UCLA entered the 2014 season with a Top 10 preseason ranking, a Heisman Trophy hopeful at quarterback and plans to compete in the College Football Playoff. Now that the Bruins are 1-0, it is time to reasses some of those expectations.
UCLA did not look like a playoff team in its 28-20 win at Virginia. Credit Virginia for a well-executed game plan and strong play in the front seven from guys like Eli Harold, Max Valles and Henry Coley. There were breakdowns in UCLA's protection all day, and the result was another game of Brett Hundley running scrambling to avoid sacks (except for those five times the 'Hoos got to him).
Hundley finished with a respectable performance on the stat sheet, but the offense failed to score for nearly three quarters. If you tuned in looking to see a Heisman Trophy hopeful lead a dynamic offense, you left Saturday afternoon feeling underwhelmed. The blame does not fall squarely on Hundley's shoulders; running backs Jordon James and Paul Perkins were slow to get rolling and the short/screen pass game was ineffective. Adding to UCLA's issues were 12 penalties, many of which were false starts and other offensive infractions.
The good news for UCLA fans is there is time to correct these issues and still accomplish the team's goals for 2014. The toughest defenses on the Bruins Pac-12 schedule (Washington, USC and Stanford) are all in November, but a non-conference meeting with Texas and a trip to Arizona State are coming up fast.
The offensive woes are overshadowing a strong performance by the Bruins defense, which contributed three of the team's four touchdowns on Saturday. Eric Kendricks and Ishmael Adams each added scores to their impressive afternoons, and Myles Jack capped a 13-tackle day with a pass break up on Virginia's final fourth down attempt to seal the outcome.
But if UCLA is a College Football Playoff-bound team, the defense can't be counted on to handle the scoring.