This post was updated Nov. 3 at 10:13 p.m.
EUGENE, Ore.—The Bruins had a chance to steal one in Eugene on Saturday night, but miscues in all three phases of the game prevented them from doing so.
UCLA football (2-7, 2-4 Pac-12) fell to Oregon (6-3, 3-3) 42-21 in coach Chip Kelly’s first return to Autzen Stadium since leaving the Ducks in 2013.
Kelly received an ovation before the game and said that he appreciated the warm welcome back to his old stomping grounds.
“It was nice, these fans are awesome,” Kelly said. “My six years here were an unbelievable experience and this just kind of solidified exactly what I thought. They’re special people and they have a special passion for their school.”
Unfortunately for Kelly, the actual game was not as enjoyable.
Special teams woes plagued the Bruins throughout the night.
Oregon opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 56-yard punt return touchdown after pushing UCLA back toward its own end zone on the Bruins’ first drive of the night.
Following an interception from freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the ensuing possession, the Ducks marched down the field but were forced to settle for a field goal.
Oregon instead ran a fake and converted, setting up running back CJ Verdell for a one-yard score to put the Ducks ahead 14-0.
A muffed punt by redshirt senior defensive back Adarius Pickett in the second quarter gave Oregon the ball at the UCLA six-yard line, which also resulted in a touchdown after Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert connected with Dillon Mitchell for a four-yard score.
Herbert finished the night 18-of-32 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and a 146.2 passer rating.
Redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley said the 21-point deficit in an environment as electric as Autzen Stadium made the possibility of a comeback even tougher then it would have already been.
“We kind of dug ourselves into a hole early being down 21-0,” Kelley said. “When you play against a team like this on the road in this type of atmosphere, you put yourself in a tough situation to get back into the game. We have to better by starting off early.”
Individually, Kelley was a bright spot for UCLA, reaching the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in six games Saturday night. The UC Davis transfer picked up 161 yards on 26 carries and scored on a 25-yard run up the middle in which he went untouched for the house call.
Kelley said his recent success can be attributed to the mindset that he has been playing with since getting the opportunity to be the team’s lead back.
“Whenever I’m in there I’ve got to produce, I’ve got to produce for this team,” Kelley said. “I always tell myself, ‘Whatever opportunity I get, I have to make the most of it.’”
Thompson-Robinson – who started for the Bruins after missing Oct. 26’s matchup against Utah with a shoulder injury – responded before the half with a 63-yard touchdown strike to redshirt junior tight end Caleb Wilson to send UCLA into the break trailing by 14 points.
The true freshman was far from efficient, however, completing just 9 of his 23 pass attempts for 135 yards before being replaced by graduate transfer Wilton Speight.
Speight led two scoring drives in the second half and finished the night with 147 yards and a touchdown in relief of Thompson-Robinson. Despite his 114.6 passer rating, the Bruins never came within less than 14 points of the Ducks.
Speight, who transferred from Michigan in the summer, said he is not worried about the constant changing at the quarterback position. He also said the he is focused on being the best teammate he can be with the short amount of time he has remaining with the program.
“One thing I learned from (Michigan) coach (Jim) Harbaugh was to just build a callus,” Speight said. “Not let things that are not in your control affect you, and the only thing I’ve been able to control the past couple weeks is my attitude and I’ve just tried to be as positive as I can.”
UCLA will play its final road game of the season Nov. 10 against Arizona State.