Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

  • EUGENE, OREGON – NOVEMBER 21: Kyle Phillips # 2 of the UCLA Bruins runs with the ball as Deommodre Lenoir approaches during the first half of the match at Autzen Stadium on November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    EUGENE, OREGON – NOVEMBER 21: Qwuantrezz Knight # 24 of the UCLA Bruins fumbles the ball at a kick-off return during the first half of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

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  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Chase Griffin # 11 of the UCLA Bruins appears to be throwing the ball during the first half of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    EUGENE, OREGON – NOVEMBER 21: Oregon Ducks’ Travis Dye # 26 rushes in for a touchdown as Mo Osling # 7 of the UCLA Bruins approaches during the first half of the match at Autzen Stadium on November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s CJ Verdell, center, fumbles the ball during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, November 21, 2020, in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Tyler Shough tosses the pitch under pressure from UCLA’s Elisha Guidry during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Alec Anderson of UCLA, left, and Verone McKinley III of Oregon wrestle for a fumble during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo AP / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA’s Greg Dulcich scores a touchdown against Oregon during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon-based Devon Williams takes down a Tyler Shough pass for a touchdown against UCLA during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA and Oregon players play a pose during the first quarter of an NCAA college soccer game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo AP / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Travis Dye, left, pulls down a pass receipt for UCLA’s Datona Jackson, right, during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Travis Dye, left, scores a touchdown for UCLA’s Jay Shaw, center, and Mo Osling III during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Travis Dye, center, races against UCLA during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Demetric Felton, left of UCLA, and Greg Dulcich celebrate a third quarter touchdown against Oregon in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA head coach Chip Kelly leads his team onto the field for an NCAA college football game against Oregon, Saturday, November 21, 2020, in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo AP / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Tyler Shough throws downfield against UCLA during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA’s Brittain Brown, center, jumps into the end zone for a third quarter score against Oregon in an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Nick Pickett takes on UCLA’s Demetric Felton in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA defensive players Mo Osling III, left, and Odua Isibor, right, sack Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Alec Anderson of UCLA, left, and Verone McKinley III of Oregon wrestle for a fumble during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo AP / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Demetric Felton of UCLA, left, is tackled by Bennett Williams of Oregon during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s CJ Verdell dives into the end zone for a third quarter score against UCLA in an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Noah Sewell leaves the field after being injured in an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, November 21, 2020, in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo AP / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, left, and UCLA head coach Chip Kelly meet in midfield after an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Tyler Shough tosses the pitch under pressure from UCLA’s Elisha Guidry during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s CJ Verdell, center, fumbles the ball during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, November 21, 2020, in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA and Oregon players play a pose during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo AP / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    Oregon’s Travis Dye, center, races against UCLA during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

  • Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

    UCLA’s Chase Griffin throws downfield against Oregon during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, November 21, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo / Chris Pietsch)

Is it possible that the great LA tradition of a quarterback controversy this week is stirring the UCLA fan base?

Probably not, to be honest. The Bruins’ results over the years don’t lend themselves to the kind of fan passion required for that kind of controversy. And the backup, Chase Griffin, didn’t win on Saturday, although he and his teammates stayed quite a bit longer than expected against No. 11 Oregon in Eugene.

Moral victories don’t count. But the Bruins did scare Oregon, in a 38-35 loss at Autzen Stadium, and they could very well have ruined any hope the Ducks and their fans had of a berth in the College Football Playoff, going there to the end. kept hanging. and Oregon deny the type of style points it would likely need to make up for the (a) diminished national profile of the Pac-12 and (b) the abbreviated 2020 schedule.

UCLA’s coaches and players have also learned a lot about what they have in Griffin, a red-shirt freshman who was pushed into the starting role against the Ducks when junior Dorian Thompson-Robinson was scratched for COVID contact tracking issues. He didn’t embarrass himself at all during his first college start.

Griffin, born in Santa Monica – UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, to be exact – but grew up in Round Rock, Texas, won the game to become the backup quarterback in the weeks leading up to this season, and got it late by. be ready in the week. So he took to a tough place to play – although less difficult without fans than with a full house – and hit 12 of his first 14 pass attempts, bringing the Bruins back from an early 14-0 deficit and keeping them within striking distance to the end. while 19 of the 31 passes were completed for 195 yards and a touchdown, in addition to the 176 rushing yards and two scores of Demetric Felton.

“Chase is a gamer,” Felton said in the video conference after the game. “He’s really cool, calm and collected. So, you know, nothing really changed for me. And you know, I trusted him and I know he’ll do his best. So I’m extremely proud of him and I’m just ready to see what’s next. ”

There were tough spots for the rookie, two interceptions, and a lost fumble, although the pick-six at the end of the first half that Jordan Happle came back 58 yards for a touchdown in Oregon was kind of fluky play. On the third and sixth games of his own 44, at the end of the half with the Bruins with an unexpected 21-17 lead, Griffin tried to bring a Hail Mary to the end zone for a tip or a lucky bounce, but he was hit while he threw and the ball shot straight up and fell into Happle’s arms.

The game gave the Ducks a 24-21 lead at half time, and the Bruins would never lead again.

“I know you need as many points as possible in Pac-12 games,” said coach Chip Kelly. “Not Chase’s fault. He tried to do everything he could. ”

Twice in the second half, Oregon went up 10, twice Griffin brought the Bruins back within a field goal, and he and his attack got the ball back at 1:17 to play, the Oregon reached 39 thanks to a penalty to the passer. but it didn’t quite work out.

Griffin immediately answered a question.

“Everyone wants a chance,” said Kelly. And if you get the chance, are you ready? And I thought Chase had done a good job today. … Chase had never played, so no one really knew what you were going to get. But I was really proud of what he did today. ”

So did Thompson-Robinson, who tweeted his support during the game and concluded with, “So proud of this team! Even more proud of @ ChaseQB11 and this offense! #GoBruins. ”

“Dorian has been great all week,” Griffin said. “He prepares hard every week. And earlier in the week, we were preparing as if he would be the starter. When we found out he wasn’t he sent me a few messages, you know, keeping my mind on track, keeping my mind on track, giving me some helpful advice.

And I’m very grateful for the whole quarterback room. I think we showed up today. Of course I can be better and then we move on. ”

No, there probably won’t be a quarterback controversy in Westwood for now. If Thompson-Robinson is allowed to play, he will play. He’s a junior, he’s the incumbent, and he hasn’t really done anything to lose the job. But Saturday was an indication that (a) the Bruins can trust Griffin, and (b) there could be a bright future.

But did this experience help position Griffin for future success, or at least gave him a template to work on? Don’t ask.

“I’m not really focused on that,” he said. ‘We have a game next week. We have a movie review and stretching tomorrow. And I’m going to make sure that after this plane home, we wake up in the morning, are ready to prepare for the next week, put this game to bed, and that’s as far as my scope really goes now. ”

He doesn’t have to think about what it has done for his future, but his coaches almost certainly have. Saturday may have been a loss to the Bruins, but it was a more productive journey than most of us expected.

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@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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