Five Things: UCLA vs. Stanford
Sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson picked up a career-high 66 rushing yards Thursday night against Stanford. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)
By Ryan Smith
October 18, 2019 6:29 pm
1. If Dorian Thompson-Robinson is healthy enough to play, he’s the guy.
After redshirt sophomore quarterback Austin Burton led UCLA to 31 points against Oregon State on Oct. 5, some discussion started surrounding the idea of letting Burton take over full-time as the starter.
It’s time we put that idea to bed.
Nobody knew who was going to get the start at quarterback for the Bruins on Thursday until sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson took the field with the offense on the first drive of the night.
Thompson-Robinson – who had been out with a leg injury – didn’t look hurt, as he went on to throw touchdowns on each of UCLA’s first two possessions.
Although his 192 passing yards in the night didn’t jump off stat sheet, he managed the offense and put the Bruins in position to succeed with his arm and his legs – whether it was by design or improvisation.
Thompson-Robinson ran the ball 13 times for 66 yards on the injured leg and proved that even at less than 100 percent, he is coach Chip Kelly’s best and most dynamic option at quarterback.
2. A defense possessed
By the numbers, the Bruins put together one of their best defensive outings in the last decade Thursday night.
The unit allowed just 198 total yards of offense – the least amount of yards UCLA has surrendered in a game since 2009 when it gave up 181 to Washington State.
The Bruins also recorded seven sacks against the Cardinal, the defense’s highest output of the season and the program’s most since it faced Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl in January 2015.
UCLA’s run defense got in on the action as well, holding Stanford to just 1.8 yards per carry and 55 yards for the game, the lowest amount of total rushing yards a Bruin opponent has had since BYU finished with 23 in 2016.
Despite the fact the Cardinal trotted out their third-string quarterback, the Bruins’ performance on defense Thursday night was one to remember – especially considering it helped snap an 11-year losing streak to Stanford.
3. Kyle Philips is emerging as the offense’s No. 1 receiving target
Redshirt freshman receiver Kyle Philips broke out Thursday night, recording career-highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns in the win.
Philips was also the beneficiary on each of Thompson-Robinson’s two touchdown passes and spent most of the night dicing up the Cardinal secondary.
UCLA – which lost star tight end Caleb Wilson to the NFL in the offseason and receiver Theo Howard to the transfer portal this past week – has been searching for a go-to receiver all season, and outside of redshirt junior running back Demetric Felton, that player hadn’t stepped up yet.
Junior receiver Jaylen Erwin and sophomore receiver Chase Cota have each had their fair share of solid performances, but neither player has been able to string together successes on a week-to-week basis.
The second-year wideout has increased his catch and yards total in each of the Bruins’ past five outings, capping it off with his 10-reception, 100-yard performance on Thursday.
He accounted for 47.6 percent of Thompson-Robinson’s completions and became the first Bruin to record 10 receptions in a game since Wilson caught 11 balls against Arizona State last season.
4. What is it about Chip Kelly and games that mean a lot to the fans?
Although Kelly will tell you that he couldn’t care less about all the stats and outside noise surrounding certain matchups, he has found a way to deliver wins in the games that matter most to the fans.
On Thursday night, he helped secure the program’s first victory over Stanford since the 2008 season in a wire-to-wire 18-point road win that meant a lot to not only the fans, but also a number of the older players on the team.
The win also came less than one year removed from the Bruins’ 34-27 triumph over USC at the Rose Bowl last season that helped bring the Victory Bell back to Westwood for the first time since 2014.
Sure, none of this is consolation for Kelly’s 5-14 overall record with the program, but it’s fascinating to think about all the joy he’s been able to inject into a fan base over the past two years despite losing nearly three times as many games as he’s won.
5. A look at the Pac-12 South
With its win on Thursday, UCLA is within a half game of first place in the Pac-12 South with five games remaining.
Digest that information as you’d like, but no matter what way you slice it, the Bruins are still right in the mix with opportunities to make some noise in the coming weeks.
UCLA has yet to face three of the four schools ahead of it in the Pac-12 South standings, and given that there is no clear favorite anywhere in the conference, it would be smart to adopt the “anything can happen” mentality as the season winds down.
The Bruins will get their first crack at going against one of those teams when they play host to Arizona State next weekend at the Rose Bowl.