In training camp, UCLA’s biggest problems were how to utilize all its wide receivers and which running back would start in the backfield.
At the halfway point in the season, the Bruins are 3-3 and 1-2 in the Pac-12, with no run game, an injured quarterback and little confidence.
Sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen left the game in the fourth quarter after getting sacked for the third time. After the game, coach Jim Mora said the hits on Rosen stemmed from the Bruins’ inability to run the ball consistently.
In its first six games, UCLA has rushed for more than 150 yards just once and was held to negative yards against ASU, the first negative yard outing since facing Oregon in 2000. Coaches and players have tried tweaking personnel and game plan in an effort to jolt the offense with little success.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can. It’s an experienced group and we’re looking at everything very critically,” Mora said at Monday’s press conference. “Are we emphasizing the right things, conceptualizing it right? Practicing and teaching it right? It’s a continual quest. Right now, we’re substandard in a lot of ways in the run game. That’s not a statement that will astound people.”
The Bruins’ struggles began against the BYU Cougars, when they mustered up just 50 yards on the ground. Heading into a weekend matchup against Washington State, UCLA is ranked 122nd nationally in rushing yards per game with 99.2 yards.
The Bruins were without sophomore Bolu Olorunfunmi in Tempe, Arizona, with Mora saying the running back was “left in LA” and not disclosing any further details.
Sophomore running back Soso Jamabo did play against the Sun Devils and tallied just nine yards on three carries.
The former five-star recruit admitted that he had been disappointed in the running game and its adverse effect on the entire offense.
Despite the disappointment, Jamabo was optimistic that the group’s talent and abilities would be able to come through sooner rather than later.
“We’re talented, we just haven’t tapped into our talent. Not even close yet,” Jamabo said. “So that’s something we’ve got to keep working on and keep on moving forward.”
The key to turning around UCLA’s run game and season, according to offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, is to balance big plays with necessary plays.
The running backs coach said his running backs had to be able to focus on fundamentals and basics to be able to get “the ugly three yards.”
The only things standing in the Bruins’ way, Polamalu said, were the little things – a small step in the wrong direction, a split second decision or a missed block.
“We’re working towards it and everyone is grinding,” Polamalu said. “I don’t want them to press. Understand, the hole isn’t always going to be there. Live to fight the next battle.”