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.

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