Upon further review: Oregon State rewind

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
7:50
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- As the reality began to set in that the UCLA Bruins would fall to the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday, coach Jim Mora scanned his sideline to get a feel for how his players would react to adversity.

The eventual 27-20 loss to the Beavers was UCLA's first of the season, so Mora made sure to watch the body language, effort and focus of the players as time wound down. Mora said he liked what he saw.

"We fought to the end," Mora said. "There wasn’t a lot of bad body language out there. They believed that we were going to have a chance to get it done. I didn’t see guys giving in or giving up at all. I didn’t feel a negative vibe on the sideline."

After the game, Mora said the locker room was "very quiet" and he took that as a sign that the team would take the loss to heart and come back strong this week in practice.

"There was a lot of disappointment in the locker room," Mora said. "Everyone took it very serious, and I think those are all good signs for us moving forward."

Other notes:
Third down no charm: UCLA was two of 15 on third-down conversions Saturday against Oregon State and now ranks No. 115 in the nation in third-down conversion percentage for the season.

UCLA has converted only 18 of 63 third downs this season, or less than 29 percent. The Bruins converted nine of 20 (45 percent) in a 36-30 victory over Nebraska to show improvement; otherwise, they haven’t been over 30 percent on third downs in any other game this season.

"We’ve had a couple games where we’ve really struggled," Mora said. "You always have to go back to first and second down and see how that affects third down and then being able to execute on third down. Block it up and run good routes and win down the field and put the ball where it’s supposed to be."

Mora said it was especially difficult Saturday because the Bruins were unable to run the ball effectively. UCLA had a season-low 72 yards rushing.

"When you are struggling to run the ball on early downs, you’re going to get yourself into some situations on third downs that are tough to convert," he said. "It goes back to early downs."

Not so fast: UCLA has placed an emphasis on running its offense at a high tempo, but Saturday's version looked especially slow as the Bruins got off only 70 offensive plays against Oregon State after running 94 and 98 in the previous two games.

Part of it was a deliberate Oregon State offense that won the time of possession, 34:36 to 25:24, and part of it was the inability to convert third downs and sustain drives. Mora acknowledged that the offense has also been slowed because quarterback Brett Hundley is growing as a freshman behind an offensive linemen that has three freshmen.

"I think we have to be realistic as coaches about just how fast we can go," Mora said. "I think sometimes you have a tendency to get too carried away with tempo rather than execution. So if we make such a huge, huge emphasis on tempo rather than execution and we don’t give our guys a chance to diagnose the defense before the ball is snapped, then I think we’re making a mistake."

Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone introduced pictured placards to help with the play calling on Saturday in an attempt to speed up the offensive operation, but Mora said he hadn't yet evaluated how the effectiveness of that experiment.

"We haven’t talked about that," Mora said. "I don’t think it was a big deal. I think we can function well without them. That was the least of our worries was the placards."

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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