UCLA almost made an incredible comeback on Saturday with a backup quarterback against No. 11 Oregon in Eugene, but the Bruins’ feel-good opportunity fell short.
In a game reminiscent of its revenue-plagued season opening loss against Colorado, UCLA committed four turnovers – all of which were cashed for touchdowns – that were too many to overcome as Oregon held on to a 38-35 win.
This wasn’t a time to make mistakes, but it’s a habit that the UCLA soccer team can’t break, and it cost them again.
The Bruins (1-1) are going to kick themselves for doing everything they can to upset the Ducks (3-0) despite missing out on several players, including third-year starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Demetric Felton scored his second touchdown on an 11-yard run with 3:43 left to cut the Ducks’ lead to three points, and the Bruins had a chance to get into the field goal zone in the last minute in hopes of the score and send the game to overtime. However, Bruins redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Griffin’s fourth-down pass to the Ducks ’41 fell incomplete.
The loss was comparable to the loss of four turnovers, 48-42, against Colorado in the Bruins opener.
Felton had another standout performance, rushing 34 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns while the Bruins outwitted the Ducks 267-88 on the ground.
According to several published reports, Thompson-Robinson, along with a whopping 10 Bruins, likely missed Saturday’s game due to coronavirus restrictions, although Thompson-Robinson tweeted late Friday that he was COVID-19-free.
UCLA officials announced Friday that at least two players and several staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, and through contact tracking, anyone who was in close contact with those who tested positive must undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine.
According to multiple published reports, two additional starters – receiver Jaylen Erwin and safety Quentin Lake – also missed Saturday’s game, along with reservists Kazmeir Allen, Keegan Jones and Martell Irby, linebacker Kain Medrano and receiver Delon Hurt.
Thompson-Robinson and others would also risk missing next week’s game against Arizona, but as Griffin played in his absence, it looks like the Bruins could be in good hands.
The 5-foot-11, 184-pound former Gatorade high school Texas Player of the Year had the kind of first start in his college football career that UCLA coach Chip Kelly might be something to think about.
Griffin threw for 195 yards and one touchdown, but also had two interceptions and one fumble. His counterpart, Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough, had a big game, threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns.
After falling behind 14 points on two sales in the first quarter, the Bruins came back and should have taken a 21-17 lead at half time, but had to make a disastrous interception for a touchdown to end the half.
Griffin was looking for a Hail Mary pass to the end zone during the final game of the second quarter, but was hit when he threw the ball. Oregon’s Jordan Happle took the errant pass, returning him 56 yards for a touchdown as time passed for a Ducks 24-21 lead at the break.
Momentum carried over for the Ducks on the opening run of the third quarter, marching 75 yards on seven plays to extend their lead to 31-24, capped by CJ Verdell’s 4-yard touchdown run.
The Bruins answered, mixed up 13 plays and 75 yards with Griffin and ran well, ending with Brittain Brown’s 2-yard jump for a touchdown to narrow the Ducks’ lead to 31-28 with 7:39 going in the third quarter.
Again, with the Bruins hoping to get ahead, Griffin was picked by Verone McKinley II. Shough responded quickly by leading the Ducks on a five-game, 78-meter drive, culminating in a 12-meter touchdown pass to Hunter Kampmoyer to extend the lead to 38-28.
Sales were a common adverse theme for the Bruins. They quickly put themselves in a hole as it took Oregon just 23 seconds to take a 14-point lead.
After completing his first four passes on the opening drive of the game, Griffin and McKinley III picked it up and brought it back 35 yards to Bruins’s 19-yard line.
Oregon cashed in the next play, with Shough delivering a 19 yards touchdown pass to wide-open Devon Williams for a 7-0 lead with 5:39 to go in the quarter.
The Bruins, with a start reminiscent of their 48-42 opening loss against Colorado, messed around the ensuing kickoff and again gave the Ducks a short field. Shough went straight to work, needing only one move to deliver his second scoring pass, completing a 32-yard hit over center to Travis Dye for a 14-0 lead.
But the Bruins did not panic.
UCLA needed an answer and got it, 52 yards on six plays, capped by Felton’s 1-yard touchdown run to cut the Ducks’ lead in half.
The Bruins took their own break at the beginning of the second quarter.
Oregon’s CJ Verdell fumbled and Qwuantrezz Knight picked it up and brought it back 20 yards for a touchdown to tie it up at 14 less than a minute in the quarter.
After Oregon added a 23-yard field goal to go up 17-14, Griffin was brilliant and led the Bruins back again.
On a third-and-18, he completed a 19-yard first-down pass to Kyle Phillips, and finished the 10-play, 69-yard drive with a perfectly timed pass over the shoulder to Greg Dulcich for a 32-yard score. and a 21-17 Bruins lead with 3:24 until half time. It was Griffin’s ninth completion in 10 tries.