Instant Reactions from The Coach and The Don: UCLA Wins Third Straight

Talon Graff
The Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Aaron Stroot | Creative Commons License
The Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Aaron Stroot | Creative Commons License

The Coach

Imagine three or even two weeks ago being told that it is a real world possibility for UCLA to make the Pac 12 Championship game. You would’ve 100% rolled your eyes and thought someone was being a smartass. Well, after winning their third straight, the Bruins need to win their final three games to do just that, and represent the Pac 12 South in the conference championship game.

The biggest roadblock is next week’s opponent who happens to be 8-1 Utah. The Utes are coming off a big victory over a talented Washington team. On paper, UCLA is severely outmatched. Beyond Utah, you have the annual rivalry game between UCLA and USC that once again will have bowl implications, and finally, a CAL team that has fallen off the rails since starting 4-0.

Not a breeze by any means and it is a realistic thought that UCLA may have won its final game of 2019 against Colorado. It is also a somewhat realistic thought that UCLA could be battling for a conference championship. Most likely, they will be battling for a bowl birth against USC.

This team has done a remarkable job of turning its season around after starting 1-5. Joshua Kelley has once again provided the Bruins something to look forward to each week. The next three weeks are not ‘gimmes’, but thanks to the miraculous turnaround ever since the bye week, they’re actually worth watching.

The Don

The UCLA Bruins are officially a team to be reckoned within the PAC 12. They now sit at 4-5 and control their own destiny in the PAC 12 South, after a dominant 31-14 win over the Colorado Buffaloes at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA controlled this game early as they jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and established the run from the get-go. We can talk about the dominance of Joshua Kelley, the emergence and growth of Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and the coaching excellence of Chip Kelly, but I would rather focus on Jerry Azzinaro and the tremendous improvement of the defense as a whole.

On the Bleav In LA Football podcast, it seemed like every week we talked about the struggles with inconsistency for the Bruins’ defense, specifically when it came to fundamentals and tackling. Well, those miscues certainly seem to be a thing of the past. CU quarterback Steven Montez was held under 200 yards passing, and the Buffs as a whole were held to under 100 yards rushing. Elite receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was stifled to only three receptions for 16 yards.

Azzinaro and the defense must be commended for the style of play that they have enacted over this three-game winning streak, and that is the type of football that must be played moving forward to become a feared Power 5 football team. We knew that a Chip Kelly led team would eventually get the offense figured out, and they seem to have done just that, but what we really wanted to see from this team moving forward was a major improvement from the defense. Well, we have seen just that.

Stephan Blaylock, the Sophomore Safety out of St. John Bosco, is one of my favorite players on this defense and is turning into the vocal and on-field leader that the defense needs. He led the team with nine tackles and was all over the field on Saturday. I am excited to see what kind of run this team can make.

One very interesting tidbit, of the Bruins five losses, three came against current Top 25 teams (Cincinnati 17, San Diego State 24, Oklahoma 9). The other two losses came against Arizona, a game in which DTR was lost due to injury, and Oregon State, QB Austin Burton got his first collegiate start. Just some food for thought to leave you with.

The Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Aaron Stroot | Creative Commons License

The Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Aaron Stroot | Creative Commons License