October 1, 2010

UCLA Passing Inquisition - Texas 2010

Though I've explained all this in the PI FAQ, since this is brand-new I'll summarize some important terms for the upcoming post here. After each play, you'll see something along the lines of (CA+, 3). The first item is how I classified that specific pass - the meanings of each classification are here. This will eventually go in the Chart of Hope, the running tally of the entire season's pass results. The second item is what I rated the catch difficulty for the wide receiver. Higher is easier. More specifics can be found here.

Also of note: I will no longer be identifying when UCLA is in a Pistol set-up. If necessary, I will note when they are NOT.

Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 32 2 8 Scramble 3
This route is a designed play-action rollout to the short side of the field. Presley is coming on a drag here, which is well covered. No other routes have a chance to develop, as there is a protection breakdown by Harris, who doesn't get into the d-end at all even though Prince is rolling to his side of the field. Though Prince dodges that tackle, he's already flushed and has to run, and the LB chasing Presley comes up to tackle. Morrell doesn't really make any effort to block once it's clear that he's covered, though a Texas DB probably would have tackled at about the same point anyway. (TA, N/A)
UCLA 35 3 5 Fumble -16
Beautiful individual stunt by the Texas DL, as he fakes Savage into sliding the wrong way (and blocking nobody at all), then blows past Sheller like he's not even there. UCLA was looking to run a little curl route at the sticks - gotta give the QB enough time for one of those, as it's a quick route. This is on the line. Would have liked to have seen a replay to check if Prince's arm was coming forward - they lost a ton of yds on the fumble, though they're lucky to at least get the ball back. (PR, N/A)
Drive Notes: The Bruins have to punt, though they do move the ball reasonably well until the sack/fumble (off. recovery). Both of these attempted pass plays were swarmed well by the Texas D's speed - but UCLA will eventually learn to make that speed work against the Longhorns. Ayers gets his own sack/fumble on the ensuing drive, and UCLA will take over deep in UT territory.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Tex 20 2 10 Blergh INC
Hurr durr. I'll be honest, I hate this call. "You only hate it because it doesn't work." No, I hate it because you're running this play on a short field, so the defensive backs are all much closer to the line of scrimmage than they would be if this was closer to midfield. Barr comes across behind the line, takes the sweep handoff, then flips it to Rosario. Nelson, instead of continuing the reverse, throws the ball to Prince, who has gone out as a receiver. The pass is over his head (a little revenge by Rosario for Prince's numerous overthrows?), and the ball drops to the turf. Even if caught this goes for less than 10 yards anyway, and gets Prince blown up on a tackle. I'd also note these tend not to work as well when the defense has to key on the QB anyway. Like in the Pistol. Oops. (Not charted.)
Tex 20 3 10 Sack -11
UCLA had a ton of trouble with Texas's DEs early on in this game. Here they both simply run past the tight ends (UCLA is in a 2-TE set) and converge on Prince, who has taken a very deep drop due to the play-action fake. I've seen Fauria come in for a lot of heat on his non-blocking here, but Harkey is really no better (and Harkey has inside help from Harris to boot). I might also add that the officials give an absolutely -brutal- spot on this play. You can see Prince get hit just behind the 28. Prince is hit backwards, and lands at the 31. The ball is eventually placed almost at the 32 (?!), and Forbath misses the FG. I was pretty sure the rule was forward progress, not the reverse. That's 3-4 extra yards, which might have made the difference between a make and a miss. It seems petty to talk about it now, but on the road in a scoreless game following a huge turnover, this could have been a major point of momentum to come away scoreless. I could see the officials claiming that Prince gets out of the tackle, but Jeffcoat (the guy who first hits him at the 28) is the one credited with the tackle, soooo... (PR, N/A)
Drive Notes: After such a great turnover, this was pretty painful to come away with nothing here. The trick-pass/sack combo could have been particularly devastating - and it seemed like the rout might be on after Franklin fumbles as soon as the Bruins get the ball back. But the D holds UT to a FG.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 42 1 10 Harkey INC
The Bruins are almost to midfield here before they try a pass - Prince's first attempt of the game that he actually gets off. Harkey has his traditional flat-out drop on a short pass. This is set up pretty well, too, with Barr out in front ready to block for him. Doesn't matter. (CA, 3)
UCLA 43 3 9 Scramble 6
*Note - Power Gun formation* We see Coleman offset behind and to the side of Prince, the rare non-Pistol formation. This is kind of a power shotgun setup, and they used it reasonably often during the game. It's less common than the Pistol, but I'll note where it comes up. It kind of signals where this play goes (rollout to Coleman's side), though he's in great position to help on a block after Harris's man gets by him. It's a run-pass option, and with good coverage, Prince chooses to take off instead of throwing. (TA, N/A)
Drive Notes: UCLA's offense does a good job getting the ball out of their end of the field - this will pay dividends when Westgate strips their returner, setting UCLA up inside Texas's 5-yard line.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Tex 1 2 Goal Marvray 1
*Note - Power Gun formation* Once again Coleman is offset from Prince, to the side he's rolling. UCLA has a run counter to this (Prince hands off and the back heads to the other side of the field), but I'd like to see some sort of a pass counter to this as well. As it stands, teams are just going to sell out to the bootleg-side once Prince gets past the RB. Whatever. They get enough blocking, and Marvray makes a great cut. This is exactly where the ball should go, and it's an easy 6. I'm marking this catch as slightly more difficult, because it requires Marvray to make a good effort to keep himself in-bounds on the catch. (CA, 2)
Drive Notes: They absolutely needed a TD here, and it's encouraging that they got it through the air. Prince's line at this point was 1/2 for 1 yard and a TD. Heh. UCLA stuffs Texas on a 4th-and-3 to start their next drive with great field position. Huge play by Tony Dye.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Tex 26 2 17 Barr 4
Ouch. The CB over Barr comes with a blitz, and Prince recognizes and throws hot to Barr. That's the good news. The bad news is that the UT safety comes flying in and absolutely levels Barr after a short gain. He does a good job to hang on to the ball. Not sure what else UCLA could do here - nice read, right throw, just a good play and hit by Texas. Maybe Prince gets this out a tiny bit quicker, but that's really picking nits. Because Barr has to hang on after a pretty solid hit, I'm recording this (CA, 2)
Tex 21 3 12 Scramble -1
*Note - Power Gun formation* This is that same shotgun offset, and once more Prince rolls to the RB's side with a run-pass option. Nice motion in to block by Presley. I think this is just good coverage - Texas has seen this formation a few times now, and they're ready for it. They leave a man to spy, and both safeties roll over to that side of the field. This is particularly important because Marvray actually breaks behind his man defender, but the safety from the opposite side is now behind the play and able to cover the broken-off route. There has to be some sort of credible threat to throw to the other end of the field out of this roll. (TA, N/A)
Drive Notes: Forbath hits a field goal to put the Bruins up 10-3. Good job to come away with points off the turnover, though another TD would have been nice. The offense has started to move a bit more in this quarter now. Texas has a fumble of its own at the start of their next drive, and now the Bruins are looking to put down the hammer.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Tex 32 2 8 Barr INC
They don't. This is a quick-hitter in the flats, which I think may be off a hot-read, as Barr is totally uncovered at the start of this play (UT brings 5, including the weakside ILB). You can already see how concerned Texas is with UCLA's inside run game, as their ILB doesn't try to slide underneath this route at all, preferring to spy in case there's an RB or QB draw. This wouldn't have been a huge gain, but it would have brought the Bruins close to a first down. Prince throws it high and behind Barr's curl, and it's tipped dangerously into the air before falling harmlessly to the turf. This is the same type of throw, and same type of tip, as Prince's INT last week thrown behind Rosario. (IN, 1)
Tex 32 3 8 Thigpen INC
Bunch formation. Prince is flushed from the pocket as Texas overloads the strong side, and Harkey can't keep up with Texas's defensive end. Prince rolls playside and then throws the ball away as he doesn't see anybody. If you look, you can see Embree break behind the safety on the other side of the field - he's got 1-on-1 coverage with a half-step, but Prince has already rolled the other direction. There is no way in the world he even attempts this throw, though if he'd stayed in the pocket he might have been able to make it (if given the time). He tosses the ball out of bounds in order to stay in FG range. I wonder if he could have gotten it to Thigpen. I guess this is (TA, 0).
Drive Notes: Forbath hits another FG, and it's now 13-3. Going 3-and-out after a turnover isn't great, but they still manage to get points from it. This is probably Prince's worst series, with a terrible throw and then another called pass play that he might have converted with more patience or a better read. The Longhorns get Akeem-ed, though, and the Bruins AGAIN pick up great field position for the 4th straight drive (Tex 4, UCLA 41, Tex 33, Tex 42). The Bruins surely will step on Texas's throat now... right?
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Tex 21 2 8 Fumble N/A
Wrong. This is the same CB blitz Prince avoided via hot route earlier. This time he doesn't pick it up (despite the CB telegraphing it as soon as Prince does the silent count 'step'). The issue is compounded as Franklin steps forward like he's going to get a fake handoff, so he never glances to the blind side. Rosario does the right thing and immediately turns for a quick pass, with acres of green in front of him. Prince, however, has locked on to the three receivers on the strong side of the formation, and is in the process of throwing as he gets hammered. Strip. Fumble. Texas ball. If Prince even so much as glances away from his primary receiver here he spots this, so I'm going to call this (BR, N/A) - though the caveat here is that this might have been called from the booth.
Drive Notes: Texas threatens but does not score before the half. 13-3 UCLA after 30 minutes. That's good - but after looking at all the missed opportunities, the offense definitely left some points on the field that could have made this game much safer (a 10-point lead on the road against a super-talented team isn't exactly a guaranteed win). Still - a lead's a lead.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 1 10 Presley 6
The Bruins begin the second half with a throw, presumably to back Texas off the line just a bit. Presley lines up in the slot, and just runs a quick out. Easy pitch-and-catch for solid first-down yardage. I like this. UCLA should be able to get this play consistently given their combination of athletes at the skill position and a good run game to keep defenses honest. (CA, 3)
Drive Notes: UCLA proceeds to march the rest of the way down the field on nothing but run-plays. Touchdown. UCLA up by 17. Really?! The Bruins begin just -pounding- the ball on offense. Texas and UCLA trade punts, and the Longhorns get themselves a field goal to get within two TDs. On the ensuing kickoff, Smith takes the ball to midfield, and 3 plays later the Bruins are in the end zone again! 27-6, Bruins! UCLA ends UT's next drive by stuffing a Texas 4th down try inside the Bruins 25-yd line.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 38 3 4 Rosario 6
After having the drive extended by a UT substitution penalty on 4th down, the Bruins are in 'kill clock' mode here. However, they need to move the chains, so they return to the air after something like 22 straight running plays. Rosario motions across the formation, then turns and heads back towards his original side, and the ball is snapped just as he clears the left tackle. Prince locks on to him, but manages to get the ball out quickly as Rosario comes out of his break, allowing him to catch and turn up the field to get beyond the first-down marker. I can't tell if this is partly due to defensive indifference - the DB covering Nelson is in press-man coverage at first, but by the time the ball is snapped he's 7(!) yards off the line, on a 3rd-and-4. Still, nice easy completion for the first. (CA, 3)
UCLA 48 3 4 Rosario 10
Deja vu - another 3rd-and-5 after two runs goes to Rosario for another first down. Once again Prince immediately locks onto Rosario at the snap - the coaches are clearly only asking him to make one read on these pass plays. This is a pretty good hook-up - the coverage stays in press-man this time, but Prince puts the ball exactly where he should, and with perfect timing. I'm going to emphasize this again, because it's one of the few (if any) times he's done that this year - perfect timing. The ball arrives almost immediately as Rosario makes his turn. If this is a half-second later, the DB has an easy PBU, and a shot at a pick-6. A half-second sooner, and it hits Nelson in the back. These are the sorts of pass plays that the UCLA passing offense just hasn't made so far this season. (DO, 3)
Drive Notes: This drive was one of the best UCLA has had all season, even if it didn't result in points. They absolutely controlled the clock, and effectively ended the game by hanging on to the ball for well over half the quarter. By this point, Texas simply doesn't have enough time remaining (barring something extremely unusual). The Bruins give up a garbage-time TD (Texas misses a 2-pt conversion), then score one of their own, to leave the final score at 34-12, Bruins. End of the game.

