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UCLA football: What happened in 2017 — and what’s next

By in Press Enterprise on January 9, 2018

By Thuc Nhi Nguyen

From yet another disappointing season, UCLA got two key things: the biggest comeback in school history and the top coach on the market.

A year that started with a thrilling 34-point comeback devolved into the program’s second consecutive losing season after UCLA (6-7, 4-5 Pac-12) gave up a 10-point halftime lead to Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl.

Chip Kelly watched the season-ending collapse from a suite in Chase Field as he plotted the next steps for a program desperate to return to its winning ways of two decades ago.

As the Bruins move into the Kelly era, here’s a look at what happened in 2017 and what Kelly will be working with in 2018:

What went wrong?

For the UCLA defense, the season was one long growing pain. And it was an excruciatingly painful one at that.

The raw talent from a young defensive front was promising during training camp, but was not enough to fill the holes left by three starting defensive linemen and the Pac-12’s leading tackler, who all played significant snaps as NFL rookies.

UCLA finished as the worst rushing defense in the country, allowing 287.4 yards per game, and the worst rushing defense in school history since 1945, the first year for which stats are available. The 3,736 total rushing yards allowed was nearly 1,000 more than the previous UCLA single-season record (2,793 in 2005).

Six defensive linemen played their first Division I snaps this year while injuries took out senior defensive lineman Matt Dickerson and junior linebacker Josh Woods midway through the season, further emphasizing the lack of experience and depth up front.

The defense’s inexperience showed most in the number of big plays the Bruins gave up. UCLA relinquished 32 rushes of 20 yards or longer. Nine were 50 yards or longer as young players, eager to make big plays, often found […]    

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