Saturday, April 4

UCLA football shows improvement on offense by revamping passing game

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Demetric Felton has five receptions for 93 yards over UCLA football's last two games. The wideout has run routes in the slot – as well as outside the numbers – for coach Chip Kelly's offense. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)

For the first time all season, the Bruins broke the 21-point threshold.

UCLA football (0-5, 0-2 Pac-12) averaged 17 points per game through its first four games, but against No. 7 Washington (5-1, 4-0) this past weekend, coach Chip Kelly’s offense scored a season-high 24. While that mark is still a far cry from the team’s 32.5 points per game in 2017, it was an improvement for a previously stagnant offense.

Leading the charge was freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had season highs in yards, touchdowns, completions, attempts, completion percentage and yards per carry.

Despite the career night for Thompson-Robinson, he credited redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley and the Bruins’ ground attack for opening the door for to an effective passing game.

“When you have a run game like we’ve had these past couple games, it really does open up the offense a lot,” Thompson-Robinson said. “And so it opens up the play-calling and stuff like that. So you don’t have to put all the weight on the passing game when it comes to third down.”

Kelley rushed for 125 yards on 20 carries, while Thompson-Robinson threw for 272 yards with two touchdowns on 27-of-38 passing.

Thompson-Robinson’s weapons in the receiving corps have developed over the course of the season as well.

Since first getting on the field with the offense in the matchup against Colorado, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Demetric Felton has five receptions for 93 yards. Felton said the more time he has spent with Thompson-Robinson, the easier it has gotten to connect in games.

“I think (the timing with Thompson-Robinson has) gotten a lot better,” Felton said. “We’re just working at it each day, trying to get it better each week. But it’s definitely improved since he’s got here and I definitely hope it keeps on getting better.”

Kelly said he was impressed with the way Felton emerged over the past two games.

“He’s really stepped up,” Kelly said. “(Felton’s) a young guy that’s pretty dynamic with the ball in his hands and he had a really good game against Colorado and I thought he played really well against Washington.”

Before conference play, Felton was junior wide receiver Theo Howard’s backup as the second-string X receiver on the right side. But this week, Felton was officially named a starting receiver, overtaking redshirt sophomore Dymond Lee in the Z-receiver spot.

“He’s doing a lot of different things for us,” Kelly said. “He’s playing receiver both inside and outside and then he’s had a real big impact on special teams.”

In addition to running routes, Felton had a six-yard carry against Colorado and has seen time on special teams both as a returner and in coverage.

“That’s what I want to do as a player,” Felton said. “I want to be able to move around and move in different places so I can make plays a lot of different ways.”

Thompson-Robinson has completed passes to 13 different targets so far this season, with only Howard and redshirt junior tight end Caleb Wilson reeling in more than seven catches.

The Bruins’ third-leading receiver, freshman Chase Cota, has seven catches for 98 yards on the season. Cota was named Felton’s backup on the team’s official depth chart this week.

Thompson-Robinson, Felton and the rest of the UCLA offense will have an opportunity to top their season-best performance when they travel to California this weekend with their first win of the season on the line.

Sports editor

Connon is the Sports editor and a reporter on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, women's golf, men's golf and cross country beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats. Connon also currently contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment. Connon is a third-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.

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