UCLA vs. Arizona: 10 Things We Learned in Bruins' Win
The UCLA Bruins walked into Arizona Stadium and left with a 31-26 victory for the first time since 2003. The win over the Arizona Wildcats is good enough to improve the Bruins to 7-2 on the season and keep them in the running for a possible berth in the Pac-12 Conference Championship.
But instead of jumping the gun and getting ahead of ourselves, what did this conference matchup teach us?
Well, there may be a new UCLA starting running back, Arizona isn't a powerhouse program just yet and a certain Bruins receiver needs a lot more love.
UCLA's Defensive Line Is Legit
One unit that may not get enough credit is UCLA's defensive line. It's strong at the point of attack, full of athleticism and strong against the run.
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey only rushed for 149 yards and one touchdown.
Sure, that's still a lot of yards, but when you consider he rushed for 232 and 171 yards in games earlier this year, it's one of the more pedestrian performances of his season.
Besides slowing down the star running back, the Bruins defensive front also generated solid pressure on Arizona's quarterback and help created a lot of tackles for loss and incomplete passes. This strong and consistent line will help keep UCLA in the running for a Pac-12 title.
Shaquelle Evans Is a Real Star
Can Shaquelle Evans start getting mentioned as one of the nation's top receivers?
Please and thank you.
The talented senior caught four passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. One of those touchdown receptions came on a tipped pass in the end zone that required ridiculous concentration and remarkable footwork.
Evans is a game-changer at 6'1" and has the sure hands to catch just about any pass thrown his direction. It's a shame he isn't mentioned with some of the best simply because his numbers may not be through the roof. This kid can compete with the best.
Arizona Is More Than a Running Offense
We hear all about Arizona's offense and how explosive the running game is. Ka'Deem Carey is one of the best running backs in the country, and coach Rich Rodriguez wants to run the opposing team out of the stadium.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about the passing game?
Believe it or not, the Wildcats have some impressive receivers. Nate Phillips and Terrence Miller caught a combined 13 passes for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, Phillips has now gone five straight games with at least one touchdown catch.
From leaping receptions to receivers hauling in passes thrown behind them, Arizona showed it is capable of moving the chains through the air.
B.J. Denker Is a Playmaker
Speaking of Arizona's offense, B.J. Denker is a clear playmaker who had one of his better games of his career. He completed a solid 60.6 percent of his passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries.
The senior did make a few questionable throws, including an interception, but he made many plays that helped keep Arizona in the ballgame. He extended plays when the blitz got to him, moved the chains with his legs and made a few nice passes on the move.
Denker isn't a dual-threat quarterback who gets a lot of attention, but he's a joy to watch and seems to be getting better as the season drags out.
Arizona Shot Itself in the Foot Too Many Times
Did UCLA win this game, or did Arizona lose?
A little bit of both?
Either way, the Wildcats did not help themselves win this contest. Ka'Deem Carey fumbled the ball in the end zone, which erased a sure touchdown. There were also two possessions in the first quarter that reached the red zone, and Arizona came away with only three combined points. Add on the five penalties and 5-of-14 on third-down attempts, and it's easy to see why the home team fell short.
Give credit to UCLA for the way it played, but Arizona had plenty of opportunities to win and couldn't take advantage.
UCLA Is Also Sloppy
UCLA had five penalties for 54 yards. While there was only one turnover, there was one drive that included two fumbles. Of course, both fumbles were recovered by UCLA, but they made you question the focus of this team when the pressure gets turned up a few notches.
There was also the fake punt that resulted in a turnover on downs and gave Arizona the ball only 25 yards away from the end zone.
The Bruins are a young team, and mistakes are going to happen. However, it seems like Jim Mora's UCLA team has a lot of the same traits as his former Atlanta Falcons teams when it comes to sloppiness. This type of play must get cleaned up if UCLA is to be taken seriously.
Myles Jack Is Special
Myles Jack is my new favorite player.
The talented freshman linebacker not only held his own on defense like he usually does, but he led the team with 120 rushing yards, which included a 66-yard touchdown run.
Mora put together a package a couple of days ago that includes defensive players on offense. Jack just happened to pay off in a big way and should now have Bruins fans chanting for him to become the starter in the backfield.
It was an iron man performance and something you usually don't see anymore. It's a performance that should be talked about for quite some time.
Arizona Isn't Quite There Yet
Besides the obvious mistakes I touched on in earlier slides, the Wildcats proved once again that there is still a little work that needs to be done before they can take that next step and begin competing with the big boys.
The defense isn't as reliable as you'd like and struggles at times to get off the field. The offense continues to rely on the running game a little too much and puts itself in poor situations on 3rd-and-long. The team also couldn't find a way to close the game after making a comeback in the fourth quarter.
Although the Wildcats are 6-3 on the year, all of those losses have come to the above-average opponents they've played this season. They are clearly on the rise, but they aren't quite there yet.
Brett Hundley May Be Turning the Corner
Brett Hundley has been shaky at best this season. He's shown flashes of brilliance, but he also threw two interceptions in both losses to Oregon and Stanford.
In Saturday's win, the sophomore completed 72 percent of his passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he didn't throw an interception for a second straight game.
Hundley looked comfortable in the pocket, didn't force throws and wasn't hesitant when making plays with his legs. It's the second straight game he's completed more than 70 percent of his passes and may be a sign of him becoming a more consistent player.
Great news for UCLA.
UCLA Is Pac-12 Title Material
The last time I jumped on the Bruins bandwagon, they went ahead and lost back-to-back games. But seeing them perform this well against an above-average opponent, it's clear they have the pieces in place to make an honest run for a Pac-12 title.
The defense is aggressive and is more than capable of rising to the occasion. And while the offense is banged up and isn't filled with guys who take your breath away, it can be explosive as long as Brett Hundley takes care of the football.
Why not UCLA?
Of course, there's a lot of season left before the Bruins can even think about playing in the big game. But Saturday's game should give the team enough confidence that it can beat anybody in this conference.