Out of Bounds: UCLA Football Beats Alabama State
In the season’s second football episode of “Out of Bounds,” Daily Bruin’s sports podcast, Sports editor Sam Settleman and senior staff writer Jon Christon discuss UCLA’s blowout victory over Alabama State and next week’s matchup against South Alabama.
Jon Christon: Hi, my name is Jon Christon, and this is Out of Bounds, Daily Bruin’s sports podcast.
JC: Hello, everyone, welcome back to another special football edition of Out of Bounds, recording live on a beautiful Monday morning in Westwood. I am your host, Jon Christon, senior staff writer for the Daily Bruin. UCLA is coming off a 45-7 victory over Alabama State on Saturday, and to break it all down we have Sports editor Sam Settleman here. Sam, how are you doing today?
Sam Settleman: I’m doing well, Jon. I’m excited to be recording another football podcast, but I will say I’m kind of counting down the days to Pac-12 play at this point.
JC: I am also counting down the days until we can record in person and not on Zoom, but until then, let’s just start this one with another edition of The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: the UCLA football. Sam got to do The Good last week, so I’ll be the Daily Bruin’s resident optimist and do The Good this week. As we said, the most obvious good is the offense scoring 45 points— fifth straight game scoring 40 or more points. But I think the main good we saw was just the depth of this program. Against an FCS opponent, UCLA was favored by more than 50 points. So there’s not much they could show us to change our minds about too much going into the next game, going into the rest of the season. But I think one thing they showed us was that this team really is deep at a lot of positions, which was uncertain coming into the year considering this as a very senior-heavy team, senior-heavy roster. We didn’t know who’s going to, you know, take over for guys like Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Zach Charbonnet, some guys on the defense. And we saw a lot of freshmen contribute, and it’s still to be determined if these freshmen are going to contribute at all again this season, but they did look capable of contributing somewhere down the line. And that’s important here because Chip Kelly has not been the best recruiter at UCLA, and a lot of guys aren’t five-star recruits, weren’t four-star recruits even. So it’s important to see that they are competent college football players, even if it was against Alabama State, to look good. And I’m talking about guys like T.J. Harden, who had 56 yards and a touchdown – eight yards per carry for him. He looked good. He looked aggressive. He was big. Everything you want to see in a running back. Especially because, you know, Zach Charbonnet is a senior. We don’t know who’s going to take his place next year. He looks like the top candidate at the moment. Other guys, Carsen Ryan, tight end, had three catches for 58 yards. He looked good, he looked legit. He was big. Just to contribute – even if it is against Alabama State – as a true freshman is important to see for the health of this program. But then you look at defense. You see a guy like linebacker Jalen Woods who— true freshman, not much is known about him as a three-star recruit, and had a good game. Had five tackles, a tackle for loss. Just most importantly, it’s the depth of this program. Being able to contribute from a lot of true freshmen, a lot of redshirt freshmen, a lot of guys who haven’t had game experience to come in and get game experience in this game and look competent while doing it is huge for the program in my opinion. But Sam, what was bad about this game?
SS: The biggest point of concern for UCLA fans Saturday would have to be the injury questions. Obviously, you said it: Zach Charbonnet. He missed the entire game. He was on the sidelines for most of it in full pads. So it was a little bit of a question mark of why he wasn’t out there. And I know he was limited in practice as well, but I think that raised some questions for Bruin fans. And they’re obviously hoping he can be back sooner rather than later because he’s probably the key, the focal point of this offense moving forward. But good news on the Charbonnet front is he’s back in practice this week, and I think he’ll be fine moving forward. But I know that brought up some concern for sure. And then Dorian Thompson-Robinson went out early with a leg injury. I think that one’s another case of just being precautionary against a team like Alabama State where you obviously don’t need first-stringers to pull out an easy win. And he should be available for practice this week as well. So hopefully, we’ll see both of, both Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet back, but I think if you had to point out something bad, that was definitely one of the biggest concerns on Saturday. And then in terms of the offense, I think you’d like to see some more explosive plays out of this group. You know, Chip Kelly is obviously known for a very explosive offense like he had at Oregon, and he hasn’t quite had the same explosive offense with UCLA. But this is still a team that puts big yardage every game on offense, and they have been this year so far as well. Over 600 yards against Bowling Green, over 400 yards against Alabama State, but you’d like to see more explosive plays. The biggest play they had on offense was a 26-yard completion from Ethan Garbers. When you’re playing a team like Alabama State, you’d like to see, you know, a 50-yard play, a 75-yard play, just any of these chunk plays, because I think this offense is going to probably rely on a lot of those chunk plays this year. They have an ability to kind of get the ball going on the ground and kind of control the game that way, but I think they’re going to need some explosive plays on top to kind of get over that hump and make the difference in some of these games. But Jon, what do you think about The Ugly?
