UCLA football won its second straight game Saturday, upsetting then-No. 24 Arizona State for its first win at the Rose Bowl in 2019. The Bruins’ offense surged for 42 points, tied for the second-most single game points scored in the Chip Kelly era. With UCLA on the rise, here are the five biggest takeaways from Saturday night’s performance.
1. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is injured – again
The sophomore quarterback was outstanding through just over three quarters against the Sun Devils, seeming to pick up right where he left off against Stanford a week prior. Thompson-Robinson threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 16 out of 23 passes.
He even capped off a stellar first half with a highlight-reel play to redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Philips. Philips made a spectacular catch over his right shoulder in the front corner of the end zone, putting the Bruins up 28-7 with just 25 seconds left in the first half.
But in the fourth quarter, Thompson-Robinson took a helmet to the kneecap and limped off the field, unable to put pressure on his left leg. He did not return for the remainder of the game, as redshirt sophomore quarterback Austin Burton entered to replace him.
Only time will tell if Thompson-Robinson will be healthy enough to play against Colorado at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 2. Coach Chip Kelly said he did not have additional information on the status of Thompson-Robinson, and the earliest opportunity for an injury update will likely come at practice Monday morning – if the team is even willing to comment on Thompson-Robinson’s status.
2. Just feed the ball to Joshua Kelley
In the first half alone, the redshirt senior running back had 17 touches, rushing for an even 100 yards and three of the Bruins’ four first-half touchdowns. Against the Sun Devils’ rush defense that came into Saturday’s matchup ranked No. 18 in the country, Kelley and the Bruins pounded the rock nonetheless.
Kelley is one of four players in the NCAA to score four rushing touchdowns in a single game this season, and he was the first Bruin to score three first-half touchdowns since Soso Jamabo in 2016.
Kelley’s 17 first-half rushes were just one off from his total against Stanford a week prior. Kelley had 34 rushing attempts on the night, more than the other five Bruins who ran the ball combined.
3. The defense proved its haters wrong
The Bruins’ defensive front came into Saturday’s game fresh off a seven-sack performance against Stanford a week prior. In that game, the defense managed to hold the Cardinal to under 200 yards and kept Stanford’s offense out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.
But there were skeptics – including myself – who chalked the unit’s success up to Stanford’s third-string quarterback and badly injured offensive line.
The doubters were wrong.
UCLA’s defense picked up right where it left off, forcing a fumble on the Sun Devils’ opening drive. The front seven held running back Eno Benjamin to just 47 yards on the night, and 22 of the Sun Devils’ 32 points came in garbage time.
All three of quarterback Jayden Daniels’ touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter and only two Sun Devil receivers broke 50 yards.
4. Kazmeir Allen and Martell Irby are back
Both sophomore running backs got in on the action with limited touches out of the Bruins’ backfield, but they still left their marks.
Allen rushed eight times and 22 yards in his first game of the 2019 season. Allen was academically cleared to participate in Saturday’s game, according to Kelly.
Last season, Allen played in nine games for UCLA and racked up 188 yards along the way.
Irby – who saw game action against Cincinnati – returned from injury and rushed once for just two yards, but racked up 29 yards as a receiver.
The added depth in the backfield is good news for the Bruins, as both Kelley and redshirt junior running back Demetric Felton will now have some additional help going into the final third of the season.
5. The Bruins control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South
With its win over Arizona State, UCLA moved up to third place in the Pac-12 South. UCLA sits just one loss behind both No. 9 Utah and USC, both of which the Bruins will play on the road in the coming month.
With a win over each of those teams – and this may sound crazy – the Bruins could technically find themselves at the top of the conference standings come the end of the regular season.
Kelly told the media he hasn’t talked about this with his team, but said that destiny is technically a predetermined set of events which nobody can control.
But even though the second-year UCLA coach is good at leaving the press with a mind-boggling paradox in the final seconds of his interview, the Bruins do control the outcome of their season from here on out.
And it should be a fun one to watch.