After grabbing the mic to address the fans at Saturday’s spring scrimmage, Rick Neuheisel was quick to acknowledge the tepid performance of the offense. But the UCLA football coach did note to the crowd of 6,400 at Drake Stadium that the offensive line was missing four regular players.
Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson wasn’t as ready to give the benefit of the doubt to his side of the ball.
“I don’t think we played on offense with the sense of urgency and the tempo at which we’ve been practicing,” Johnson said.
“Anytime you do lose four linemen it’s tough, but the expectations are not going to change. We’ve been practicing with those guys for the last week and a half. They’ve done OK in practice, and then we come out here in the first game-like situation, and it was too inconsistent.”
Shaky line play made it hard for the offense to ever get into a rhythm on Saturday, as UCLA scored a touchdown on only two of 14 drives during the 80-plus-play scrimmage.
Rising junior quarterback Richard Brehaut did lead the Bruins to a score on the second drive of the day, but it would be eight more drives before the Bruins found the endzone again. The second and final touchdown came on a 16-yard catch-and-run from rising freshman Brett Hundley to sophomore running back Malcolm Jones.
In between was inconsistency from Brehaut and Hundley, respectively the No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks as rising redshirt junior Kevin Prince recovers from knee surgery. Missed connections, drops and poor snapping set the tone for a day full of blunders.
“We’re consistently inconsistent,” rising redshirt junior running back Johnathan Franklin said. “We left too many touchdowns out there, too many yards out there, so we’ve got to get better.”
“Lights come on, guys get a little rattled,” added Brehaut, who was 11-of-20 passing for 102 yards. “We’ve got to fix that up, make sure we come out next time in a game-like situation ready to go.”
The lights at Drake ““ the site of the scrimmage because of Rose Bowl renovations ““ didn’t faze every Bruin. One of the bright spots of the day was the running backs’ play, as five ballcarriers combined to average seven yards per carry.
Six carries went to rising sophomore F-back Anthony Barr, one of many players who UCLA coaches experimented with at different positions throughout the spring.
“We know what we have in (leading rushers) Johnathan (Franklin) and Derrick (Coleman), and certainly we’re excited about that, but we want to find out with those young guys just exactly what we have and how to use them,” Neuheisel said.
The Bruins won’t officially begin practicing again until August, which leaves plenty of time to evaluate the progress made in the past four weeks. But, as Brehaut mentioned, the spring won’t be judged based on one game.
“You’ve got to go in after (Saturday), and you’ve got to look at all the tape from the whole spring, and you’ve got to evaluate it off that,” Brehaut said. “That’s where you’ve got to make your corrections … and make your adjustments over the offseason.”