UCLA looks to be back on track
The UCLA Bruins ended their two-game losing streak on Thursday night with a complete performance in all three phases of the game in a 40-24 victory over Pac-12 rival Cal.
The Bruins’ defense pressured Cal QB Jared Goff all night (although Goff still had a good game overall, earning an impressive +3.2 grade; more on him later), led by defensive linemen Kenny Clark (+2.6, 2 sacks, 4 hurries) and Takkarist McKinley (+3.7, 1 sack, 8 hurries). As Cal was driving down the field early in the fourth quarter, Clark sacked Goff on 3rd down and then teamed up with McKinley for a 4th down sack that all but sealed the victory.
Clark is currently the highest-graded defensive tackle in the NCAA, with positive marks in both run defense and pass rushing. Goff was excellent, earning a +4.0 grade on 22 snaps under pressure, but Cal’s offense was not able to keep pace with UCLA.
UCLA’s offense scored on its first seven possessions. A ridiculous 60-yard field goal from K Ka’imi Fairbairn at the end of the first half was followed by a 21-yard touchdown pass from QB Josh Rosen (-0.2 grade overall) on UCLA’s first drive of the third quarter to give the Bruins a 33-10 lead that they would not look back from.
While Rosen’s grade was not as impressive as his stat line would indicate due to several dropped interceptions by Cal defenders, the freshman was at his best against the blitz (7-of-10 for 107 yards, 1 touchdown, +1.0 grade). WR Thomas Duarte (+2.6) was Rosen’s top target, finishing with 10 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and forced 4 missed tackles in the open field.
UCLA running backs Paul Perkins (+4.3) and Soso Jamabo (+1.9) also deserve credit for their standout performances. The Bruins finished with a -7.4 team run-blocking grade, but still finished with 167 yards on the ground. Perkins broke 10 tackles on just 11 carries, and 115 of the pair’s 143 rushing yards came after contact.
Injuries have been one of the major stories of the season for the Bruins, especially on defense, and the hits continued in this game. Star running back Perkins left the game with a knee injury, and linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea (+0.9) was later carted into the locker room. Both would be significant losses should the injuries prove to be serious. Perkins currently ranks fourth in the nation in both overall grade (+20.0) and missed tackles forced (42) among running backs, and Savaiinaea leads UCLA linebackers in both overall grade (+7.9) and snaps (408).
We’ll see if injuries continue to take a toll on UCLA, but this was a very impressive win – and another reminder of just how talented this team is. The Bruins aren’t out of the Pac-12 South race just yet.