Each week, Daily Bruin Sports takes a look at the game film for UCLA football and grades each position group on its performance.
This week, we grade UCLA’s 48-17 loss to Utah.
This was as bad as it could get for Devon Modster in his first start for the Bruins.
The redshirt freshman was less than impressive in a blowout 48-17 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City. Modster completed eight passes of 12 attempts for 103 yards and a touchdown.
He actually got off to a really great start, completing his first seven passes for 101 yards. His deep-ball accuracy was surprisingly on point, with a few tight throws to redshirt senior Darren Andrews and sophomore Theo Howard, but Modster struggled to keep momentum throughout the game. Here are both plays.
Modster was removed from the game in the fourth quarter when the Bruins were already down 41-10. Redshirt freshman Matt Lynch was inserted into the game, with coaches likely using the blowout to give the novice his first taste of game action this year. Lynch finished the game with 11 passing yards on two completions and a touchdown.
Running backs: C-
This was another pedestrian performance from a group that has been searching for consistency all season long.
While this unit has improved from last season, there’s still a plethora of issues that need to be addressed. Junior Soso Jamabo did not play in the contest so lead back duties went to junior Bolu Olorunfunmi.
He finished with 63 yards rushing on 16 carries. Olorunfunmi started off the first half with eight carries for 50 yards, but his second-half performance was lackluster. The back managed just 11 yards on seven carries.
The offense put up a season low 249 yards of offense, well below its season average of 450.
Wide receivers: C-
In the first half, this group looked like they had it going. Andrews caught a beautiful touchdown pass from Modster just before the first half ended. However, the wide receiver’s performance suffered in the second half – a common theme in Friday’s loss.
Andrews ended up being the Bruins’ leading receiver with only three catches for 66 yards. Sophomore Theo Howard was up next with three catches for only 37 yards. Redshirt senior Eldridge Massington had one five-yard catch from Lynch in garbage time.
Offensive line: C+
While the score might not show it, the offensive line play seemed to improve somewhat this weekend.
The group only gave up one sack and gave Modster plenty of time in the first half. Most of the Utes’ points came from turnovers or mistakes on special teams, often forcing Modster to repeatedly play catch-up.
This group has been the subject of much ridicule all season long, and while they might be an easy target, they really weren’t all too bad this week. Although receivers dropped a lot of balls and the game was over at the end of the third quarter, the group surprisingly allowed no quarterback hurries, according to ESPN.
Defensive line: F
There’s not much to say here.
The defensive line has allowed every starting running back they’ve faced – with the exception of Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay – to rush for over 100 yards. The trend didn’t stop in Utah as starting tail back Zack Moss exploded for 153 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 carries.
Coaches have been attributing missed tackles as one of the major problems of the defense, and it seems as if there has been no progress as each week drags on. Moss broke tackles left and right and put up a gaudy 6.7 yards a carry with a long run of 20. Watch him break down the Bruins’ line and get to the end zone.
Senior Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and redshirt sophomore Chigozie Nnoruka each registered a sack, giving the Bruins some positives in an otherwise abysmal performance.
Inexperience has hurt this group for the entirety of the season.
As usual, senior Kenny Young had a solid outing leading the game in tackles with 12, but his performance didn’t mirror the other linebackers. Sophomore Krys Barnes continued to see the field with the absence of Josh Woods, and continued to struggle to secure the middle of the field.
Fellow sophomore Lokeni Toailoa saw some reps at the Mike spot in limited playing time. Redshirt sophomore Keisean Lucier-South continued to see time on the defensive line as both a pass rusher and a stand-up linebacker. He finished the night with nine tackles.
There seems to be a lack of communication among the front seven, leading to various big plays from opponents.
Though youth is definitely a factor attributing to such a poor performance from this group, they’ll have to make huge adjustments for the last three games of the season if they want to make a bowl game.
Defensive backs: D
The defensive backs are quite the interesting story.
Senior Jaleel Wadood and redshirt junior Adarius Pickett had 15 tackles and led the secondary in the first half of the game. However, Utah’s Tyler Huntley exploded for four passing touchdowns and diced up junior Nate Meadors and freshman Darnay Holmes.
Huntley finished the day with 15 completed passes on 22 attempts for 234 yards. While his volume might not have been too high, those numbers equate to 10.6 yards a pass play, earning the defensive backs a failing grade for the week.
Special teams: C
Another poor week of special teams seriously hindered the Bruins in this game.
Pickett and senior Mossi Johnson each had a punt return for an average of -5.5 yards a carry. The latter also fumbled his punt, giving the Utes the ball at the 16-yard line, resulting in a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Sophomore kicker JJ Molson converted his only field goal attempt for 37 yards and hit both his extra point attempts. Freshman Mo Osling was a new face in the kick return game, taking back three kicks for an average of 20 yards a return, and a long of 24.
Redshirt junior Stefan Flintoft seems to be the only highlight of this unit week in and week out, as the punter had eight punts for an average 45.5 yards and a long of 53.