Chart of Hope:
 Opponent   DO   CA   MA   IN   BR   TA   BA   PR   DSR 
KSU 2 13 (2) 2 6 (1) 5 - 1 (1) 3 46% (13/28)
Stanford 1 10 (2) - 2 2 - - 2 60% (9/15)
Houston 1 11 (2) 1 3 1 1 1 (1) 1 59% (10/17)
Texas 1 5 - 1 1 4 - 2 43% (6/14)

Remember, DSR, or "Downfield Success Rate," is a measure of the number of catchable passes he throws down the field (DO+CA) out of all his downfield passes (DO+CA+MA+IN+BR+TA+PR) - balls batted at the LOS don't count, nor do screen plays.

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Presley - - - 1/1 - - 0/1 2/3
Embree - - - - 7 1/3 - 2/3
Coleman----1- -2/2
Smith - - --1 -0/11/1
Marvray--1/1- 41/12/32/3
Franklin--- --0/11/11/1
Barr-0/1 1/1-10/32/32/2
Harkey---0/1 --1/31/3
Thigpen1- -- 1--1/1

September 25, 2010

UCLA Passing Inquisition - Houston 2010

Though I've explained all this in the PI FAQ, since this is brand-new I'll summarize some important terms for the upcoming post here. After each play, you'll see something along the lines of (CA+, 3). The first item is how I classified that specific pass - the meanings of each classification are here. This will eventually go in the Chart of Hope, the running tally of the entire season's pass results. The second item is what I rated the catch difficulty for the wide receiver. Higher is easier. More specifics can be found here.

Also of note: EVERY pass-play charted for this game was out of the Pistol formation, so I will no longer be identifying when UCLA is in a Pistol set-up. If necessary for future games, I will note when they are NOT. Norm and Rick have thrown all their eggs in this basket. Let's hope it doesn't end up with yolk on everybody's face.

Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 46 3 6 Harkey INC
This pass is a simple out, which should go for a first down. And Cory Harkey lets it bounce off his hands and out of bounds. I think it needs to be said - Harkey has been a major issue so far this season. He'll come up with a nice play every once in a while, it's true. But he's dropped numerous key throws (the bomb in the Stanford game in particular), and his blocking has been weak as well. Presley has been the far superior blocker, and Barr the far superior pass-catcher. (CA, 3)
Drive Notes: It's about time UCLA kicked off a game with some plays on the ground - they move the ball successfully to about midfield. They don't get a ton of yards, but it allows them to pin Houston deep in their own territory after the punt, instead of letting them start close to midfield. Considering Houston's ensuing drive makes it all the way to the UCLA 12 before stalling (resulting in a FG), those extra yards likely meant the difference between 3 and 7.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Hou 27 1 10 Thigpen 9
Hey, it's Damien Thigpen, back on offense! He lines up in the slot and runs a quick out to the far side of the field, and Prince play-actions then rolls that direction. I'm not sure what Houston's DC was trying to accomplish with this play-call, as the defender lined up over Thigpen heads into the flat before pausing for a moment, then trying to backpedal and get back to Damien, who is now wiiiiide open near the sideline. I'd like to see Prince make this throw a tad sooner to give Thigpen a bit more room to work with, but he hits him on the numbers for a solid gain, so (CA+, 3).
Hou 18 2 1 Embree INC
Designed screen that is just blown up by a good playcall by Houston and poor blocking on the left side of the OLine, who give up WAY too much ground considering this is a bubble screen and not a jailbreak RB screen. The end tips the ball up in the air at the line, and it falls to the ground. This wasn't going anywhere anyway - the Houston CB broke on this perfectly and had Embree dead to rights even if he caught it (BA, 0, screen).
Drive Notes: The Bruins then proceed to run the ball in behind Franklin and some solid run-blocking. This would be a theme for the whole game - moderately-effective passes that kept Houston just honest enough for the run game to do the actual work. Prince looks infinitely more comfortable in this game than he did the last two weeks.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 30 1 10 Embree INC
Play-action dropback. Prince has a good amount of time to load up and throw, but he waits a bit long and gets hit before the ball is fully released. Watch Harris hold the end, and still fail to keep him from getting to the QB. Not good. The rest of the line has done reasonably well here, though the left side is still getting shoved back much further than the right. Rosario blows away the DB off the line, and a quick throw probably gets to him before the safety can come over to help. Prince instead waits for Embree to come somewhat open, but pats the ball and doesn't get the throw out in time. The Rosario throw would have been a pretty dicey option, so I'll chart this (PR, 0)
UCLA 31 3 9 Rosario 16
Once again Harris has a problem in protection, as he leaves a standup DE completely unblocked in order to help doubling on a DT. Fortunately, Franklin gets him enough with the cut block that he can't reach Prince, who can step up and wing this ball to Rosario. It's a bit short, and causes Nelson to drop to the ground to catch it, but it's a relatively easy attempt for a nice gain on a big third down. (CA, 2)
Hou 46 3 3 Marvray 7
Prince's second nice 3rd-down pass in a row. Twins tight on the left side of the formation, and they both head upfield, as does Harkey from the TE spot right next to them. Prince finds Marvray in a soft spot of the defense, and gets the ball to him quickly for the first. The throw's a bit behind Ricky - if this is on his inside shoulder, he probably turns it upfield for a nice run after the catch - but Marvray pulls it in. (CA, 2)
Hou 38 2 9 Marvray 22
This is easily the best catch of the season so far - Embree's from last week only multiplied in difficulty and importance. Solid protection (Sheller's guy gets a bit too close, but isn't fast enough) allows Prince to really rocket this out. It just barely gets past one defender, and looks headed for the 3rd-row, when Marvray proceeds to snatch it out of the air, keep his feet once he lands, bounce off a couple of tackles, and fight for extra yards even as he's tackled. Just an unbelievable play by Marvray. I'm almost tempted to call this a Bad Read, due to the three Houston defenders all in the area to make a play on this ball. But, results-based charting, so (CA-, 1).
Hou 16 1 10 Rosario INC
This is on Rosario. He needs to not turn and backpedal so soon - should have been a TD. I think this might have actually been Prince's best throw of the night, because it's placed so that the DB can't get at it. But, just like the last play, it's results-based charting, so I don't think any pass that high above your 6'+ receiver can receive better than a (CA+, 2).
Drive Notes: Prince strings a few completions together, but none of them are particularly great. Still, this is probably the most successful series of passes on a drive not against late-game Prevent D. Prince ends up doing the rest of the work with his feet, and UCLA scores another TD to go up 14-3.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Hou 44 2 12 Marvray 15-yd Pen
Flat-out drop by Marvray on a tunnel screen. This wasn't going anywhere anyway - the Houston MLB is in position to tackle immediately. The culprit here is Joe Fauria (I didn't even realize he'd been in the game), who whiffs on his block on the OLB, forcing Taylor to turn to try to pick that man up and leave the middle backer. Late hit penalty on Prince turns this into UCLA's 3rd-best pass play of the evening. The hit was clearly late, but pretty light - I'm not surprised it was called, but I think this gets let go in a road game. (CA, 3, screen)
Hou 29 1 10 Franklin 9
Nice swing pass to Franklin, who does most of the heavy lifting himself in turning this from 3 yards into 9. Eddie Williams should also be commended for not quitting on the play and getting in a nice block 8 yards past the LOS. (CA, 3, screen)
Hou 14 1 10 Harkey 8
Play-action rollout to the left, with an unmarked man closing in on Prince fast. He does a good job of slinging this ball from the hip (visions of a significantly less-talented Brett Favre, I suppose), getting it out to Harkey, who finally manages to pull one in. It's a bit low and he does a nice job of corralling the ball and heading towards the sticks. (CA-, 2)
Drive Notes: Houston's defense is mostly worn-down at this point in the half, and the Bruins bludgeon them into the end zone, with Franklin scoring untouched on a short run at the end. 21-3, UCLA. Houston finally responds with a long Case Keenum drive... until he's picked off at the goal line and hurts himself trying to tackle Akeem Ayers. UCLA fumbles the ball right back, but with no Keenum, Houston's offense is in total shambles and they punt back in short order.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Hou 32 1 10 Embree 12
Another play-action rollout, and Prince hits Embree right in the numbers off a little 8-yd out. Houston's DBs are WAAAAY off the line of scrimmage, except the one on Thigpen. I get that it's 30 seconds to halftime, but the Bruins are already at your 30 and have 2 timeouts - giving up easy 10-yard gains is not conducive to success - and the one guy you don't give a cushion to is the fastest UCLA player on the field. This is an easy play, but it's not always an easy throw. (CA+, 3)
Hou 20 1 10 Rosario INT
Just too high for Rosario, whose fingertips unfortunately deflect the ball high into the air and allow a Houston DB to run under it for a relatively easy INT. Both the receivers split at the left side of the formation are being given HUGE cushions by the Houston DBs, and a quick pass like this would have been an 8-12 yard gain if the throw isn't 9 feet off the ground. I've seen some people criticize Rosario for dogging it, but I think he's just the type of athlete who looks to be moving slower than he is - he's very "smooth." Here he's got a nice break, and acres of space to catch the ball, but it's far too high. That's not on him. (IN, 1)
Drive Notes: UCLA runs the ball deep into Cougar territory before going back to the air, resulting in the turnover. It's unfortunate that they can't score here, because another touchdown would have likely ended the game at that moment. Though it would turn out not to make much difference, an offense like Houston's is very dangerous even with a backup QB at the helm, and two straight turnovers inside Houston's 20 yard line could have easily let them back into the game. End of the 1st Half.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 43 2 7 Rosario 11
Best completed throw of the day. Prince has tons of time, and waits for Rosario to come open before nailing him with a nice dart. He's still locking in on his first read sometimes, and pats the ball again before the toss, but the throw itself is excellent, and gets to Rosario before the closing LB can arrive. (CA+, 3)
Hou 20 1 10 Embree INC
Another really nice throw by Prince, though I'd love to see him look off Embree at Rosario here (Nelson has single coverage against a safety in the zone here once the corner slows up). The DB simply makes a nice play on the ball, even as Embree tries to use his body to prevent that. Considering where the safety and corner are playing, this is exactly where this ball should be placed, and it's on a line from 25 yards away. (DO, 0)
Hou 20 3 10 Sack -4
This is definitely on Prince for not getting the ball out sooner. Franklin does a nice job cutting the blitzing LB, and this should be thrown quickly to Barr or Harkey as they make their cuts, especially Harkey (who has space for a moment and the size to shed a tackle or two). He hangs on and gets taken down eventually. (BR, N/A)
Drive Notes: Houston kicks the ball OOB and UCLA starts with great field position. They manage to move the ball well and get points out of their opening drive of the half, which is a solid outcome to prevent any Houston momentum from building after the last-second turnover to close the 2nd quarter. Prince has a couple of great throws in this drive, though very good defense stuffs one. Forbath is true from 41 yards, and the Bruins lead 24-3. They spend most of the rest of the half hammering away with the ground game. I approve.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 1 10 Barr INC
This is either a miscommunication between Prince and Barr, or an absolutely awful throw. I'm not ruling either out. I think Prince sees the CB get up into Barr briefly and throws as if Anthony will be significantly slowed-up. He's not, and the ball's 5 yards behind him. Gotta let your receivers run up under those fly routes. (IN, 0)
UCLA 25 3 5 Barr INC
Back to Barr (who had been nonexistent before this point in the game), who motions across the formation, then runs a curl and is open for a first. Prince airmails it. This is a beautiful play design against bump-and-run coverage, by the way, using the CB shading Rosario to screen off Barr from the LBs. I should add, though, that if this was a disguised zone, this could have easily turned into a pick-six. (IN, 1)
Drive Notes: Not much of interest here. Hello Anthony Barr! On their next possession, Houston has a poor punt from deeeeep in its own half (thanks to an Ayers-caused intentional grounding), and a big return by Embree sets up a one-play drive for Franklin's 3rd TD. UCLA by 28. Larimore knocks Houston's back-up QB out on their next series (on a hit that in my opinion was, in fact, late).
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 26 3 3 Scramble 1
The game's more-or-less over, but you still would like to see UCLA convert on a 3rd-and-short. Prince rolls out and has Franklin in front, and he doesn't see anything he particularly likes so pulls the ball and runs, cutting it up the middle. That's a shame, because Franklin sets up to block like Prince will continue to the outside. The LB therefore has an opening, and grabs Prince's jersey, dragging him down short of the first. I think Prince actually has this if he keeps going outside. (TA, N/A)
Drive Notes: Move along, nothing to see here. Turn on the "Kill Clock" option on NCAA '11. Though Houston would put together a nice-looking drive for a TD to follow this (Broadway, their frosh QB, has a lot of potential).
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 3 10 Marvray 5
Not a fan of this particular throw, as it's low and behind Marvray, forcing him to drop to his knees to catch it. He needed to keep his footing to have any chance of running for the first, so a throw that causes him to down himself short of the sticks isn't really any better than an incompletion anyway. It's also late, for what that's worth - the ball should be coming out as Marvray comes out of his break, to give him more room to run to the sidelines. I wish the camera would show if Presley was open downfield, as he gets a great jump off the line and blows right by the LB assigned to guard him. (MA, 3)
Drive Notes: Glad to see this get caught to keep the clock rolling, as any pass short of the first-down marker here confuses me - why risk stopping the clock for anything less than a first? I know the game's outcome is likely no longer in much doubt, but this is Houston! Best-offense-in-the-country Houston. Super-fast no-huddle Houston. A 21-point deficit is hardly an insurmountable peak for them. Granted, they were playing their 4th-string QB, but it's a principle thing more than anything else. Anyway, UCLA proceeds to bludgeon Houston a bit more before time finally reads zeroes, and the Bruins walk off the field with their first win of the year. End of the game.

So What?

