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UCLA football to face South Alabama in final nonconference game of season

UCLA football players run on the field. The blue and gold will take on South Alabama on Saturday to round out its nonconference schedule. (Marc-Anthony Rosas/Daily Bruin)

Football


South Alabama
Saturday, 11 a.m.

Rose Bowl
Pac-12 Networks

By Joseph Crosby

Sept. 16, 2022 3:14 p.m.

The Bruins will confront their final nonconference test Saturday before beginning Pac-12 play.

UCLA football (2-0) will host South Alabama (2-0) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday morning for a second straight matchup against an Alabama-based team. The third matchup of the season also represents the second home game with a morning start time – a scheduling oddity that hasn’t yet occurred for the Bruins this century.

South Alabama is coming off a 14-point win over Central Michigan, which put up 44 points in a loss to No. 8 Oklahoma State. Coach Chip Kelly said Monday the contest against the Jaguars will be the Bruins’ biggest challenge so far.

“This will be the best opponent we’ve played to date,” Kelly said. “We’re very aware of what South Alabama’s bringing in here on Saturday.”

Through two games this season, both UCLA and South Alabama have posted comparable defensive numbers, with both teams limiting opponents to under 200 passing yards and 75 rushing yards on average. Both defenses have recovered two fumbles, but the blue and gold narrowly wins the turnover matchup because of their two interceptions to the Jaguars’ one.

Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said South Alabama’s defense will keep UCLA’s offense busy.

“They’re a really good team, … got a really good scheme on that side of the ball,” Thompson-Robinson said. “They run a lot of twist games up front so the offensive line’s going to have to communicate really well, and we got our hands cut out for us in the secondary.”

The Jaguars’ defense has also held opponents to a 25 percent conversion rate on third down and allowed one fourth-down conversion on six attempts.

On the other hand, the Bruins’ defense has been effective in preventing long gains, having not allowed a rush longer than 18 yards and giving up just two receptions for more than 30 yards.

Redshirt senior defensive back Azizi Hearn said the UCLA secondary will show improvement week after week.

“The secondary, we’ve gotten better from the first week,” Hearn said. “All we got to do is continue to stay on that trajectory: up.”

Offensively, South Alabama continues to mirror UCLA similar to the way it does on the defensive side. Both teams have averaged over 500 total yards per game, and the Jaguars 43 points per game figure is two shy of the Bruins’ 45.

While the blue and gold has leaned heavily towards rushing touchdowns in its first two games – with eight of 12 scores coming on the ground – the Jaguars have displayed a more balanced look with five rushing and six passing touchdowns.

Ahead of the matchup against South Alabama, Thompson-Robinson said UCLA’s offense improved in week two but still has some things to work on.

“The things we still got to clean up is … being as consistent as possible on the day-to-day play, on a drive-to-drive basis and being able to keep the ball consistently moving,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We’ve got some things to clean up that way so we can finish some drives down in the red zone.”

UCLA will kickoff its final nonconference game against South Alabama on Saturday at 11 a.m.

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Joseph Crosby | Assistant Sports editor
Crosby is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats.
Crosby is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats.
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