Out of Bounds: UCLA Football vs. Utah Recap
In the season’s sixth football episode of “Out of Bounds,” Daily Bruin’s sports podcast, Sports editor Sam Settleman and senior staff writers Jon Christon and Francis Moon discuss No. 11 UCLA’s statement win over then-No. 11 Utah.
Jon Christon: Hi, my name is Jon Christon, and this is Out of Bounds, Daily Bruin’s sports podcast.
JC: Hi, hello everyone. Welcome back to yet another episode of Out of Bounds. I am your host, Jon Christon, a senior staff writer here at the Daily Bruin. We are back on yet another beautiful Monday morning at the Daily Bruin offices at Kerckhoff Hall. We have a big UCLA football episode planned for you. UCLA is coming off a big win over Utah on Saturday, and I think it’s finally fair to say that UCLA football is officially back. But first up, before we dig into anything, it is my duty – not my privilege – to introduce Sports editor Sam Settleman, who picked Washington to beat UCLA, who picked Utah to beat UCLA, said Cam Rising was better than DTR, said Michael Penix Jr. is better than DTR, said Owen McCown was not going to start for Colorado. All of that, all of the above is our glorious leader, Sam. What’s up?
Sam Settleman: I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had some bad takes this year on the football beat, but I’m ready for the bye week and I’m ready to start being on the right side of history.
JC: It is my privilege to introduce senior staff writer Francis Moon, a football beat reporter here with us at the Daily Bruin. Francis, how’re we doing today?
Francis Moon: I’m pretty good. Happy to be here for my second-ever podcast.
JC: Yeah, Francis and Sam were both at the Rose Bowl on Saturday to witness UCLA’s 42-32 victory over then-No. 11 Utah. I feel like I’m repeating myself from last week, but again, this is probably the biggest win of the year for UCLA and maybe even the biggest win in the Chip Kelly era. It’s kind of hard to understate how much of a statement it was to the rest of the country to see UCLA win like this. The win catapulted UCLA up to No. 11 in the AP poll, which is their highest ranking since 2015, the Jim Mora days. So suffice to say, big win for Chip Kelly and company. Game was good. Usually we do a game of The Good, The Bad, The Ugly to kick things off on the podcast. But really, I don’t think there’s too many things to say for The Bad and The Ugly. So I think me, Francis and Sam are just going to share our biggest storylines from the game. In the interest of letting Sam redeem himself for his bad takes, I’ll let him start off. Sam, what was the biggest storyline for you for UCLA’s win?
SS: I mean, Jon, you already said it a couple times in these first three minutes, but I’ve had some bad takes this year. I know it. I’ll be the first to admit it. DTR I think has officially taken the leap. I think the past four years, you know, you’ve seen the flashes of potential, one game at a time maybe. You saw it against USC last year. You saw it against USC a couple years ago. But I think he’s officially taken the leap now and we’re seeing it on a week-to-week basis. Two hundred and ninety-nine passing yards on just 18 completions, 18-for-23. He had the late pick six, which obviously was bad for other reasons, not the greatest play call. But four touchdown passes, a rushing touchdown. I mean, he’s really doing it all, every week. And I mean, we’ve talked about it a bit this weekend after this game, but he’s starting to play himself into the Heisman conversation. I think if UCLA can keep this up, even if they lose to Oregon, you know, beat SC later in the year, maybe if they’re a one, two-loss team and DTR is playing on the pace that he’s playing right now, I think he’s going to be a legitimate Heisman candidate by the end of the year.
JC: Yeah, I think one thing Sam forgot to say there is DTR is now the all-time passing touchdown leader for UCLA, which is just a huge accomplishment for him. He passed Brett Hundley with that last 70-yard touchdown to Logan Loya. And it’s just hard to understate how much he means to this program. You just see it in the locker room. You see Chip Kelly talking about it after the game. It is so cool for a moment like that, to see it happen, especially at home, too. It was cool to see. Francis, what is your biggest takeaway from this one?
FM: Yeah, so I mean, rightfully so, but a lot of the conversation after the game was about DTR being a front-runner for the Heisman, but I really think that Zach Charbonnet was, you know, the main star on Saturday once again. You know, it really is a 1A, 1B there. I don’t see Charbonnet as a sidekick. I’ve always been a huge fan of him since he came to UCLA. But last year, he shared a lot of the touches with Brittain Brown. This year, he really is a workhorse. He’s the definition of a bell cow running back, like he has the combination of power and quickness just to be able to control games just on the ground. And I think that really opens up the game for DTR more, you know. I really do think that Charbonnet is the most important player in this offense just because of like his ability to run over any defense, whatever’s in front of him. You know, 198 yards, one touchdown, his longest run of his career with 49 yards on Saturday. I think just his ability to make big plays – I believe he had like seven runs of 10 yards or more – that really just opens up so many things for the offense. I think that Charbonnet really is up there in terms of the Heisman conversation too. So I really do think that Charbonnet is going to be a key player in UCLA’s College Football Playoff run if they do continue this run. And yeah, I really do think he’s one of the best running backs in the entire country.