God, that was so much better than last week. Enough so, that I'm willing to remove the ironic quote-marks around the Chart of Hope! Brehaut's 'overall' chart won't be included until he gets a bit more work again. So. Kevin Prince:

 Opponent   DO   CA   MA   IN   BR   TA   BA   PR   DSR 
KSU 2 13 (2) 2 6 (1) 5 - 1 (1) 3 46% (13/28)
Stanford 1 10 (2) - 2 2 - - 2 60% (9/15)
Houston 1 11 (2) 1 3 1 1 1 (1) 1 59% (10/17)

Remember, DSR, or "Downfield Success Rate," is a measure of the number of catchable passes he throws down the field (DO+CA) out of all his downfield passes (DO+CA+MA+IN+BR+TA+PR) - balls batted at the LOS don't count, nor do screen plays. Once again, Prince turns in a respectable number, right around 60%. And once more, that figure is inflated because the Bruins are doing everything they can to help him avoid big mistakes.

Prince attempts throws of more than 10 yards just 7 times this game (that means, his targeted receiver is at least 10 yards past the LOS where he would have caught the ball, if a reception is made). And only 2 attempts of over 20 yards. Their 3rd-longest "pass" play was a 15-yard penalty for a late hit (not even a PI). This offense is grinding the ball down the field. And that's honestly fine by me - keep the defense on the sideline, wear down opponents, etc.

But this style of offense only works if you execute properly. That's why Neuheisel talks so much about dropped passes, or missing open receivers, or penalties. Those things are obviously always painful. But if you're usually not expecting to get more than 7-8 yards on a successful pass play, then you have to make sure almost all your plays are successful. That's why one single drop or penalty almost always seems to kill drives for this team: they're not set up to handle it.

Speaking of dropped passes... Receiverchart, HOOOOOOO:

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Presley - - - - - - 0/1 1/2
Embree 3 - - 1/1 7 1/3 - 2/3
Coleman----1- -2/2
Smith - - --1 -0/11/1
Marvray-1/11/11/2 41/11/22/3
Franklin--- 1/1-0/11/11/1
Barr10/1 --10/21/22/2
Harkey--1/10/1 --1/31/2
Thigpen-- -1/1 ---1/1

Much more equitable distribution of pass targets this time. Nobody has more than 4, and Prince throws at 7 different receivers - which doesn't sound like a lot until you remember he only had 18 targets total. Embree and Rosario are still the main cogs here, but Marvray comes on strong (though how does he drop that screen?!). Prince still isn't getting a ton of help from his receivers (two drops of "3" passes is unconscionable), though they did a good job of managing his throws even when they weren't always precisely on-target, going 4/5 on "2" catches (as a reminder, "2"s are usually caught around a 60-70% rate).

Going forward?

Good news! The offense has a pulse! Bad news! They have to go play the country's best run defense next!

In all seriousness, @Texas is almost certainly a loss (memories of '97 notwithstanding), but the key is to show progress. They need to be a bit more aggressive in the aerial attack - even incompletions can be helpful at opening up a defense. This team has obviously committed to the running game at this point. "Run the ball or die trying," I believe, were Neuheisel's words when he first arrived - he's living them now, it seems. Barring a massive upset by UCLA at Texas, or a massive upset of UCLA at home vs. Washington State, we probably won't know a whole lot more about this UCLA offense for a while yet.

In particular, the run-game is the (hopeful) question mark. The passing game has been, if not written off, assumed to be not a particular strength. But the Bruins are averaging 5.05 yards per carry (YPC) against two BCS schools and a solid non-AQ. That's a full yard-and-a-half better than they were last season, an enormous improvement.

So why the hesitancy on the kool-aid? KSU and Houston have very undersized defensive lines. And while Stanford has stuffed the run in its non-UCLA games, its other two opponents are a D-IAA team and a Wake Forest outfit that just squeaked past Duke yet still averaged almost 4 YPC against the Cardinal. However, it should be noted that the Bruins averaged 5.63 YPC on non-sack rushes all the same, and Stanford has tended to have solid offensive lines since the arrival of Harbaugh.

For reference, UCLA had 991 yards rushing in the entire 2008 season. They have over 600 already this year. This team is clearly improved on the ground - the only question is, by how much.

And as the run game continues to thrive, the passing game will improve, if only as opposing defenses are forced to put more men in the box to respect the ground game. The Bruins have already seen some success off of play-action, and I think it's only a matter of time before they hit one or two big plays because a safety has crept up against the threat of UCLA's rushing attack. Prince has shown a bit better touch on some deeper throws - he just has to re-locate his timing and rhythm with the receivers when he does attempt the bombs.

September 14, 2010

UCLA Passing Inquisition - Stanford 2010

Though I've explained all this in the PI FAQ, since this is brand-new I'll summarize some important terms for the upcoming post here. After each play, you'll see something along the lines of (CA+, 3). The first item is how I classified that specific pass - the meanings of each classification are here. This will eventually go in the Chart of Hope, the running tally of the entire season's pass results. The second item is what I rated the catch difficulty for the wide receiver. Higher is easier. More specifics can be found here.

Ed. - 2nd half later today, as are charts. Full analysis and video to come tomorrow. Everything should be up and running now.

Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 19 1 10 Rosario INC
The Bruins start the game off with a bomb attempt from a snap under center (I don't remember if they did this once last week). It's a pretty simple straight fly pattern. The DB gets into Rosario and slows him up a bit off the line, but Prince just overthrows him. This is a tough pass, but the play is there if the ball is better-thrown. (IN, 0)
Drive Notes: An immediate 3-and-out leading to a punt. An inauspicious debut for this season's offense, to be sure. Yes, the last two sentences were copy-pasted from last week. Oh good. They try some runs here deep in their own territory, but Coleman can't quite attack the holes quickly enough. Stanford scores a TD on the next drive.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 32 3 1 Coleman -2
A lot of Coleman to start this game. Here UCLA takes a quick snap on third and short, which they also did last week. But while at KSU they made it with an inside blast, the call here is a pass. Harkey just COMPLETELY whiffs on his block, but I think this was a designed screen, which is too bad: I think Rosario's got single coverage on the top here with no deep help to that side. The Stanford safety isn't fooled at all (on 3rd and short - surprise!), and comes up to immediately tackle short of the LOS. (CA, 3, Screen)
Drive Notes: An immediate 3-and-out leading to a punt. An inauspicious debut for this season's offense, to be sure. Yes, the last two sentences were copy-pasted from last paragraph. Oh good. LOTS of DC here. I just don't think he has the burst necessary for plays like this. The ensuing Stanford drive goes 80+ yards, but the D holds for only a FG.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 26 1 10 Embree 15-yd Pen
*Note - Pistol formation* Franklin gets a shot at TB, and doesn't do a particularly good job blocking the blitzing LB, though far worse is Kia missing almost entirely on a straight edge rush. Prince is pressured here a bit, and the throw probably sails on him as a result. Once more they've got single coverage to the WR on the strong side. This throw isn't great, but Embree draws a PI call on a ball he probably never would have gotten to, but who knows? Results-based charting will label this (CA-, 1).
UCLA 41 1 10 Embree 17
*Note - Pistol formation* Hey, another first down! Pretty solid amount of time here for Prince to load up and gun this ball. The throw is high, but Embree climbs the ladder and hauls the pass in. The pass is understandably a bit over Embree's head, as Prince needs to clear a linebacker helping underneath. Still, a very nice catch to bring the ball in, and something sorely lacking from last week. (CA, 1)
Stan 40 2 8 Rosario 5
*Note - Pistol formation* Quick curl route to get a much easier 3rd-down distance. Rosario just goes out 5 yards and turns around, and Prince delivers the ball on-time before the LB can slide over. Nice pitch-and-catch. (CA+, 3)
Stan 37 3 5 Sack -7
*Note - Pistol formation* A Ricky Marvray hold wipes out a very nice run by Coleman to the 15-yd line, so UCLA has to try again on 3rd-and-5. Prince has some time, but can't find anybody downfield, and eventually Prince gets sacked. On looking at this again, I think this was maybe supposed to go to Carroll as a checkdown/screen, but Harkey gets shoved back straight into him, knocking him off his route coming across behind the LOS. Nobody's left open. This is 4 Cardinal defenders (the 5th man coming in late was spying) vs. 6 UCLA blockers - Prince should have had more time. Also, I think the play was thrown off by the poor blocking of Harkey, so (PR, N/A)
Drive Notes: The Bruins are moving the ball a bit better here, and the hold really hurts what could have been a TD drive. Interestingly, after the UCLA D forces a punt, their next offensive sequence has nothing but running plays. They're moving down the field extremely well, when Carroll has the ball stripped, leading to a Stanford recovery and another Cardinal FG. The following kick goes OOB.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 40 1 10 Rosario 8
*Note - Pistol formation* GREAT field position to start this drive. Stanford is playing waaaaay off Rosario here, and UCLA takes advantage with an easy curl for a quick 8 yards with nobody even close to Nelson. (CA, 3)
Stan 28 2 14 Sack -7
*Note - Pistol formation* The Bruins have had a lot of success running the ball well into Stanford territory, but a Williams false start on 1st-down really hurts the team here. When Stanford stuffs the ensuing 1st-and-15 run, UCLA is almost forced to pass. The Cardinal again only rush 4 (with a 5th man spying) against 6 UCLA blockers, and still get to Prince. He's patting the ball looking to pass, but I think this was a slow-developing play with the blockers to protect him. They didn't. (PR, N/A)
Stan 35 3 21 Marvray INT
*Note - Pistol formation* 3rd-and-21. This will go well. I think Prince believes Marvray is behind the coverage if he can get it to the back corner of the end-zone. He is no Doug Flutie. He short-arms the throw into double-coverage, and it wasn't even Rosario or Embree (who are at least big and could maybe win a jump-ball). Once more it's a 4-man rush with a spy (Stanford's answer to the Pistol) but the pocket still collapses. The run blocking has been pretty good, but the pass protection is lacking. This time it's Taylor who can't hold his block. Still, just an awful idea to throw this ball, with Forbath certainly able to make a 50 yard field goal. (BR, 0)
Drive Notes: The Bruins are moving the ball a bit better here, and the hold false start really hurts what could have been a TD drive. I have begun repeating myself. The ground game is coming to life as Franklin and Jones get more work. I don't think that's an accident. The D holds to give the Bruins one last shot before the half, and Embree once again deserves an Oscar for his 2nd undeserved drawn kick catch interference penalty in 2 weeks. Veteran savvy!
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
Stan 38 1 10 Scramble 6
*Note - Pistol formation* Okay, UCLA. 80 seconds left in the half, you're already inside Stanford's 40, and you've actually been the better team for the last 10 minutes or so. What do you do? ... Huh. Franklin motions out wide from the Pistol back spot, then takes off downfield from about 5 yards behind the LOS. I don't like the decision to try going deep when just a few yards gets a FG, and a first down stops the clock. Prince does do a good job of fighting for yards on his run. However, he completely misses Marvray coming across the middle here on a short drag - he'd have been 1-on-1 with a linebacker, probably gotten at least 3 or 4, and had a good shot at 1st-down yardage or more, plus he was headed towards the sideline and could have stopped the clock. (BR, N/A)
Stan 32 2 4 Harkey INC
Once again, when UCLA 'needs' a long pass play, they switch out of the Pistol formation. Interesting. This is the best throw of the night by Prince. So, of course, it's dropped. And it's not dropped because of the hit - you can see the ball coming loose (alternate camera angle) before Harkey gets knocked by the DB. This is one of those examples where, yes, it's only a "single drop," but the impact is so much greater because of the combination of points off the board and momentum lost. Hits him on his hands in stride - he has to reach out, but this is Division 1 football, not Pop Warner. Great route, great throw. Gotta finish that with a catch. (DO, 2)
Stan 37 3 9 Harkey INC
AGAIN in the Pro Set. AGAIN to Harkey. And the first long pass play last week was also to Harkey from this formation. I think Prince gets into habits sometimes. Here, the protection is good, and Harkey gets fairly open across the middle (though short of the 1st down). The throw is high and behind him a bit, and he can't hold on to the ball. This could have gotten UCLA back into FG range. (CA-, 2)
Drive Notes: The second straight drive late in this half with fantastic field position that garners 0 points. Even a pair of FGs would have totally changed the complexion of the game, much less a TD or two. Instead the team is booed off the field. End of the 1st half.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 11 1 10 Barr 0
*Note - Pistol formation* UCLA gets the ball to start the second-half, and opens with a little screen to Barr, who is lined up as the F-back motioning across the formation. The safety comes up quickly to tackle for no gain. (CA, 3, Screen)
UCLA 11 2 10 Rosario 10
*Note - Pistol formation* (Ed. - At least, I think it's Pistol; ESPN comes back to the play after the ball is snapped.) Play action rollout here, and Rosario is open on another one of those 5-yard curls. This play is there more often than not, and Prince hits him with another easy throw. Rosario turns upfield and gets close to the first before getting hit out of bounds. They give it to him on the spot. (CA, 3)
UCLA 27 3 4 Embree 6-yd Pen
*Note - Pistol formation* Embree comes across the formation and runs the same 5-yard curl UCLA's used for the majority of their passing success. It works here again, as the LB hits Embree too soon and gets called for PI. You can also see Rosario about to break free when he's dragged down at the top of the screen. He would have been running free behind the safety otherwise, though I don't think Prince saw him. The pass is fine, if a bit late - Embree has already fully completed his curl and has to wait for Prince to throw. (CA, 1)
Stan 34 1 10 Rosario INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Prince audibles into this pass play, which is a deep route for Rosario. He gets 1-on-1 coverage, but can't get any separation. This is actually a pretty nice throw from Prince, but the CB for Stanford does a good job of fighting through Rosario's handplay to swat the ball away. I think Rosario needs to slow up a bit and try to catch this higher, so that the CB has to go through him to get to the ball. (CA, 0)
Stan 32 3 8 Rosario INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Tons of time here, including a fantastic blitz pickup by Anthony Barr. Prince has Rosario open on yet ANOTHER curl, this time at about the 20-yard line. He throws this ball way too high, though, and Rosario is unable to make what would have been a spectacular one-handed catch. (IN, 1)
Drive Notes: Another good drive stalls after a couple of incomplete long pass plays. I can't really put the onus on the coaches here, though - Prince audibles into the long bomb, Jones gets stuffed, then Prince misfires on an open Rosario. Forbath misses the FG. Fitting. Stanford follows with a 9-minute TD drive that effectively ends the game, given UCLA's offense to that point. Of course, the next UCLA play from scrimmage is the strip-fumble-TD. 28-0 Cardinal. Goodnight, Kevin.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 42 1 10 Scramble 2
*Note - Pistol formation* Brehaut in. Just in case that wasn't clear. Play-action off the fake dive. Stanford isn't fooled, and drops 7 into coverage against only 2 UCLA receivers (Barr motions across but stays in to block). Brehaut has tons of time but can't find anybody downfield, so he takes off for a short gain. I think he probably could have waited another second or two to see if anybody came open, but this is clearly a case of coverage, so gets marked as a (TA, N/A).
UCLA 44 2 8 Sack -3
*Note - Pistol formation* Once more 4 Stanford linemen attack 6 UCLA blockers. Really, Brehaut has a fair amount of time to throw here, but doesn't see anything. UCLA looks to be running 4 deep routes, which take longer, and before they complete the DL splits the Taylor/Williams double-team. At the end of the play, Brehaut puts the ball on the ground as he's tackled, but Franklin falls on it immediately. I'm tempted to label this a throwaway too, but I think these routes were slow-developing, so I'll chart it as (PR, N/A).
Drive Notes: A pair of runs end up a yard short, and UCLA turns the ball over on downs. This was not what the coaches were hoping to see, with Brehaut coming in and showing his same hesitancy in the pocket, and again putting the ball on the turf. Stanford takes the good field position and uses it for a TD. Stanford pulls their starters for the rest of the game.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 28 1 10 Rosario 11
*Note - Pistol formation* Play-action rollout, and Brehaut finally throws his first pass of the season. It's a nice dart to Rosario, who again is hanging out after another open 5-yard curl. Stanford's playing pretty soft, here, so this is wide open with space to run for the first after. (CA, 3)
UCLA 39 1 10 Rosario 9
*Note - Pistol formation* This is a pretty nice pass under pressure. Presley comes across the formation to block, and just flails at the DL (this was schemed intentionally, and would have worked well if he had done a better job). Stanford is in the backfield immediately, and Brehaut has to throw with a hand in his face. Rosario has cut back towards the sideline on his route, and Brehaut hits him in stride just before getting leveled. This is not an easy pass, and it's exactly the sort of throw UCLA has been missing so far this season. (CA+, 3)
UCLA 48 2 1 Marvray INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Quick hitter on a go route - he's got Marvray open, but just throws it 3 yards behind him. They had this play if they wanted it all night, really - Stanford's corners were playing very soft all game. (IN, 0)
Stan 48 1 10 Barr 12
*Note - Pistol formation* After lining up in trips, there's a nice catch-and-run by Anthony Barr. Brehaut puts the ball in a spot where he can continue in the same direction towards the middle of the field off his break, and Barr does the rest. Once again, Brehaut delivers the ball right before the arrival of the Stanford DL (same one that hit him on his previous completion, I believe). Griffiths and Taylor get split this time. (CA+, 3)
Stan 36 1 10 Presley 2
*Note - Pistol formation* This time Brehaut clearly lacks the timing he showed on previous passes, waiting much too long for Presley to come open. The route's very obvious, and the LB is waiting for him as soon as the ball arrives, holding the gain to very short. The throw is a bit low, and Presley goes to the ground to catch it, but he wasn't getting any further anyway. Even so, considering it's late and low, I'm tabbing this (MA, 3).
Stan 29 1 10 Smith INC
*Note - Pistol formation* After a Marvray late hit mostly nullifies a very nice Malcom Jones run, Brehaut tries for the home run and overthrows Josh Smith. Coverage was there anyway. (IN, 0)
Stan 29 2 10 Smith 8
*Note - Pistol formation* Rollout here, and Brehaut goes right back to Smith, connecting for a moderate gain. Good thing they called the rollout or Brehaut was dead to rights by a corner blitz. Solid throw, a little high but gets it there quickly, and it's very catchable. So. (CA, 3)
Stan 21 3 2 Barr INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Barr motions across the formation and then heads upfield, and Brehaut tries to hit him as he gets to the goal line. This is tough to chart, because Barr looks like he doesn't make a ton of effort for the ball, but it's not really on target either. It hits him in the hands, but he would have come down out of bounds even if he had caught it. I think Barr can slow up and catch this with the DB not looking, but the throw's still high and wide, so I'll say this is (MA, 1).
Stan 21 4 2 Johnson INT
Brehaut under center instead of shotgun? Interesting. I think he actually has Jerry Johnson on a slant here for the 1st and more, but the pass is batted at the line, knocked into the air, and into the arms of a Stanford DE. Whoops. (BA, N/A)
Drive Notes: Brehaut makes a couple of nice throws, and a couple of not-so-nice ones, but this was probably the best 'passing' drive of the game. It was also against Stanford's 2nd- and 3rd-stringers, so I'm not sure how instructive that really is. End of the game.

