Sunday, November 17

UCLA football opens Chip Kelly era with 26-17 home loss to Cincinnati

UCLA football dropped its season opener at home to the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night. The Bruins’ offense put up 306 yards, but could not put a sustained drive together, spoiling Chip Kelly’s UCLA coaching debut. (Amy Dixon/Photo editor)

UCLA football dropped its season opener at home to the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night. The Bruins’ offense put up 306 yards, but could not put a sustained drive together, spoiling Chip Kelly’s UCLA coaching debut. (Amy Dixon/Photo editor)

This post was updated Sept. 1 at 9:07 p.m.

With Chip Kelly behind the wheel, UCLA football was expected to speed through the ranks of college football.

One game against a mid-major program pumped the brakes on that plan.

Behind their potential offensive backfield of the future, the Bruins (0-1) were unable to sustain any offense against the Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0), falling 26-17 on Saturday night.

“Just too many mistakes, to be honest with you,” Kelly said. “It’s a younger team, not a lot of experience, and that’s not an excuse, it’s just a reality. So they’re going to get their experience and it’s going to be a baptism under fire.”

Even though Kelly’s offenses during his tenure in Oregon were known for their prolific output, UCLA only mustered 306 yards on 68 plays. The offense also produced four three-and-outs and two turnovers on downs.

The second of those, on the Bruins’ penultimate drive, came after Kelly’s decision to go for it on 4th and 1 from his own 36-yard line. True freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson called an audible but his pass flew behind redshirt sophomore receiver Dymond Lee and off his outstretched hands.

“I thought we had a good shot at it,” Kelly said. “We knew if there were extra guys in the box that we would have one on one with off (coverage) on our receiver. (Thompson-Robinson) made the right check in that situation, we’ve just got to execute.”

The Bearcats subsequently mauled their way down the field for running back Michael Warren’s third one-yard touchdown of the game – on a 4th-and-1 play. That score put Cincinnati up two possessions with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight’s UCLA debut lasted less than two quarters – he exited the game several minutes before halftime with a back injury after taking a hard hit at the end of a one-yard run. He had completed 8-of-12 passes for 45 yards and an interception that led to Cincinnati’s second touchdown of the game.

Thompson-Robinson didn’t fare much better.

In the true freshman’s collegiate debut, he only completed 15-of-25 passes for 117 yards, and only led UCLA to 180 total yards in the second half. Thompson-Robinson also had a crucial fumble that redshirt junior tight end Caleb Wilson recovered in the end zone for a safety that put Cincinnati ahead for good 19-17 with 10 minutes left in the contest.

“I know as a freshman, (he) definitely feels like it was his fault that we probably lost tonight,” sophomore corner Darnay Holmes said. “But he definitely shouldn’t think in that type of way.”

Drops, a prominent theme in UCLA’s offense in recent years, reared their head again.

Redshirt senior receiver Christian Pabico had a pass fly through his hands and off his helmet when he was a step behind the Cincinnati defense. But Thompson-Robinson also didn’t help himself by missing several wide open receivers.

“Today was a disappointing day, just overall,” Thompson-Robinson said. “That was my first college game. So I now know what it’s like. And just having that mindset. And now I’m prepared for next week, I know what next week will be like.”

UCLA tied the game early in the third quarter thanks to true freshman running back Kazmeir Allen. The California state 100-meter dash champion made one cut and outraced the defense for a 74-yard touchdown on UCLA’s second play of the second half. Allen finished as the Bruins’ leading rusher with 103 yards on five carries.

Redshirt junior Joshua Kelley, who started the game in his UCLA debut, and senior Bolu Olorunfunmi combined for 33 rushing yards on 15 carries, including Olorunfunmi’s one-yard plunge to open the game’s scoring.

“(Allen’s) another young kid that’s got a lot of talent, “ Kelly said. “We’ve got somebody there that has legitimate speed that if we can get him a crease, he’s got the ability to break something.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit
Senior staff

Wang is a Daily Bruin senior staffer on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's tennis, women's tennis and women's soccer beats. Wang was previously a reporter for the men's tennis beat.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Byron Siliezar

    Chip “Disaster” Kelly starts his UCLA debut with sloppy football losing against a 14.5 point underdog – yes with a similarly young squad. It looks to be a very very long season. Next stop for UCLA Football = Oklahoma…take your pain killers in advance. Can’t wait for basketball season to start and for Dandy Dan to just pack his bags and move on to a cushy job with the NCAA so we can start the process of rebuilding the UCLA Athletic Programs.

  • J Allen DeGuillermo

    Just a college football fan wanting to see what people wrote on the game, but I don´t think its as bad as everyone is saying. His starting quarterback (who got most of the reps) got hurt in the first half. Most teams whose starter go down don´t fair that well on offense. Even in the loss, I think UCLA looked okay. Itll be a learning year with a new young qb, but later in the year I think they’ll upset a team or two, and next year they should be looking Oregon like on offense.

  • Dean Dino Georgopoulos

    Bruins fans take a deep breath, grab something to drink and hold on for a fun ride ahead. For the record I have never been a Bruins fan, but I am a Chip(per) kelly fan. I have been following him since kindergarten where we both experienced along with our fellow classmates, 4 different teachers in one school year.

    I’m this post, I will not document our friendship over the last 50 years but I will say that since leaving NH and joining the staff of Oregon, I have paid a lot of attention to the articles written about him and the games his teams have played. I have had a chance to speak with him from time to time, and I remain blown away at his accomplishments, his work ethic, his abilities, his insight and his intelligence.

    I am not a football guy, I could not tell you the names of each position. I am a hockey guy, just like your coach. So I never talk football with your coach, how could I, I don’t even know the positions. However, I have watched almost every game he has head coached in the NCAA and NFL, so I have a bit of perspective on how things have gone for him in the last decade.

    In my perspective the situation you are in is very much like that of the first Oregon team Chipper head coached. That team had a disastrous first game against a hot Boise State team which resulted in the loss of their best player, Legarrette Blount. The press destroyed Chipper that day and everyone was calling him a failure. Cut to winning 46 of the next 52 games.

    I’m not saying this season will end up just like that one with a rose bowl berth, pac-10 championship and a 10-3 record… but I want you all to recognize that if there is one thing Chipper does Well, it’s take underdogs and makes them into winners. He is a teacher and now that he is back in college, he has a willing audience. He will teach these kids how to play football at this level and they will have success.

    Having the toughest schedule in college football will be an advantage for these players. As he said in the post game presser, baptism by fire. Lots of tape of what not to do and lots of teachable moments.

    You have seen a glimpse of what can happen with the 75 yard TD in a moments notice. More reps and more coaching and you will not recognize these kids in 5-6 weeks. Have a little patience. They will come around…. I have seen it over and over again…. remember he brought the ducks to the championship game w a QB and roster that did not produce any NFL players against Cam Newton and almost won if it were not for a fluke play at the very end of the game that resulted in a loss..

    Stay strong Bruins… we have a saying from our high school ice hockey team which won the NH state championship in 1981…. you should learn it and preach it…..”WE BELIEVE”…

  • slvrsurfer22

    Bring back Jim Mora