SS: I think you said it, Francis. I think DTR deserves all the credit in the world for what he’s doing to bring this team back. And, you know, quarterback in the sport of football is the leader of the team inherently, but Zach Charbonnet really is one of the best running backs in the country. And I think he’s a guy that’s going to get a lot of touches at the NFL level, you know, within a year. And it’s very unique to have that kind of back in college. And you know, this is a guy who I think can go for 100-plus every game the rest of the season. I think he might.
FM: And I think the offensive line definitely deserves a lot of credit too. You know, after last year, they lost a lot of their starters, but they really haven’t missed a beat. You know, they’re a top-25 rushing team, and this year that really is all Charbonnet, but the offensive line obviously is a major factor of that too. So they deserve a lot of credit for that.
JC: Yeah, just piggybacking off of Francis and Sam here, I think the headline here is that the offense played really well. And I think most of that credit should go to the man on the sidelines, the offensive guru Chip Kelly, who has gotten a lot of hate for his time at UCLA, obviously at the tough first three seasons. People were calling for him gone. People were calling for him gone after, you know, the South Alabama game, after the Colorado game, when they didn’t look as sharp as people wanted them to. But this offense is firing on all cylinders right now. They’re on a nine-game winning streak, eight of those games they scored 40 or more points. That South Alabama game I’m pretty sure is the only one they haven’t. And this is what Chip Kelly was brought in to do. They’re playing a lot of tempo offense, a lot of quarterback runs, a lot of read options that let Dorian Thompson-Robinson make the decisions there – and he’s really improved as a decision maker – but a lot of that is the play calling as well. This is what people wanted when Kelly came to UCLA and it’s finally happening. It took five years but I think it’s really, it’s time for UCLA fans to embrace him, because what’s more fun than having a good team with a high-powered offense like this? It’s nothing better, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.
JC: Other smaller takeaways from this game, defense looked sharp yet again under Bill McGovern. I know they almost gave up 500 yards of offense to Utah, but a lot of it was bend don’t break. A lot of it was, you know, they gave a lot of yards but they did force a lot of plays when they had to. You’re looking at Darius Muasau, middle linebacker, Hawaii transfer, as a big name there. He had the interception in the first half that was big that stopped a lot of Utah momentum, that led to UCLA putting up points on the board. And then you look again in the second half was Darius Muasau forcing a fumble that Jaylin Davies returned to the one-yard line. So just a lot of playmaking from that linebacking corps. You look back at past weeks, it’s been Muasau, it’s been JonJon Vaughns, been guys like that. And I think a lot of that can be a testament to Bill McGovern. I know on the Fox broadcast they talked a lot about his multiple schemes. And this is a veteran quarterback in Cam Rising. This is a veteran team in Utah. And the fact that UCLA was able to slow them down – you know, they still scored 30 points, 32 points – but it still was good to see because, you know, last year when Jerry Azzinaro faced this exact team, it went a lot differently.
FM: I think just to add on to that a little bit, I think UCLA of years past, like a common theme was that they really folded under pressure in crucial moments of the game. They’d always give up big plays, big yards. And I think this year, they really have fixed that up a lot. Bill McGovern, you know, has led a more disciplined defense that’s, like, yes, made mistakes and allowed some big plays, but in crucial moments, they’ve stepped up and forced turnovers. And you know, they rank top 15 in forced turnovers in the country, so that just proves how much they’ve improved in that category.
JC: Long story short is just UCLA football is fun right now. They probably should be a top-10 team, I don’t know, they’re No. 11 right now. You can argue that they can be top 10. And then they have a big matchup against Oregon, and then their schedule is pretty light until they face USC on rivalry week. So you know, this could be a double-digit win campaign for UCLA, and I think fans should really embrace that because this doesn’t happen often, at least in my lifetime, here at UCLA. So this is big, big for the program. And it really can’t be understated how big this was that it was on Fox, national TV, and the national media is talking about UCLA again.
JC: Sam being the Negative Nelly he is, I think did want to bring one caveat to this excitement that Francis and I have been talking about.
SS: I talked about it last week, and I think we’ve been talking about it all year, but I mean, the Rose Bowl, I think, you know, capacity with the tarps on both sides of the end zone is 54,000, just under 54,000. And if you told me going into that, that UCLA wouldn’t fill that, I would be very shocked. And they didn’t even really come close to filling it. I mean, it was 42,000, just over what they brought to Washington on Friday night a couple of weeks ago. But I think that’s a pretty bad sign that you got a No. 18 vs. No. 11, UCLA vs. Utah at the Rose Bowl, and you can’t even draw 50,000 fans. So we’ll see how it plays out once again. But I mean, I think that can’t go without saying at this point. People are going to be talking about the quality of win, but I think you do have to talk about at what point are the fans going to show up and actually support that program. I mean, USC at home in a couple of weeks hopefully will change the tide there. And you would think they could easily sell out 54,000, assuming both tarps stay, but 42,000 for that matchup seems incredibly low.
