It wasn’t easy, but it was a big step for UCLA.
It took 29 games and a COVID-19 shortened third season for UCLA coach Chip Kelly, but the Bruins football team finally stands above .500 for the first time during his tenure after the wild come-from-behind 25-18 win of Saturday. Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday night after blowing up a big lead and then taking it back.
The Bruins squandered a 17-point lead after the Sun Devils rallied and scored 18 points in a row to take an 18-17 lead on quarterback Jayden Daniels’ 1-yard touchdown run with 4:26 about.
But UCLA, which was eliminated in the second half, replied.
The Bruins got an 11-yard run from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, an 18-yard pass from Thompson-Robinson to Greg Dulcich, and a 13-yard Demetric Felton run to move within very close range.
All of that eventually left Felton’s game-winning two-yard TD run with 1:09 left to seal the deal after Chase Cota came down with a two-point conversion to give the Bruins a much-needed seven-point kiss, and they could hold.
Yes, the Bruins will receive good news in every possible way.
Kelly, who coached the Bruins to a 3-9 record in his freshman year in 2018, and was 4-8 last year, saw his Bruins improve to 3-2 en route to next week’s crosstown rivalry game against USC at the Rose Bowl after winning their second straight.
Thompson-Robinson, returning from a 14-day quarantine of COVID-19 protocols, picked up where he left off and used his entire arsenal to help the Bruins get it out.
Thompson-Robinson completed 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown, and was also fine with his feet, rushing for 49 yards and a touchdown.
The Bruins also got starting receiver Delon Hurt back and restarted security Quentin Lake, along with other reserves from quarantine.
“Getting Dorian back mid-week was huge for us,” said Kelly. And Dorian, not only can he beat you by throwing the ball, he was really big to us in the run game.
“We feel very lucky to be able to get the boys back because they worked so hard and they deserved it. To get Delon back, to get back Q-Lake and Dorian was enormous for our soccer team and we needed all three guys to help us win our soccer game. ”
And no one will care that Arizona State (0-2) only played its second game of the season and its first home game in more than a calendar year after three consecutive games were canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak and all the rust. comes with a long layoff. The bottom line is that the Bruins continue to evolve in the right direction after entering the season, with many wondering if this could be Kelly’s final position if he didn’t start winning soon.
However, Kelly didn’t seem to think being over .500 was anything important when asked about it.
“Every time you win a soccer game it feels great,” said Kelly. “Great big question.”
While there may be some sarcasm in Kelly’s voice, Thompson-Robinson did not parse words to explain what it meant to have a winning record for the first time since the 2017 season.
“It feels great, I think the entire UCLA community has been waiting for this,” said Thompson-Robinson. “Coach Kelly has always said it, we’re going in the right direction, it’s all about the process. We do it every day and work very hard so I’m happy with where we’re going. ”
UCLA rushed for 171 yards as a team led by Brittain Brown’s 94 yards and Felton finished with 41 yards and his big plays on the track. Kyle Phillips had a big night with six receptions for 53 yards and Hurt had four receptions for 62 yards and a TD.
For ASU, Daniels bounced back from a poor first half to throw 225 yards and a touchdown, but the Bruins kept him rushing just six yards.
UCLA’s defense led to its attack, and it came with two big turnovers – one that helped it build its lead in the first half, and one that helped it hold the lead in the second half.
“I thought they had done a great job and those two sales were huge,” Kelly said of his defense. “The clumsy handiwork and interception coming from the end zone.
“I have been proud of how our defense has played all season. We have a bunch of guys who fly to football and play extremely hard, and we talked about possession and tackling. We talked about 60 minutes of playing hard. You can’t play hard for 58, you have to play for 60 and I thought our defense was great tonight. ”
The Bruins defense certainly did it all, especially in the first half.
After the Sun Devils drove to the Bruins ’15, back-to-back pockets from Osa Odighizuwa and Mo Osling forced a 45-meter field goal, which Christian Zendejas missed, leaving the game scoreless with 1:48 left in the first quarter . .
After a slow opening quarter, Thompson-Robinson went to work, leading the Bruins on a nine-play, 73-yard drive, culminating in his nine-yard touchdown pass to Hurt for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
After the Bruins did a good job again keeping the Sun Devils out of the end zone, the Bruins took over and Brown found a seam and almost brought it to the house, but was chased after a 64-meter run to the Sun Devils 23.
The Bruins couldn’t hold it for a touchdown, but they settled for Nicholas Barr-Mira’s field goal from 44 yards and a 10-0 lead with 5:30 going to the half.
Thompson-Robinson capped a perfect first half leading the Bruins on an 8-game, 91-yard drive that included a 27-yard run, and an 11-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left to give the Bruins a 17-0 lead.
However, the Sun Devils prevented a shutout in the first half after Jack Luckhurst hit a 49-yard field goal when the time passed to make it 17-3 at half time.
The Sun Devils used that momentum to get a quick stop to open the second half, and after a trick play resulted in a 51-yard run by Rachaad White, the Sun Devils took it in a few plays later with Daniels ’10 -yard touchdown pass to Frank Darby to shorten the Bruins’ lead to 17-10.
The Sun Devils appeared to be right with first and goal on first, but Daniels couldn’t get the snap from center and the Bruins’ Caleb Johnson recovered the fumble to keep Bruins’s seven-point lead.
But the Bruins couldn’t take advantage after Thompson-Robinson was called up for deliberate grounds and safety in an attempt to throw the ball a third deep into his end zone, allowing the Sun Devils to crawl even closer, making it 17-12.
With the Sun Devils looking to take the lead, Jay Shaw devised an end zone interception for the Bruins and brought it back to their own 21, allowing the Bruins to take their five-point lead to the fourth quarter. It was Daniels’ first interception after 202 consecutive passes without one.