The fallout from UCLA’s worst season since 2010 began Sunday when the university announced it would not retain offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu in the wake of the team’s epic struggles to move the ball.
Polamalu oversaw a running game that ranked No. 127 among 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools by averaging 84.3 yards a game. UCLA also ranked No. 96 in scoring offense (24.9 points) and No. 92 in total offense (379.8 yards) per game.
“I want to thank Kennedy for his hard work, dedication to the program and commitment to our student-athletes,” Bruins Coach Jim Mora said in a statement announcing the coaching move. “He is a professional in every sense of the word.”
Mora did not immediately return messages seeking further comment.
UCLA announced that a comprehensive search would commence to find a replacement for Polamalu, who was in his first season as the Bruins’ offensive coordinator after serving as the running backs coach the previous two years. UCLA had success running the ball in previous seasons, with tailback Paul Perkins surpassing 1,000 yards rushing in 2014 and 2015.
But the Bruins barely exceeded that total collectively this season, finishing with 1,011 yards as a team while running for only 2.93 yards a carry after switching to a pro-style offense. The team’s struggles running the ball became more pronounced as the season progressed and continued upon a change back to a more spread offense following the loss of quarterback Josh Rosen to a season-ending shoulder injury.
“We couldn’t control after that BYU game really not being able to get a rhythm back running the football. That bothered me,” Mora said after UCLA’s 36-10 loss to California on Saturday. “This is a game that demands that you are able to run the football efficiently. You have to be able to do a lot of things efficiently and throw it obviously to score points, but in order to, in my opinion, to be able to really control a football game, you have to be able to run it and we struggled there.”
Asked to assess his performance after his first season calling plays, Polamalu said: “Organization-wise, it’s not a big deal. Play calling, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s just capturing your players to play with a passion and I think I didn’t do a good enough job.”
Rosen will start 2017 with his third offensive coordinator in three years after Noel Mazzone departed after last season, leading to the promotion of Polamalu.