After suffering their first loss in the early stages of the 2023 NCAA football season, the UCLA Bruins are taking time to introspect. In their recent game against the Utah Utes, UCLA’s typically robust two-way attack showed some signs of vulnerability, resulting in a 14-7 loss in their first Pac-12 inter-conference matchup of the year.
Ben Bolch, a writer for The Los Angeles Times, has observed that while UCLA’s star running backs, Carson Steele and T.J. Harden, breezed through North Carolina Central, San Diego State, and Coastal Carolina, they faced a formidable challenge against Utah’s defense.
The Bruins, who had been dominant in previous matchups, couldn’t replicate their earlier success against the Utah Utes. This unexpected setback has prompted UCLA to scrutinize various aspects of their game.
During the game, the Bruins’ offensive and defensive strategies faltered, giving Utah the upper hand. This unexpected turn of events left the team and its supporters bewildered. It’s a stark departure from their previous victories, where they displayed a cohesive and efficient playing style.
As the Bruins evaluate their performance, they are undoubtedly focusing on the shortcomings in their two-way attack that proved costly in the game against Utah. Analysts and fans alike are speculating on what went wrong and how the team can bounce back stronger in the remainder of the season.
Carson Steele and T.J. Harden, who have been standout performers in the early season, found themselves struggling to penetrate Utah’s defense. This surprising turn of events has raised questions about whether the Bruins can adapt to different defensive strategies in future games.
While this loss may have caught the Bruins off guard, it also serves as a valuable learning experience. Coach and players are analyzing the game footage and reviewing their strategies to identify areas for improvement. It’s a testament to their commitment to excellence.
The Bruins’ journey in the 2023 NCAA football season has just begun, and this defeat will undoubtedly shape their future performances. As they regroup and refine their game plan, UCLA remains determined to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
“The Bruins’ nine yards rushing — on a minuscule 0.3 yards per carry — were their fewest under Kelly and their fewest in any game since they finished with minus-one yard against Arizona State in 2016,” Bolch writes.
“Taking away Utah’s seven sacks, UCLA generated 67 rushing yards. Carson Steele gained 29 yards in 11 carries. T.J. Harden gained 31 yards in 11 carries and compounded his hard day by dropping a low line-drive pass on third down early in the fourth quarter,” Bolch continues. “[Head coach Chip] Kelly said part of the problem was his team falling behind 12 seconds into the game, forcing it to throw more than it would have otherwise.”
“With the running game unable to find its footing, the Bruins had six three-and-outs in their first nine drives,” Bolch concludes. “They also struggled on third downs, converting just three of 16 (18.7%) for their worst conversion rate under Kelly since they converted one of 10 during a loss to Fresno State in 2018.”
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