No. 18 UCLA football overcomes No. 11 Utah to earn its first 6-0 start since 2005
Redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Bobo (left), redshirt senior tight end Michael Ezeike (center) and senior running back Zach Charbonnet (right) celebrate during No. 18 UCLA football’s win over No. 11 Utah at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Bruins’ 6-0 start marks the program’s best record to start a season since 2005. (Kyle Kotanchek/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 11 Utah||32|
|No. 18 UCLA||42|
By Francis Moon
Oct. 8, 2022 4:45 p.m.
This post was updated Oct. 10 at 12:04 a.m.
For the second straight week, the Bruins walked into their home stadium as underdogs.
And just like last Friday, they prevailed to remain undefeated.
Facing a team it had not beaten since 2015, No. 18 UCLA football (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) completed a wire-to-wire 42-32 upset over No. 11 Utah (4-2, 2-1) to win its ninth straight game dating back to last season. Saturday’s win at the Rose Bowl got the blue and gold off to its best start since it won its first eight games in 2005, producing 511 total yards of offense on the day.
“We all know the history between UCLA and Utah. … The point differential has been crazy,” said redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. “We knew the beast at hand coming in here, and my boys went out there and went to work, baby.”
Both teams struggled to push the ball downfield early, each punting it away on their first two drives. Even after Utah finally got itself within the 30-yard line, senior linebacker Darius Muasau picked off quarterback Cameron Rising to keep the score knotted at zero.
Following the interception, Thompson-Robinson capped off a 95-yard drive with a 7-yard rush to put the Bruins on the board first, with 10 seconds remaining in the opening period. Utah responded by feeding running back Tavion Thomas, who turned six carries and a catch into 41 yards on the ensuing drive before being stopped on a third-and-goal run as the Utes settled for a field goal.
On the first play of its next drive, UCLA came straight back with a 44-yard run up the middle from senior running back Zach Charbonnet. After the Bruins once again advanced to the red zone, redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Bobo – who caught two touchdowns last week against Washington – hauled in a 7-yard score to punctuate a 75-yard drive and extend his team’s lead to 14-3.
“Right place, right time,” Bobo said. “Bullets are flying, especially when you get in there tight. I take pride in being a guy he looks for.”
After starting the game 3-of-7 passing, Rising got things going by completing his next six passes to set up a 5-yard rushing touchdown for Thomas with just over three minutes left in the half.
Charbonnet responded by breaking off for his second big gain of the day, stiff-arming and evading a defender for a career-high 49-yard run to put the Bruins at the 8-yard line. However, the blue and gold was unable to convert, as redshirt junior kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira shanked a 21-yard field goal attempt off the left upright.
A missed 43-yarder from the Utes kept the Bruins’ lead at four heading into the locker room. Through 30 minutes of play, Charbonnet produced 125 rushing yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while Thompson-Robinson added 17 yards on the ground while throwing for 130 yards and a score.
Kelly said Thompson-Robinson’s mentality rivals that of all-time great athletes, and he is committed to doing what he can to push his quarterback even further every week.
“All great athletes have some type of chip – no pun intended – on their shoulder,” Kelly said. “You watch ‘The Last Dance,’ listen to Michael Jordan talk about what he perceived were slights and the great athletes are intrinsically motivated. Whatever it is that gets him intrinsically motivated, I’m more than happy to do it.”
The quarterback kept things going coming out of halftime, completing a 48-yard drive with his second touchdown pass of the afternoon and a 5-yard strike to redshirt junior wide receiver Kam Brown on third down. The offense would not see the field again for almost six minutes of gameplay, however, as Rising ran for a 6-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion to bring Utah’s deficit down to 21-18.
UCLA was once again able to march its way into opposing territory, this time courtesy of a 30-yard rush by redshirt junior running back Keegan Jones on his first touch of the day. Thompson-Robinson took advantage by finding Bobo in the endzone for his second receiving score.
Heading into the final period up 28-18, the blue and gold saw its defense get picked apart by Rising before the quarterback ran for his second touchdown of the afternoon to counter the Bruins’ score for the second drive in a row.
Thompson-Robinson kept the barrage going, completing a short pass to junior wide receiver Logan Loya, who took it 70 yards to the house for the Bruins’ longest play of the day.
With the throw, the fifth-year quarterback completed his 76th career passing touchdown to jump former quarterback Brett Hundley for the most in program history. Thompson-Robinson said the hardships he has overcome since entering the program as a true freshman have culminated in a special moment for him and his team.
“It’s great to have my name there, but the thing that’s made me most emotional right now is seeing how happy my guys in my locker room were for me,” Thompson-Robinson said. “The coaching staff, everybody that’s been here since I was a freshman, just rethinking all the hard times that I went through. I just can’t say how thankful I am and how grateful I am to be on this team right now.”
Attempting to respond for a third straight drive, Rising instead fumbled the ball after a hit from Muasau. Redshirt freshman defensive back Jaylin Davies scooped it up and returned it 37 yards to set UCLA’s offense up at the 1-yard line.
“Watching film this whole week, we knew what they wanted to do – just downhill runs,” Muasau said. “I knew I had to calm down and just make a play for the boys, and I was able to put my helmet on the ball – the thing popped out.”
Charbonnet put the game out of reach by immediately punching it in for his first touchdown of the day. The senior produced a career-high 198 rushing yards on 22 carries to go along with his score, including six rushes of 10 or more yards.
A late pick-6 thrown by Thompson-Robinson brought the lead down to 10 in the final minute, but it was too little, too late for the Utes, as the redshirt senior finished the win with 299 passing yards and five total touchdowns.
“The great thing about football is you can’t fake it,” Kelly said. “Once you get across the white line, pretenders get exposed.”