UCLA football excited to begin 2020 season in Colorado – Press Enterprise
Chip Kelly’s third season as UCLA coach begins with Saturday’s season opener against Colorado.
The Bruins have boarded a plane and traveled to Boulder. The game is scheduled for 4 p.m. PST, barring any coronavirus-related issues. Two Pac-12 games have already been canceled this week because of the virus.
The Bruins remained coronavirus-free, despite one false positive scare, throughout fall camp. UCLA’s “ecosystem” and daily testing have contributed to the clean slate. The Bruins have stayed in one dormitory building and have had little interaction with anyone outside of the bubble.
“It’s definitely different and not your normal life, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what you’re willing to sacrifice for the team,” linebacker Shea Pitts said last week about keeping a safe distance from others. “It’s difficult but we have to sacrifice for something bigger and hopefully win a Pac-12 championship.”
UCLA is looking to win its first season opener since a 45-44 comeback victory over Texas A&M in 2017 at the Rose Bowl.
Kelly said he is pleased with his team’s attitude and work ethic, especially considering the obstacles they have navigated just to reach this point.
“We are just grateful, especially with everything that has gone on in 2020, that we have an opportunity to play football,” Kelly said on Wednesday. “We are going to do everything we can do to ensure we can play again.”
He also appreciates the energy and excitement his players have shown leading up to the opener.
“These guys are excited,” Kelly said. “It’s Week 10 in college football and we are playing our opener. If you’re not excited, I don’t think you have a heartbeat. … The vibe has been great and I’m excited for them to play.”
Colorado players spent October in a hotel, until Sunday, to prevent an outbreak.
“For the last seven or eight months, we have been really living day by day, given the circumstances of this pandemic,” Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said during a virtual press conference this week. “Now they’re back in their normal places to live, in terms of dorms and apartments.”
Colorado is looking to win its fifth consecutive season opener, the program’s longest streak since winning eight straight from 1991-98.
When Colorado has the ball: The Bruins will get their first live look at what their defense can be. Their new 4-2-5 alignment will add a new wrinkle, with the idea of confusing the opposing offense.
Sam Noyer was named the starting quarterback for the Buffs and will become the third senior in program history to make his debut as the starting quarterback.
Noyer, who played safety and contributed on special teams last season, now has to focus on avoiding defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa and the Bruins’ pass rush.
“We have veteran guys who have a knack for getting to the quarterback,” Kelly said. “We have good leadership. We just have to generate more of a pass rush.”
Kelly is also excited about seeing some of the new additions on the field for the first time in a game setting.
The Bruins have shown confidence in linebacker Damian Sellers, who will start as a true freshman.
When UCLA has the ball: The offense must limit turnovers and the mistakes teams are prone to make in an opener.
Protecting the football starts with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who threw 12 interceptions and lost seven of his 11 fumbles last season.
The quarterback is aware of the need to limit turnovers and said he hasn’t turned the ball over during fall camp.
If Thompson-Robinson gets the protection he needs, he has several weapons available. The Bruins return four of their top five receivers from the 2019 season, including Kyle Philips and Jaylen Erwin.
Demetric Felton is the starting running back now, but he is a definite threat as a pass-catcher as well.