JC: Just going off your point of the lack of explosive plays, this game was just overall ugly to watch. They scored 45 points in this, but like you said, it was not a lot of chunk plays. It was a lot of nickel and diming it down the field. A lot of slow, methodical drives. Just again, it just wasn’t that exciting to watch. You would hope for more big plays, more just domination overall that leads to some of these chunk plays, and I think that starts in the trenches. I don’t think UCLA absolutely dominated this game on the offensive line, which is a little disappointing considering Alabama State’s defensive line is filled with FCS players, FCS-level competition. UCLA’s offensive line has to be better, has to be able to dominate, open up some runs for 30, 40 yards. And just consistently, UCLA should have scored against this defense like a hot knife through butter, Sam. So this was pretty disappointing to see. But again, that’s Alabama State. We can take it with a grain of salt, all of this. But you just would have hoped to see the offense pop a little bit more. Even without Dorian Thompson-Robinson in there for much of the game. It looked like Ethan Garbers is again kind of nickel and diming his way down the field, had an interception, had a bad throw that could have been intercepted. So you just want more, a little more from this offense – especially from an offense coached by Chip Kelly. Need something more than just these slow, methodical drives against a team like this. But yeah, next up, we’re just going to preview the next game for UCLA. They have a matchup against South Alabama next Saturday. UCLA enters that game as 15.5-point favorites against their opponents from the Sun Belt. That is much different, much down from their 50.5-point favorite status against Alabama State. This is a much better opponent. This is a Sun Belt team. As you know, if you watched college football this week, the Sun Belt is kind of on a hot streak right now. Marshall beat Notre Dame, Appalachian State beat Texas A&M, Georgia Southern beat Nebraska and got Scott Frost fired in the process. So UCLA might be on upset watch right now going against a Sun Belt team, even if they are two-score favorites, Sam, what can UCLA do to prevent them from being the next upset victim to a Sun Belt team?
SS: You said it. I mean, UCLA is going to be a decent favorite in this game. But this is a legit team, unlike the Bowling Green and Alabama States that UCLA has opened the season against. I mean, it starts with their passing game. South Alabama has a pretty well-developed passing game. They got a quarterback who can put up big numbers. And we didn’t really talk about it today, but the secondary didn’t have a great day against Alabama State. I mean, they were working with the second-string quarterback and moving the ball with relative ease through the air. So I think if the secondary doesn’t have a much improved day, I think South Alabama might have its way in the passing game. So secondary is going to have to take a leap. Obviously, avoiding the mistakes, the shooting yourself in the foot that we’ve seen from UCLA the past couple years and especially early in the season against Bowling Green, didn’t really see much of that against Alabama State. And then finally just getting the ball going on the ground. Obviously, it makes a big difference if Charbonnet is back, but you talked about the offensive line, they’re going to need to get in a rhythm here pretty quickly. Otherwise, you know, Charbonnet or not, this running game isn’t going to be as good as Chip Kelly-coached teams have had in the past – and South Alabama is pretty good against the run so far. So we’ll have to see how that matchup plays out, but definitely not a gimme by any means. But Jon, what are you predicting for next week?
JC: I think UCLA is going to win. Right now my score prediction is 42-27 Bruins, which may seem, you know, it’s still— they’re not going to cover. I don’t think they’re going to cover the 15.5-point line, and we’ll see about that, but I do think it’s going to be a close game. I do think South Alabama will be able to match the Bruins in the first half. Maybe not point for point, but I do think it’s going to be close at halftime and a lot of people in Twitter are going to panic as that happens on Twitter. But then I’m too much of a believer in this UCLA offense and Dorian Thompson-Robinson to think they’re gonna let a game, an early-season game like this, be close down the stretch. I think they’re going to pull away in the second half. I believe in Chip Kelly to kind of unleash some of the offense. You can tell he’s been a little conservative with a few of his play calling in the last two games, so I think he’s going to unleash the offense a little bit, let Dorian Thompson-Robinson be Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and they win by 15. I don’t think they’re going to cover. I think I’m going to hedge my bets there. But I think they win by about the 15-point margin. But as we’ve seen college football, we never know.
JC: But that’s going to wrap us up for this episode of Out of Bounds. Out of Bounds is brought to you by the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. You can listen to this show and others by the Daily Bruin on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud. And a transcript for this show is always available at dailybruin.com. Thanks, everyone.