was drawn up. Can I really say that they were not prepared just because the game plan was bad? No, I can’t. I want to be absolutely fair about everything that is happening here.
Offense grade: C (2.0)
Defense grade: F (0.0)
Special Teams grade: C+ (2.3)
Coaching grade: F (0.0)
Preparedness grade: Pass
Final grade for Utah Utes: D (1.08)
And as a reminder, here are the scores from past games:
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors: A (3.65)
LSU Tigers: A (3.75)
Fresno State Bulldogs: D+ (1.42)
Stanford Cardinal: B+ (3.25)
Arizona State Sun Devils: D (1.25)
Arizona Wildcats: C (2.42)
Washington Huskies: B (3.17)
Oregon Ducks: D (1.17)
Three more games to go before the Chip Kelly Era hopefully gets put out of its misery.