What a mess.
Even after a week of rest and extra preparation, UCLA played its worst game of the season in a comprehensive 47-30 pasting by Arizona. It was Jim Mora’s first loss against Rich Rodriguez in 6 games, and it wasn’t even all that close.
Khalil Tate was outstanding yet again. UCLA held Tate to only 234 yards on 15 yards per carry, well under Tate’s 327 yards on 23 yards per carry last week against Colorado. As a whole, the Wildcats rushed for 457 yards at 7 yards a rush, including 75 yards in 4 plays on the opening drive. From there, it was clear that Arizona would run on UCLA at will all game long.
Josh Rosen had by far his worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions that were all horrendous decisions. He now has 6 picks to 4 touchdowns over his last 3 games, and if Rosen can’t elevate his play back to where it was at the start of the season, UCLA will be in for a long and painful rest of the season. He certainly wasn’t helped by 3 Jordan Lasley drops in the first quarter alone, but the offense has come back down to Earth after a supernova of a start.
If there is any positive takeaway, it’s that UCLA’s running game had by far its best game of the season. As a team, the Bruins ran for 5 yards a clip and finished with 190 yards, the most in a single game in the post-Noel Mazzone era. Bolu Olurunfunmi led the way with 102 yards after taking over after a Soso Jamabo fumble.
But that’s it.
To be completely honest, I didn’t watch this game all that closely. The Dodgers were on, and I was too busy socializing throughout both games. But whenever I looked up, I saw Tate rushing for a first down or UCLA’s offense sputtering yet again.
On second watching, there’s not much to take away, or at least not much positive. And with Royce Freeman coming into town on Saturday, it’s hard to see how UCLA can hold him to under 250 or so yards.
And besides, did you want me to recap this game in more detail? I apologize if you did out of a want for schadenfreude, but this was the worst game of the season by far.
This is a deeply flawed football team that seems to be breaking at the seams. It’s foolish to speculate about dynamics within the locker room, but it’s disheartening to read quotes like this from Kenny Young post-game:
Kenny Young: "Some of the guys that I've seen, I don't think they came with the full commitment tonight and I think they know that."— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) October 15, 2017
And to think this came after the bye week, which they presumably used to heal injuries and spend extra time preparing for an offense that they had largely had success against in Jim Mora’s tenure.
The loss dropped Jim Mora to 26-23 in Pac-12 play, which is now a worse winning percentage than one Karl Dorrell. Mora is 8-14 after starting 18-9 in conference play, and the good will he had stored with the fan base after winning 29 games in 3 years is now long gone.
Who knows if this loss in Tucson will be like the last one that marked the beginning of the end for Rick Neuheisel in 2011. At least there was no fight on the field this time. But Mora’s buyout is substantial, and it would take a massive effort previously unseen to raise the funds to remove Mora.
But it’s becoming more and more clear that UCLA football’s decline from 2015 to 2017 is as steep as the ascent he guided from 2012 to 2014. Since Josh Rosen became quarterback, UCLA is 15-16 with signature wins against an over-ranked Arizona team and a comeback against Texas A&M aided by utter incompetence from the Texas A&M coaching staff. It’s unconscionable that Rosen’s talents will have been largely squandered by the time he declares for the NFL draft.
It’s demoralizing football to watch, especially after last year, when the roles were reversed between Kennedy Polamalu’s Cro-Magnon offense and a defense that featured 5 future NFL players. Mora just can’t get the formula right like he did at the start of his UCLA tenure.
If this was the beginning of the end, the Mora era brought some spectacular highs. The 2012 win over USC, the Nebraska victories and the Sun Bowl against Virginia Tech were among the many awesome wins.
But the program is sinking, and it may be time for new leadership. Because at this rate, it looks like it could get a lot worse before it gets a lot better.