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No. 18 UCLA football looks to end 5-game losing streak to No. 11 Utah

Coach Chip Kelly walks on the field during No. 18 UCLA football’s win over then-No. 15 Washington. (Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin staff)

Football


No. 11 Utah
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Rose Bowl
FOX

By Gavin Carlson

Oct. 7, 2022 12:05 a.m.

If the Bruins want to earn their first 6-0 start since 2005, they’ll have to do something they haven’t done since 2015 – beat the Utes.

Coming off a 40-32 victory against then-No. 15 Washington, newly ranked No. 18 UCLA football (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) will have the chance to end its five-game losing streak against No. 11 Utah (4-1, 2-0) when the blue and gold will host the defending Pac-12 Champions at the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon. In their last five victories against the blue and gold, the Utes have scored at least 40 points in each contest and have defeated the Bruins by an average of 27 points per matchup.

Coach Chip Kelly – who is 0-3 against Utah since taking over as the head coach in Westwood in 2018 – said the Utes’ defensive success stems from years of continuity and mastery of their system under coach Kyle Whittingham.

“They present a lot of problems,” Kelly said. “They’re active – they create a lot of turnovers. That’s by design and how well they play defensively. They really understand their system – it’s been in place for a really, really long time, so we’ve got a big task on Saturday.”

UCLA’s offense has averaged just 13.5 points per game in its last four contests against Utah’s defense. The Utes have also won the turnover battle 15-4 in the last five meetings with the Bruins, and Utah’s defense is coming off a four-interception performance last Saturday against Oregon State.

Despite losing to Florida during its nonconference schedule, Utah ranks first in the Pac-12 and No. 13 in the nation in yards allowed per game at 278.6. The Utes also lead the conference in scoring defense and are tied for 11th nationally by allowing just 14.4 points per contest.

Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has only faced Utah’s defense once in his career after missing last year’s 44-24 defeat in Salt Lake City because of an injury. In his lone game against the Utes in 2019, Thompson-Robinson threw two interceptions and did not score a touchdown through the air or on the ground for the only time that season.

(Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin staff)
Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs with the ball. (Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin staff)

Thompson-Robinson recalled that 2019 defeat and said he highlighted this matchup heading into the 2022 season.

“I circled about three or four games before the start of the season, Utah being one of them,” Thompson-Robinson said. “The only thing I remember is 2019 when we came in their place and kicked my butt around a few times. That’s the last memory I have – that’s the last taste I have in my mouth.”

But Thompson-Robinson is a much different quarterback than he was in 2019 when he finished the season with 21 passing touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions and a 59.7% completion rate. In the first five games of 2022, he has thrown for 11 touchdowns versus just one interception and is completing 74.3% of his passes.

Last Friday against Washington, Thompson-Robinson completed 24 of 33 passes for a season-high 315 yards, threw three touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for 53 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Kam Brown – who caught a touchdown from Thompson-Robinson in that victory – said his quarterback has grown in every aspect of his game.

“He’s on point,” Brown said. “He’s grown so much as a player, as a teammate, everything. It’s real fun to watch him just go out there and lead and dominate.”

As for the Utes, their quarterback Cameron Rising didn’t even play a snap in 2019’s matchup. But now in 2022, Rising is coming off an All-Pac-12 First Team season in 2021 and ranks first in the conference and sixth nationally in ESPN’s quarterback rating through the first five games of this year’s campaign.

With Saturday’s matchup against Utah and the following game being against a ranked Oregon team, UCLA is in the midst of a three-game stretch against ranked opponents. Three wins would help the Bruins return to national prominence, somewhere Thompson-Robinson said is where he believes his team is headed.

“You come to be a Bruin to be a national champion – that’s the kind of culture that we set here from all sports,” Thompson-Robinson said. “That’s where we’re headed right now. We’re trying to get something way bigger than ourselves and trying to put on for this program and put it back in the national spotlight.”

The Bruins and Utes will face off Saturday at the Rose Bowl at 12:30 p.m.

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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