Reviewing ‘The Drive’: Episode 2 improves with game day footage, piece on UCLA’s Kenny Clark

The second episode of “The Drive” begins pretty much exactly where the first episode left off, which was a little disappointing. The first couple of minutes again focus on the hype and expectations surrounding the UCLA football team as it goes through its final days of fall training camp in San Bernardino. Considering this was pretty much all we heard about the Bruins in the offseason and in Episode 1, it felt a little redundant.

However, two segments made the extra time in San Bernardino worthwhile:

1. Seeing 6-foot-3, 305-pound sophomore defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes backflip off of a boat during the team’s day off at Lake Arrowhead.

2. The feature story on sophomore nose tackle Kenny Clark and his family. This was the kind of humanized story you hoped you’d see when it was first announced that UCLA would be on the show.

The segment opens with footage of Clark on the practice field interspersed with clips of coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich speaking about the nose tackle. Ulbrich was particularly high on Clark and said that he was in the conversation of the best that he had ever seen play the nose tackle position.

“He’s like iron, he really is. Not just physically, but mentally. He’s like of a generation past. There’s a lot of kids that relent when it gets hard, and you can’t break him. You can’t,” Ulbrich said of Clark during the show.

But Clark’s off-the-field story makes the piece. We learn that Clark’s dad went to prison when Clark was 9 years old, leaving the young Clark to serve as the man of the house. Clark helped out his mother and acted as a caretaker to his three younger siblings during the episode.

”He did everything a parent should be doing,” Leslie Clark said of her son.

It was nice to find out that Clark’s father is still a big part of the nose tackle’s life. I particularly enjoyed the revelation that defensive line coach Angus McClure visited Clark’s father in prison when the Bruins were recruiting Clark.

Clark’s dominant performance against Virginia on Saturday made the story all the more strong, but even without it, his family’s story was the high point of the episode. Hopefully, these in-depth personal sketches are a sign of things to come for the remaining 13 episodes of “The Drive.”

Coverage of the Virginia game

The show was also able to film some behind-the-scenes Virginia practice footage and interview the Cavaliers’ coach Mike London. While nothing too substantive arose out of it, it served as a nice piece of context, and I hope the show continues to give us a glimpse of UCLA’s opponents each week.

When it came to covering the game between UCLA and Virginia, the show did a solid job of showing reactions – mostly Mora’s – to plays as they occurred. Amid those reactions were some interesting conversations held on the UCLA benches.

Some highlights:

Junior safety Randall Goforth to redshirt junior wide receiver Devin Lucien after Goforth’s fumble return for a touchdown, which was the defense’s second of the day: “Can y’all do something now? We may score more than y’all.”

Turns out the offense couldn’t, as the Bruins’ defense outscored the offense 21-7, which led to this gem from Mora to offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley: “Hey Noel, do you think you guys will ever score? It’s 21-0 defense. Hey Brett do you guys planning on scoring today? Do you plan on getting a first down? Oh no, we’re doing good. We’ve got four first downs.”

The show ends following UCLA’s 28-20 win, but not before we get a glimpse inside the Bruins’ locker room. It’s a fairly somber atmosphere for a team that just won a football game, with Mora telling the group: “I love our expectations, but they can’t become a burden.” The show then ends following Mora’s postgame speech.

The show did have some flaws, however. I know Mora would most likely never allow it, but I would enjoy having a player mic’d up for a game. Maybe NFL Films has spoiled me over the years, but it did feel like some of the player elements from the game were missing. This could be offset by showing more player interactions and conversations from the sidelines during the game. Outside of the Goforth-Lucien exchange, there wasn’t all that much.

I was also surprised at how little the show devoted to the play of the Bruin offensive line, which allowed five sacks to Hundley and was penalized six times. This O-line’s poor performance was the dominant narrative coming out of the game, and the show hardly touched on it, save for one clip of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm speaking to his players for a couple of seconds.

The narration of the show can also be heavy-handed at times, as the narrator often refers to and rehashes the step-by-step process of the season, how the team is just taking it one step at a time, etc. We get that the show is called “The Drive,” thanks.

However, the second episode was a definite improvement over the first partly because of the impressive game day footage, with the piece on Clark and his family putting it over the top.

Episode 2 grade: 3.5 / 5

Jordan Lee

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