So What?

Eugh. That was ugly. It's a stretch, but I'm sticking with the name for now, so let's see the Chart of "Hope"! First up is Kevin Prince:

 Opponent   DO   CA   MA   IN   BR   TA   BA   PR   DSR 
KSU 2 13 (2) 2 6 (1) 5 - 1 (1) 3 46% (13/28)
Stanford 1 10 (2) - 2 2 - - 2 60% (9/15)

60%! That DSR really jumps out. I couldn't believe it either. Remember, DSR, or "Downfield Success Rate," is a measure of the number of catchable passes he throws down the field (DO+CA) out of all his downfield passes (DO+CA+MA+IN+BR+TA+PR) - balls batted at the LOS don't count, nor do screen plays. 60% is actually reasonably good, and a significant improvement on last week's 46%. But, as they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics - and here the statistics are damn liars.

The problem is, 'downfield' is a nebulous term that basically means everything that's not a screen, immediate flare, or 2-yard drag. And all Prince was hitting, more-or-less, were extremely short passes. On the 15 downfield attempts Prince had, he garnered +53 yards, with an interception. That's 3.5 yards per 'downfield' passing play (and that includes the two pass interference penalties), with a goal-line interception thrown in for good measure. That just won't do it.

Let's see how Brehaut did.

 Opponent   DO   CA   MA   IN   BR   TA   BA   PR   DSR 
Stanford - 4 2 2 - 1 1 1 40% (4/10)

Small sample size warnings abound. Worth noting - on Brehaut's 10 'downfield' pass attempts, he gained 41 yards with an INT - 4.1 yds per downfield pass play, with an interception as well. And that was against Stanford's second-team defense, playing soft with a 35-point lead. However, Brehaut put together the only real 'passing' drive of the game. Aside from Brehaut's 5-completion drive, the next-most completions on one drive (by Prince) was 2 - most of the yardage gained on even the best drives by Prince were via runs, not passes.

There was a TON of Pistol in this game, as you can see above (maybe I should just start noting when the team ISN'T in the Pistol). They only ran 5 passing plays that weren't in the Pistol (out of the 26 total), netting one completion for -2 yards, 3 incompletions, and an interception. The remaining 21 pass plays out of the Pistol went for 94 yards, with an interception thrown in for good measure. 4.5 yards per play - the average yards per play from the Pistol - is not very good... but it's light years better than averaging -0.4 yards per play, which is what they did out of standard formations.

Let's move on to the Receiverchart:

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Presley - - - 1/1 - - 0/1 1/2
Embree - 1/3 - - 4 1/3 - 1/2
Coleman---1/11- -2/2
Smith 1 - -1/11 -0/11/1
Marvray2--- 4-0/11/1
Franklin--- --0/11/1-
Barr-0/1 -2/2-0/11/22/2
Harkey--0/2- --0/21/1

The first thing I notice is that Prince throws it to Rosario a ton. Right now Rosario has 15 targets, Embree has 9, and nobody else has more than 6 (which is being generous, since that '6' is Marvray's, and 4 of those passes were completely uncatchable). Prince and Brehaut both spend a lot of time throwing short outs/curls to Rosario. For all that's been made of the improved talent at WR, there has been much bemoaning their lack of production. Gotta throw to them! Barr seems to be the only 'new' face getting much of a realistic look, and he's actually done pretty well with the opportunity: he's 2nd on the team in receptions right now.

One more item of amusement: Embree is the penalty king. He's earned 2 PI calls and 2 catch interference calls this season (worth an extra 51 yards), which has made him arguably the most productive receiver on the team despite having only 2 catches so far.

Going forward?

Who knows? I thought they'd score at least into the 20s against Stanford, if not the 30s. I was... not even remotely close. I'm not convinced Brehaut is the answer to UCLA's QB troubles - on his first series he still showed some of the same problems that kept him off the field last season. However, once he got into the flow of the game a bit (his 2nd drive), he displayed a solid arm, a good rapport with the receivers, and the ability to move the ball through the air. How much of that was due to playing against Stanford's backups, up 35? No clue. I can say that the INT wasn't really his fault, as the pass he had batted down looked to be a correct read to an open Jerry Johnson.

The real problem for this offense is a lack of ability to produce any sort of big play through the air. UCLA moved the ball well on the ground. They had reasonably high conversion rate on pass plays (adding in the PI calls, they "completed" 13 passes in 23 attempts, which is over 56%) - certainly high enough that one would have expected a better offense. But the yards per attempt is where it becomes clear that the offense is failing. They have to have more success on pass plays beyond 5-yards from the LOS. Without that, they've got no chance. As to who will better accomplish that going forward? I think Prince deserves one more shot (well, two, really - no way Rick/Norm give Brehaut his first career start at Texas), as my understanding is that he throws a better deep ball. He's gotta start showing it in games, though, or this season will be verrrrrrrry long indeed.

September 7, 2010

UCLA Passing Inquisition - Kansas State 2010

Though I've explained all this in the PI FAQ, since this is brand-new I'll summarize some important terms for the upcoming post here. After each play, you'll see something along the lines of (CA+, 3). The first item is how I classified that specific pass - the meanings of each classification are here. This will eventually go in the Chart of Hope, the running tally of the entire season's pass results. The second item is what I rated the ball for the wide receiver. Higher is easier - more specifics can be found here.

Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 1 10 Presley INC
This is not the way to start a new season. Prince takes the snap out of the shotgun, and finds Presley on a quick pass at the sticks. However, the throw is behind Presley, and he has to twist his body to attempt the catch. That, combined with the Kansas State defender hitting him as he goes down, causes him to drop the ball. If Prince puts this a bit more in front of him, this is a 1st down. Still, MP got his hands on it, and probably should have brought it in. (CA-, 2).
UCLA 20 2 10 Presley INC
Once more in the shotgun, and once more a quick short pass by Prince to Presley. This time, the throw is more or less right on target. This is just a straight drop by Presley, who basically doesn't see the field the rest of the game. (CA, 3).
UCLA 20 3 10 Embree INC
But it's not all on the wide receivers. Here Prince has Embree open, but waits too long to throw the ball, and puts too much air under it once he does. You can see Prince 'pat' the ball as he goes to throw it, which I think suggests his hesitancy in the game situation. (IN, 0)
Drive Notes: An immediate 3-and-out leading to a punt. An inauspicious debut for this season's offense, to be sure. It's pretty obvious the staff planned to come out passing heavily - with very minimal results, sadly.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 1 10 Embree INC
*Note - Pistol formation* For the second time in a row, Prince just flat-out misses an open Taylor Embree, who looks clearly frustrated (a bad sign this early in the game). On this play, he rolls right from the Pistol snap, and it looks like he might have a run/pass option. This is a throw on the move, but it's relatively straight ahead of his position, not across his body. (IN, 0)
UCLA 26 3 4 Rosario 6
Complete! Oh, joyous day! Finally the Bruins connect on one of the quick hitters, this an in by Rosario from the short side of the field. He uses his size well to create space. The throw isn't very good, as it's not particularly close to Rosario, both away from his body and high in the air. These are the types of throws over the middle that get WRs nailed, or can lead to tipped-ball INTs. For now, though? It's a first down. (CA-, 2)
UCLA 31 2 11 Coleman -1
*Note - Pistol formation* I think there's some confusion on this play - the left side of the line lets the defense through as though there's a jailbreak screen coming, but the play itself ends up going to the right, while the rightside guard and tackle more or less just stand around. The defense sniffs this one out anyway, but I think somebody got flipped around. Regardless, Prince's throw is on target despite oncoming pressure, there's just too many purple shirts nearby. (CA, 3, screen)
UCLA 30 3 12 Rosario INC
Remember when I talked about the types of throws that get receivers nailed? Yeah. Prince basically hangs Rosario out to dry, here. Props to the line for giving him a ton of time, too. What makes this play even worse is that Rosario is triple-covered, and the Bruins had other options much less well-covered. This is a case when a 'drop' isn't really a drop, because Nelson just got decleated as he caught the ball, largely due to decisions out of his control. (BR, 1)
Drive Notes: Well, they got a first down this time. Progress! This drive shows a couple of things that end up plaguing Prince all game - hesitation, and a lack of accuracy even when he throws close to his receivers. It will cost the Bruins significantly later in the game.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
KSU 39 1 10 Rosario 4
*Note - Pistol formation* This is another major issue with Prince's performance: even when he completed passes, they often were in a much worse location for the receiver. Here we see Rosario open about 6 yards downfield. But the throw is a full 3 yards behind him, forcing him to come all the way back to the line of scrimmage to catch the ball. He loses all his momentum as well, preventing much of a run after the catch. When a coach talks about 'execution,' this is the sort of thing they mean - turning an 8-yard gain into a 4-yard gain. (CA-, 2)
KSU 35 3 6 Sack -1
*Note - Pistol formation* I'll be charting all clearly-called pass plays, of which this is one. I'm not convinced that Prince will be able to really run the Pistol without showing better shiftiness/footspeed, as he's dragged down from behind by a lineman. The play itself doesn't get much of a chance to develop, though I'd like to see Prince hit Franklin for a small gain here - considering they're near the opposing 30-YL, an extra 3 or 4 yards might have meant a field goal instead of a punt. (PR, N/A)
Drive Notes: Going 3-and-out and getting zero points after recovering a fumble inside opposing territory is really, really bad. UCLA then elects to punt instead of going for a 4th-and-7 on the K-State 36. I am not a fan.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 35 2 9 Rosario INC
This is actually one of Kevin's better throws on the day - it's an extremely small window, and he puts the ball on a rope just above the outstretched arm of the defender. Unfortunately, the CB does a good job right at the snap to push Rosario towards the sideline, so Nelson doesn't have enough room to come down in-bounds, despite making a nice catch. I'm a tad tempted to give him a BR for looking down Rosario the whole way (he stares in that direction from the moment the ball is snapped), but the play was almost there, so instead he gets (CA, 1).
UCLA 35 3 9 Rosario INC
Prince comes right back to Rosario here - Nelson is by FAR his favorite target this game, as we'll see below. Prince rolls to his left and throws to Rosario on the far sideline. This is actually a very tough throw, and he puts the ball more or less on target. But Rosario is already blanketed by a corner, making this a very difficult catch. I think this was just a good job by the defense more than anything else. (CA-, 2)
Drive Notes: Another 3-and-out. Prince has a couple of better throws here, but he's really only looking for Rosario at the moment (his last 5 downfield throws in a row have all been to Nelson), and the defense is keying on that. Locke absolutely BOOMS this punt, and Thigpen makes a fantastic open-field tackle to stick K-State at their own 5. They'll fumble on the second play, leading to UCLA's first score of the day.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 39 1 10 Smith INC
The Bruins finally have some momentum here, having gotten a score, a 3-and-out by the Wildcats, and a first down. ABC shows some graphic here so I'm missing the first half of this play. But Smith is running a quick out to the sideline, and Prince throws high and away from his body. Smith doesn't reach up and make the grab, though it would have been for minimal gain at best. This throw is well behind him even though it's basically a long handoff, giving him no chance to try and make a move, so I'm charting it (MA, 2).
UCLA 39 2 10 Rosario 19
*Note - Pistol formation* This is the most successful pass play of the game until the last two minutes. It starts with a GREAT play-fake, pulling the weakside linebacker completely away from Rosario, who grabs the ball right at the sticks and heads upfield for another 10 yards. The throw itself is pretty mediocre (and Prince is still patting the ball before throwing). Once more, it's high and away from Nelson's position. This time, though, it works in UCLA's favor, as it helps Rosario on his turn to run. Still, these throws need to be more on-target going forward. (CA, 2)
KSU 26 2 9 Coleman INC
*Note - Pistol formation* The onrushing D-End gets through immediately and gets right in Prince's face, knocking the ball down. It's actually a good thing he does, as the OLB is standing right next to Coleman after blitzing in, and would have thrown this for a loss, or maybe even intercepted the ball. (BA, 0, Screen)
KSU 26 3 9 Marvray INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Good protection here, giving Prince a long time to load up and gun this pass. Once again, he's throwing to a guy who's completely covered - this time it's Marvray who gets hit right as the ball arrives. You'd like to see the receivers come up with some of these passes, but this is an extremely dangerous throw to make even when a guy is somewhat open (see - the INT later this half). When he's covered, it's a very high-risk, low-reward proposition. (BR, 1)
Drive Notes: Forbath boots the field goal to put UCLA up by 3. UCLA puts together its first real 'drive' of the half, but it's made up of only 1 pass play, and a lot of successful runs. Not sure why they don't force K-State to stop the ground game before going back to the air, here.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 1 10 Sack -5
UCLA's in an empty back set, and K-State brings the heat immediately. Prince needs to recognize the possible blitzer, as the CB on the far side of the field is clearly showing like he's going to rush. I think this might have actually been a draw play. Prince pulls the ball to run, but I'm not sure he does so because of the blitz - I think he only sees the gaping space between him and the first down marker, as all other KSU defenders have vacated the flat. Again, Kevin's not that fast - if he's a bit quicker this could be a big gain. Still, it's a pass formation, and if nothing else he needs to be ready to check out of this going forward if necessary. (PR, N/A)
UCLA 15 2 15 Franklin INC
*Note - Pistol formation* This is a massive mistake by Prince. UCLA runs the screen play, and sets it up well. There are a couple of blockers in front of Franklin, and the WRs get out on their targets as well. Prince isn't that heavily pressured, either - there's no reason to throw this ball that high or outside. If it's on the money, Franklin cuts inside of the one K-State dback and he's gone into the second level. This should have been 10+ yards at minimum, possibly many more. The fact that Franklin barely gets his hands on the ball is meaningless - this was an *easy* throw, and should have been a big gain. (IN, 1, Screen)
Drive Notes: A major missed opportunity here, as UCLA could have really put pressure on the Wildcats with a scoring drive. It would have generated a lot of momentum going into the second half, as well. Instead, they give up a long punt return.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 27 1 10 Franklin 15
Compare the previous screen pass to this one. There's a lot more pressure on Prince, which is why the throw is a bit high again, and Franklin has to jump to catch it. But he throws it to Franklin's inside shoulder this time, and in front of him, allowing him to run as soon as he catches the ball. Once more, there are linemen out in front, and he's able to roll off a good gain before being caught from behind. One worry about Franklin - the guy who catches him from behind is a TACKLE. (CA, 2, Screen)
UCLA 42 1 10 Embree INT
These are very dangerous throws indeed, and this time Prince gets himself picked off. The play by the defender is really a very good one. But this pass should have come out much sooner. Embree creates nice separation by using his body, and Prince hesitates and lets the defender recover from the contact. Also, he takes a sidestep and throws across his body instead of turning and really gunning the ball. (BR, 0)
Drive Notes: End of the first half. Not exactly the way you want to go into the locker room. On their first drive after halftime, KState marches down the field, mostly via two long runs, to take back the lead.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 25 3 5 Barr 5(?)
*Note - Pistol formation* This was not a first down. I'll take it. Barr needs to learn to get past that line, but he's young. He runs a nice quick route, and does a good job of coming to meet the ball and absorbing the contact. The throw is away from the defender, so it's understandable why it's away from Barr's body a bit. Reasonably good job all around. (CA, 2)
KSU 46 1 10 Rosario 15-yd Pen
*Note - Pistol formation* This is a nice playcall at this point in the drive, with this field position. The Bruins have just pulled off 3 straight nice runs, and go with the play-action deep off a faked end around. Rosario just burns the DB with a hesitation move, and is WIDE open downfield. Prince underthrows this ball big-time - he throws it way too high in the air, and the wind catches it. Rosario's got very good speed, and Kevin needs to trust that he can run to a deep throw. Because Nelson has to slow up for the ball to reach him, the DB pins one of his arms to earn the pass-interference call. Rosario almost still makes the grab with one arm. (CA-, 1)
KSU 18 1 10 Embree INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Ugh, I can barely watch this one again. After converting on a 4th-and-2 (I'm glad to see him make this call despite being well within Forbath's range), UCLA goes back to the air. I'm amazed Embree got as open as he did - there's two wideouts versus 5 defensive backs. But he finds space, and Prince hits him at the 2-yard line with his best-timed pass of the day. And Embree drops it. The one guy you'd think would reel this in watches it fall to the turf. Admittedly, it's a -tad- behind him, but it hits him right in the hands at waist height. This should have been first and goal at the 1. (CA+, 3)
KSU 18 3 10 Barr INC
*Note - Pistol formation* Barr comes in motion across the formation, then runs back through the middle of the flat. I don't really understand the decision to throw it to him here, when even a catch is 5 yards short of a first down, and you're already easily in field goal range. Once again, though, Prince pats the ball - Barr is open briefly, but he waits to throw and Anthony runs up into two KState defenders. I actually think Harkey would have come free in another half-second, but that's just me. (MA, 2)
Drive Notes: A nice drive, including a conversion on 4th-and-short, but UCLA again comes away with only 3. Much like the last few years on offense, they *have* to turn some of these drives into touchdowns if the offense is going to improve. Prince costs himself a TD with the underthrow to Rosario. Then Embree costs him a TD with the drop at the 1.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 20 1 10 Marvray INC
*Note - Pistol formation* A little play-action rollout sees Marvray open about 15 yards downfield. Prince just airmails the throw. He had a ton of time here. (IN, 0)
UCLA 48 2 13 Embree 8
*Note - Pistol formation* Simple pitch-and-catch with Embree. Well done to put it there at the right time. This is almost the same route that Presley dropped at the start of the game - better pass this time, though. (CA+, 3)
Drive Notes: UCLA ends up punting, and Locke sticks the ball inside the 5. UCLA's defense makes one of its few 2nd-half stands, and the Bruins get the ball in unbelievable field position due to a dubious kick interference call. It won't help.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
KSU 44 1 10 Fumble N/A
*Note - Pistol formation* Not sure why Prince runs this so quickly - it looks like he's still got a pocket, and Franklin comes into the flat a moment after he starts to run - easy 4-yard dumpoff there. Just a massive waste of a great opportunity. (BR, N/A)
Drive Notes: Guhhhhhhhhh. KState ends up punting back, though. Early in the ensuing drive, Josh Smith rips off a 43-yard run on an end-around that UCLA had faked several times earlier in the game. Great call.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
KSU 24 3 7 Throwaway INC
*Note - Pistol formation* I really dislike this playcall - KState only rushes 3, and leaves 8 in coverage. I'll give Prince the benefit of the doubt and say that he was just throwing it into the stands. But... why? He's still got a ton of time, and they only need 7 yards for a first down. He needs to either get rid of this ball before everybody converges on the back of the end zone, or hang on another moment and see if a receiver can free himself. Admittedly, the coaches may have told him to avoid a sack at all costs (40+ yards is a lengthy field goal for a semi-hurt Forbath). Still, I'm calling this a (BR, 0).
Drive Notes: Another Kai FG gets the game back to within one. Unfortunately, the Wildcats proceed to run a 4-and-a-half minute drive entirely on the ground, until a 5-yard pass play scores a TD on 3rd-and-goal from the 5.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 36 1 10 Harkey 35
It's desperation time, kiddies. And that means no more Pistol. It also means long passes downfield - this one a strike to Cory Harkey for a huge gain. This is an excellent throw - Harkey doesn't have that much separation, and Prince puts it exactly where it needs to be for him to catch, turn, and continue running (for an extra 15 yards, no less). This is a line-drive right on the money. (DO, 3)
KSU 29 1 10 Marvray 29
I'm not entirely sure how Marvray ends up quite so open, but once more Prince puts the ball on the money. He steps up nicely into the pocket to buy himself an extra moment, and wings the ball without hesitating, right to Ricky, who's 3 yards open in the end zone. You'd think they'd want to cover that. (DO, 2)
KSU 3 1 3 Embree INC
I'm not a fan of this empty-set, considering how well UCLA had been running the ball all day. Prince looks like he's decided to run, before Embree gets a tiny bit of room. The throw's a bit low, and it gets knocked down - there's no drop here. This throw needs more air to have any chance of a completion, as there's nobody behind Embree in the end zone. (IN, 0)
Drive Notes: The best two throws of the day by a pretty big margin, at a pretty big time. Then... the 2-point conversion. Ugh. The touchdown afterwards by Kansas State is meaningless, and technically improves UCLA's chances to win (as opposed to simply kneeling after crossing the 1st-down marker). Not that it helps, really - just saying.
Yard Line Down Distance Player Yards
UCLA 29 1 10 Sack -8
Prince is snowed under immediately. No shot for a throw. (PR, N/A)
UCLA 21 2 18 Marvray INT
Bleh. (IN, 0)
Drive Notes: End of the game.

