Bruins roll over LSU Tigers during a picture-perfect day at the Rose Bowl
September 9, 2021
The early evening game at the Rose Bowl started with LSU head coach Ed Orgeron shouting at a taunting Bruin fan as he entered the Rose Bowl tunnel: "Bring your ass on, in your sissy blue shirt." By the end of the game, Orgeron was feeling blue and had seen enough blue for a lifetime. On a day with beautiful Southern California blue skies, with not a cloud in the sky, the UCLA Bruins rolled over the No. 16 ranked LSU Tigers, 38-27. The Bayou Bengals fell to 0-1 for the season. The Bruins improved to 2-0.
The powdered Blue-clad Bruins fans at the Rose Bowl gave the Bruins a home-field advantage that they have rarely had in recent seasons. The announced attendance of 68,123 fans was the largest at the Rose Bowl since the 2017 season. For Bruin head coach Chip Kelly, it was the largest since he became the head coach in 2018.
"Yeah, I thought it was awesome," said Kelly. "But I thought last week was awesome. I go back to last year and we didn't have any fans. And, you know, I don't think we can be greedy. We're appreciative of the group that came last week against Hawaii. We are more excited about, you know, we had a bigger crowd today and it was loud, it was fun, and these players deserve it. It's a really fun team to watch and to support."
After a scoreless first quarter, LSU took a 7-0 lead on a three-yard touchdown pass from LSU quarterback Max Johnson to wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, one of three touchdown passes that Johnson threw to Boutte on the evening. For the game, Johnson completed 26 of 46 passes for 330 yards, with Boutte catching nine passes for 148 yards.
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, the Bruins responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to tight end Greg Dulcich to tie the game at 7-7. That single play seemed to ignite the Bruin offense and they never looked back the rest of the evening. On the next possession, the Bruins offense drove 71 yards in six plays, with the drive culminating on a 12-yard touchdown run by running back Zach Charbonnet.
Charbonnet also had a 20-yard run on the drive and a 35-yard reception, as he contributed 67 of the 71 yards on the scoring drive. The touchdown gave the Bruins a 14-7 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish. LSU managed a field goal before halftime, cutting the lead to 14-10. But the Bruins had begun to establish their dominance on the line of scrimmage.
In the second half, the Bruins scored 24 points, with Thompson-Robinson connecting with wide receiver Chad Cota for a 14-yard touchdown reception and on an amazing 45-yard touchdown reception to wide receiver Kyle Phillips, who somehow escaped a couple of Tiger tacklers at about the 25-yard line with a spin move and ran it into the endzone for a touchdown. Running back Brittain Brown had a one-yard touchdown run and Nicholas Barr-Mira added a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter.
For the game, Thompson-Robinson threw only 16 passes, completing nine passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. The Bruins ran 47 times for 210 yards, while holding the Tigers to 49 yards on 25 carries on the defensive side. By controlling the line of scrimmage, the Bruins used play-action passes to their advantage for some big pass plays, even though they only completed nine passes.
Kelly explained in his press conference what the running game is doing for the offense: "I think we have the ability right now in the two games that we have played, that's not projecting as we go forward, but we have the ability right now to run the ball. And if we are running the ball well, we'll stick with what's right. But I think that if you look at the play-action passes today, those were huge for us."
Kelly added that, "I'm an equal opportunity scorer. I could care less how we get across the goal line. We could throw it across 27 times, or we could run it across 27 times. It's just about what the defense is giving us, and we feel like we've got the ability to do both."
Through two games, UCLA is averaging 220 rushing yards per game on the ground and allowing only 37.5 rushing yards per game. They are winning the battle on both sides of the line of scrimmage through two games. The one-two rushing punch of Brown and Charbonnet has proven to be tough to stop for opposing defenses. Brown has rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
Charbonnet has run for 223 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 carries through two games for UCLA this season. He is averaging 13.1 yards per carry. He also has two receptions for 49 yards. Dulcich had three catches for 117 yards. Kazmeir Allen, the 2018 California state sprint champion at 100 meters, has four receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown through two games. He is also returning kickoffs, which adds an explosive element to the kick return team.
The win was huge for both the UCLA Football program and the Pac-12 conference. The Pac-12 would like to end its four-year absence from the College Football Playoffs, which is being dominated be the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The win was the first in 13 years by a Pac-12 team over a ranked SEC school. UCLA was the last Pac-12 school to beat a ranked SEC school, being Tennessee in 2008. UCLA is also 6-1 in their last seven games versus the SEC. LSU won the National Championship in 2019.
The Bruins are 2-0 and due to their dominate victories over Hawaii and LSU, they are ranked No. 16 in the country by both the AP and the Coaches poll. This is the first time in the AP top 25 for UCLA since week 2 of the 2017 season, when they were 2-0 and ranked No. 25 after wins over Texas A&M of the SEC and Hawaii. That team had plenty of talent but lacked a maturity that the 2021 UCLA football team seems to have.
Kelly clearly likes this team's level of maturity. "That's the fun part of winning. Not this team. This team is really mature, and they understand it. But sometimes if you didn't believe going into the game that you were going to win the game, that's when you have to rein some guys in. That's when they start to think they're a little bit better than they are. But that's what makes me very proud of this group. It's an improvement week for us. They earned it."
The Bruins will have two weeks to rest and improve before their next game against the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Rose Bowl. The game will be played on Saturday Night, September 18th, with a scheduled start time of 7:45 p.m. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. Expect plenty of Bruins fans in their "Sissy Blue Shirts" at the game, as UCLA attempts to get to 3-0 for the first time since the 2015 season.