JC: In response to that I’m going to quote “Field of Dreams” Kevin Costner: “If you build it, they will come.” UCLA is building right now. You just got to hope fans eventually will come if they keep winning like this because again, this is fun football, this is what you pay to see.
JC: Alright, there’s no preview this week for next week’s matchup because there is no next week’s matchup. They have a bye this week before heading to Oregon the week after. But instead, we’ll just jump right into our next segment, Bruin Bites, which we introduced last week, where I ask my guests bite-sized questions about UCLA that they answer short response, short answer, whatever they think. It’s yes-or-no, this-or-that questions. I know Sam said “I don’t know” last week, but let’s see how it goes this week. I’m going to repeat a few of them last, from the last week, just to see if any of Sam’s answers have changed and see what Francis thinks. So question one, we asked this last week after the Washington win, but Sam and Francis, is the win over Utah the biggest win of the Chip Kelly era?
SS: I’m going to say yes this time. I know I said no last week for Washington because I looked back to USC last year, but I think just, you know, starting 6-0 for the first time since 2005, back-to-back ranked wins, I’m going to say yes.
FM: I agree. I think there’s really no doubt about it that this is the biggest one of Chip Kelly’s career. You know, even USC last year obviously was the biggest winner over USC in a long time, but just the implications of this game and this win, it really does make it the biggest win of his career.
JC: UCLA is No. 11 in the AP poll now, which makes them the second-highest-ranked Pac-12 team. They leapfrogged Oregon. They’re behind USC a few spots. Does UCLA have a legitimate claim to being the best team in the Pac-12?
SS: I think right now, yes. Obviously, USC is ranked higher, but they haven’t shown me a whole lot yet. I mean, I know they have the talent to be that top-five caliber team, but they haven’t shown me enough yet to put them up there.
FM: I also think they’re the best team, and you know, even though they don’t play this week, I feel like that’ll be the national consensus after this week. I believe that USC will have some trouble playing Utah this week in Salt Lake, so I think that even from their homes, they’ll maybe in the AP rankings jump them and become the best team in the Pac-12.
JC: Perhaps the UCLA-Oregon game is the Pac-12 title game preview, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Piggybacking off of that: Is Dorian Thompson-Robinson the best quarterback in the conference? And added to that, is he a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate at this moment in time?
SS: I think yes to the Heisman Trophy candidate. I mean, just the way he’s playing right now and the way that UCLA’s schedule looks for the rest of the year, he can for sure get there. Best quarterback in the Pac-12, I’m still looking at Caleb Williams. He hasn’t had the greatest performance so far this year, but I just think he’s, I mean, the talent trumps everything.
JC: Sam, who did you say was better than Dorian Thompson-Robinson last week?
SS: I’m not answering this question.
JC: Sam said Cameron Rising was the best quarterback in the conference last week. The week before that, he said it was Michael Penix Jr. So tough news for all the Caleb Williams fans listening to us right now because Sam is the kiss of death. USC is officially going to lose next week and Caleb Williams is going to be exposed as a fraud. Francis, I’m sorry, I cut you off. What do you think, is DTR the best quarterback in the conference, and is he a legitimate Heisman candidate?
FM: Yeah, I mean, obviously I agree that Caleb Williams is a great quarterback. Especially coming into to the season, I thought he was the best quarterback in the conference. But at this point in time, I really do think that Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the best quarterback in the conference, and not just the conference, but one of the best in the country. The Heisman hype is real. You know, like, like I said earlier, it’s not just him but it’s also him and Charbonnet. Just the national attention they’re getting, I think that’s not going to go away anytime soon.
JC: Speaking of DTR and Charbonnet – this is related to USC as well. I’m stealing this right from the Fox broadcast because they displayed this graphic, but which LA team has the better big three offensive trio, UCLA with Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Zach Charbonnet and Jake Bobo or USC with Caleb Williams, Travis Dye and Jordan Addison?
SS: I’m going to go UCLA just because I think Charbonnet trumps Dye by a solid margin. Obviously, I think you got to go Addison over Bobo. I don’t think that’s a hot take by any, by any stretch.
JC: But Bobo did have a great game on Saturday for the second week in a row.
S: He had three catches for 22 yards. I don’t know if I’d say it was a great game. He got in the end zone twice again, and he’s been good the last couple of weeks.
JC: Two out of three receptions being touchdowns is pretty good.
SS: No, he’s had a solid couple of weeks. I don’t think I’m going to put him anywhere near Jordan Addison though. And yeah, like I said, I got Caleb Williams by a small margin over DTR. But I think Charbonnet makes the difference for me there.
FM: Yeah, I’m also going UCLA. I really think that Jake Bobo still has his best yet to come this year. And you know, again, just going back to Charbonnet, I really think he is the difference maker there. DTR and Caleb Williams pretty close, but Charbonnet is what moves the needle for me.
JC: Well, that is all the questions I have right now, so that’s going to wrap us up here. Thank you, Sam and Francis for coming on. They were great. Next week, there is still going to be a podcast. I know UCLA doesn’t play but we’re planning either a mailbag or a player grade, something fun, mid-season special next week. But yeah, 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 dailyburn.com. Thanks, everyone.