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Pregame Guesses: Utah Utes at UCLA Bruins
Will the UCLA Defense help elevate a heretofore unknown Ute? Will the Bruins tackle better? Will UCLA's new tight ends continue to shine? Will the game even be played?
Greetings, Bruin fans, and welcome to week two of The Mighty Bruin’s Pregame Guesses. Last week saw the Bruins suffer a gut-wrenching road loss to the Colorado Buffaloes, in which the Bruins turned the ball over four times, leading to a 35-7 deficit at one point in the first half. Frankly, the Bruins did not look ready to play to start the game. Although UCLA made a pretty good comeback in the second half, the squad dug themselves too deep of a hole in which to climb out of, falling 48-42 to the Buffs.
The Bruins now face the Pac-12 South defending champs, a Utah Utes squad that went 11-3 last year and was in contention for the College Football Playoff until they dropped the Pac-12 Championship Game. They followed that with a loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl. The Utes were supposed to play against Arizona last weekend, but the game had to be cancelled due to COVID. Utah players continue to be affected by the pandemic but, at the time of this writing, the game is still scheduled to be played (although the original Friday night game time has been moved to Saturday night).
Let’s face it. 2020 has been a disaster on many fronts. I cannot think of a single year in my lifetime that has been filled with so much strife, anger, and negativity. (I was too young to remember the final years of Vietnam and the immediate aftermath). UCLA’s football performance last week didn’t help. So, musically, I could either go with the flow and pull out something dark and gothic from the 80s, or grunge from the 90s, or I could try to uplift spirits with my song selection, and pick something positive and/or hopeful (although I refuse to pick “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves). That’s just too sugary sweet. I suppose that we could all use a boost right now so I’m going positive—although I am not keen on the Bruins’ chances this weekend versus the Utes, if the game does go forward.
So, this week’s selection is more of a reflection on the hope for better days (although hope is not a strategy as it pertains to UCLA sports). Also, the purpose of picking the song is to help you get through this week’s PGGs, the first two of which focus on bad things about UCLA’s performance last week. So, maybe I need to balance that out a bit.
Truth be told, although this rock anthem was a huge hit in the United States upon its release in 1981 and is still beloved by multiple generations today due in part to its later use in The Sopranos, Glee, and almost every stadium and arena in the world, I was not a huge fan of this song or this band when the song came out. It has, however, grown on me over time, and the message is on point with my goal of staying positive. Here is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” ( live version from the Escape Tour, 1981):
I believe that we will get through 2020. I believe that we will get past COVID and that better days are ahead. I believe that UCLA football will pull itself out of this funk—although there will likely be necessary changes within the program before that happens.
On to the guesses . . .
Last week, Colorado tailback Jarek Broussard played his first college game. One would think that a combination of inexperience and first game jitters would impact his performance. That was not the case. Broussard gashed the UCLA defense for 187 yards on 31 carries, scoring three rushing touchdowns. In recent years, the soft UCLA defense has allowed breakout games to players who had, before that time, been unknowns. Broussard was just the latest to join the group of guys like Khalil Tate, Tyler Hundley, and Grant Gunnell. I know I am missing some (feel free to add names in the comments). Utah is starting several new skill players at the quarterback position (although the starter is not yet known) as well as running back, with the departures of the aforementioned Hundley and Zack Moss. One (or more) of Jake Bentley, Drew Lisk, or Cameron Rising could take snaps for the Utes. Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore are expected to tote the rock for Utah. Will one of these guys have his breakout performance against the UCLA D? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Which Utah player (if any—none is an acceptable answer) will light up the Bruins defense and become the latest unknown to torch the Bruins?
I am going to continue picking on the defense here. UCLA’s tackling last week was horrendous. Atrocious. Shambolic. Although it had been bad in past seasons, last week really took the cake, IMO. It seemed like on every running play, at least two Bruins would miss tackles that should have been made. I understand that maybe teams aren’t doing tackling drills as much in practice as in the past, and this has likely been magnified by COVID, but that does not excuse UCLA’s performance. Three of the four of UCLA’s top tacklers last week were defensive backs. The highest linebacker on the list was sixth in tackles—Caleb Johnson, with five tackles. Safety Stephen Blaylock led the team with eleven tackles. That tells you all you need to know, but this is borne out by the statistics too. Through one game, UCLA’s rushing defense is #120 out of #123 teams. And that is right on par for Jerry Azzinaro’s defense. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Who will lead UCLA in tackles versus Utah?
OK. Let’s shoot for a positive here. With the departure of Devin Asiasi and the transfer of Jordan Wilson, the tight end position at UCLA was looking a bit thin this season. Especially since Dorian Thompson-Robinson has leaned heavily on his tight ends during his UCLA career. But redshirt sophomore Greg Dulcich stepped in last Saturday and looked great for the Bruins, hauling in four passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. He looked the part. And he could have had more but for some miscommunication where he looked over one shoulder and the ball was thrown over the other on two plays. Not sure who was at fault for that, but nevertheless, Dulcich was THE bright spot for the Bruins. Moreover, the other tight end, Mike Martinez, also shined in a lesser role, grabbing two balls, one of which was for a touchdown, for a total of 24 yards. Combined, UCLA’s tight ends accounted for 150 yards and two touchdowns, on six catches. That’s a 25-yard average and represents almost half of DTR’s 303 passing yards versus the Buffs. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: How many catches, yards, and touchdowns will Dulcich and Martinez have between the two of them versus Utah?
Before we get to this week’s bonus guess, I need to circle back the bonus question from last week, about the crease level in Karl Dorrell’s pants during the game. Well, the answer ended up being (d) dungarees. That’s right; Coach Dorrell’s pants did not have any crease! That’s a far cry from his interview to become UCLA Head Coach back in 2003.
This week’s bonus guess isn’t as whimsical as last week’s bonus guess. There is a real threat that this game will not even be played, as Utah is reportedly very close to falling below the 53 player minimum necessary to play the game. BONUS GUESS: Will the game go forward? Or will it be cancelled? We should know the answer later today.
And, with that, this week’s Pregame Guesses come to a close. Make your guesses and let us know your thoughts on all things UCLA football in the comments below!