Run game aside, quarterback aside, losses aside – this week was all about finishing.
Four games have come down to the final possession for UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12), including last week’s 27-21 loss to Washington State, but the Bruins haven’t been able to capitalize, losing all four games en route to their worst start under coach Jim Mora.
“Good teams finish.” Mora said. “This week we put an added emphasis on it. You get what you emphasize and you can’t emphasize everything, but hopefully it pays off.”
But finishing, especially against division leader No. 19 Utah (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12), means a run game that’s not a liability.
The running backs have struggled carrying the ball this season, averaging 2.81 yards a carry and 91.14 yards a game.
All three running backs played against Washington State, just the second time this season they’ve been available at the same time.
The result wasn’t any different: 22 carries for 41 yards.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Mora indicated that there were changes that coaches would implement to facilitate the run game from “the personnel, the scheme, the way we teach it and emphasize, the words and things we say.”
But the run game problems start with the battered offensive line.
Redshirt sophomore Kolton Miller has been out with a leg injury letting players like redshirt freshman Josh Wariboko and redshirt junior Kenny Lacy earn playing time.
Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said the personnel changes allow him to see whether or not the young guys can step up and make a game-changing play.
“The young guys can take advantage of the situation and we can teach them on the run,” Klemm said. “It’s all about physicality, technique, we’ve left so much on the field in terms of executing. We need to perform to a certain level to take advantage of the opportunities presented.”
Boosting the offensive line will protect sophomore Josh Rosen from sacks and further injuries like the one he suffered at Arizona State two weeks ago.
The quarterback missed practice Tuesday morning just a day after Mora said Rosen was “darn close” to playing against Washington State and was hopeful the sophomore could suit up this Saturday.
But even with Rosen out, Mora said the run game needed to deliver.
“Whether Josh plays or not, we still have to run the football, to help Josh, to help Mike, to help whoever is back there.”