So What?

Well, first, let's look at the results when you add up all of Prince's throws (Screen plays are in parentheses). Show me the Chart of Hope!

 Opponent   DO   CA   MA   IN   BR   TA   BA   PR   DSR 
KSU 2 13 (2) 2 6 (1) 5 - 1 (1) 3 46% (13/28)

As a reminder, DSR is "Downfield Success Rate" and basically tells you what percent of his downfield - i.e. not screen - throws were catchable (DO+CA) out of all his downfield passes (DO+CA+MA+IN+BR+TA+PR) - balls batted at the LOS don't count, nor do poor passes on screen plays.

46% isn't very good, unfortunately. As a bit of a caveat, remember that these don't include any screens - and UCLA really only tried to run 3, surprisingly (especially considering Norm Chow is the OC). When looking at the numbers, what jumps out to me first is the "Bad Read" statistic. 5 is a ton, and almost certainly a result of his lack of practice time. So, this hasn't become the Chart of Despair quite yet - there's plenty of hope that remains.

Prince had more good throws than his final numbers would indicate (15 "catchable" passes in all). And if more live practice turns those BRs into a few more CAs he'll be in reasonably good shape - especially if the run game continues its success. The above lends credence to the belief that he really wasn't helped at all by his receivers, and was in fact hurt by them (more on that below).

Also interesting, UCLA went 5/13 on passing plays out of the Pistol, with the long pass-interference call, one sack, and the scramble that led to the fumble. That sounds pretty bad, until one realizes that on non-Pistol plays they were 4/14 (including the 2-pt conversion) with two sacks and a pair of INTs. Admittedly, both of the long passes at the end of the game were from standard sets, but nothing I saw convinced me that those throws couldn't be made from a Pistol formation.

Their yardage from Pistol plays, factoring in the sack and the penalty, was 49 - with the lost fumble on Prince's scramble. It's a little harder to get a real read on their standard formation work. They did almost nothing out of it all day - until the final 2 drives, it was 2/10 with total yardage of 16, plus an INT. But the last 2 drives had the two long passes by Prince, the missed 2-pt conversion, then another sack and the final INT (really just a desperation heave more than anything). Add it all up and you get 72 yards with 2 INTs.

I think the Pistol can indeed work, and the rewards were already being reaped on the ground. They simply have to translate into the air if this offense is going to be fully successful. Comparing Pistol to non-Pistol stats, though, it's clear that formation had nothing to do with their struggles in the passing game.

Speaking of struggling, let's take a look at the receiverchart to see how the much-maligned crew actually performed. For each type of pass, I'll list caught passes / targets:

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Presley - - 0/1 0/1 - - 0/1 0/1
Embree 4 - - 1/2 4 - - 1/2
Coleman1--1/11- -1/1
Smith - - 0/1-- -0/1-
Marvray20/11/1- 2-0/11/1
Franklin-0/11/1 --0/11/1-
Barr-- 1/2---1/2-
Harkey---1/1 ---1/1

Looking at this chart, we can definitely say Prince wasn't helped by his receivers - though he wasn't hurt by them quite as badly as it first appears. The truth is, most of Prince's "Catchable" passes were still not 'guarantee' catches, the "3" category (he had a lot of CA-, and not that many CA+). We can extrapolate a bit by saying that receivers should catch all '3s,' and maybe 2/3rds of their '2s' - UCLA would have gotten another 3 receptions if that was the case, bringing Prince's day to 12/26, which is pretty much right in line with his DSR. But when and where the drops happened is why they were such killers. Presley's drops to start the game. Embree's whiff on the goal line. Those types of plays hurt far more than just costing one 'reception,' and very likely were the difference in the game.

Going forward?

Honestly? I'm not sure. Looking back, I don't know if Brehaut would have done any better - many of Prince's mistakes were of the same variety that Brehaut made time and again last year, and giving him his first career start in that environment could have easily brought them all back again. I do think it would be nice to see how he fares in a series or two - and if Prince continues to struggle (regardless of whether or not the receivers have a hand in it) I do think we'll see Brehaut make his way on the field for a series or two.

The biggest silver lining is the offensive line, which was able to give Prince plenty of time for most of the game - only 3 "PR" chartings, one of which probably should have been a checkdown by Prince on a CB blitz (not much the OL can do there). If they continue their strong play, the offense WILL be better - it's a matter of when, not if.

As for Stanford, it's tough to tell considering their Week 1 opponent. I think UCLA should be able to move the ball some, and could very easily break the 30s in points against a team that gave up 17 to Sacramento State. Will it be enough? Guess we'll find out on Saturday.