UCLA plays an important Pac-12 South game after losing to Oregon
October 28, 2021
The UCLA Bruins will be on the road this Saturday when they face Utah at 7 p.m. in a must win game for both teams if they expect to stay in race for first place in the Pac-12 South. The Bruins are in third place with a record South conference record of 3-2 behind first place Arizona State (3-1) and second place third place Utah (3-1).
UCLA is 5-3 overall and once again they will face a very athletic quarterback in Utah's Cameron Rising. The 6-2, sophomore Ventura, California has completed 99 passes for 1139 yards and 11 touchdowns. Their rushing attack is led by Tavion Thomas who has rushed for 415 yards and six touchdowns.
The Bruins remaining three games after the Utah contest are games they should win. They face Colorado at home on November 13, USC on the road on November 20, and California at home on November 27.
Utah remaining Pac-12 South games are against the last place teams in the conference, Arizona and Colorado so the game against the Bruins the biggest game of the year for both teams if they expect to win the Pac-12 South. Arizona State's remaining Pac-12 South games are against USC and Arizona.
Last Saturday the Bruins played a game that the Pac-12 has not in recent years. Two top Pac-12 teams facing off in the largest college football media market, in an historic, storied venue. No, it was not the Los Angeles Coliseum and did not involve the USC Trojans. On a cloudy Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Oregon Ducks held off a late rally by the UCLA to defeat the Bruins, 34-31.
The Saturday afternoon game was nationally televised on ABC, a rarity these days for a Pac-12 game. Usually, the Saturday afternoon time slot (12:30 pacific time) is dominated by schools east of the Rockies. ESPN decided to pick the Westwood campus for the broadcast of its popular College GameDay football pregame show on Saturday morning. It was the first time ever for the GameDay pregame show to be broadcast from the UCLA campus. That just added to the hype for this game.
The Bruins dominated the first quarter of the game and at the end of the quarter led, 14-0. The Bruins took the opening kickoff and moved seventy-five yards in 12 plays, with the drive culminating in a one-yard Brittain Brown touchdown run to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead. A blocked punt by Martell Irby set up the Bruins with a first down at the Ducks 30-yard line and four plays later, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson connected with Kazmeir Allen for a four-yard touchdown pass.
The Bruins were rolling and the 55,675 fans at the Rose Bowl were cheering, but this is an Oregon team that went into Columbus, Ohio earlier in the season and defeated the No. 5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, so this was never going to be easy for the Bruins. The Ducks scored touchdowns on five of their next six possessions to take a 34-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. There were twelve minutes remaining in the game and things looked bleak for the Bruins.
But the Bruins did not quit. They put together a seventy-five yard, 12 play drive, with the drive ending in a Thompson-Robinson two-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 34-24. Two plays later, Duck quarterback Anthony Brown had his pass intercepted by linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath and he it returned 20 yards to the Oregon 20-yard line. That Duck turnover led to another Brittain Brown one yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 34-31, with 6:34 remaining in the game.
The Bruins got the ball back on another interception thrown by Brown, this pass was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Jay Shaw. The Bruins had a first down at their own 20-yard line with about three minutes remaining in the game. They needed a field goal to the tie the score and send it into overtime or they could take the lead and win the game with a touchdown.
Thompson-Robinson passed for two first downs and had the Bruins at their own 49 with 1:28 remaining in the game. On the next play, Thompson-Robinson was hit hard by Oregon Linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, a hit that knocked Thompson-Robinson out of the game with an injury and led to backup quarterback Ethan Garbers stepping in for the Bruins.
Garbers completed passes to Kam Brown and Kyle Phillips to give the Bruins a first down at the Ducks 39-yard line with 54 seconds left in the game. On second down, a Garbers pass intended for running back Zach Charbonnet was intercepted by cornerback DJ James at the 27-yard line and he returned it 19 yards to the 46-yard line. That ended the comeback and the game for the Bruins.
Bruin head coach Chip Kelly, while disappointed in the result, was proud of his team's performance. "Yeah, I've known this group for a long time and they're an unbelievably resilient bunch. It's 34-17, [people] think the game is over, and our players fight until the end. We just came up one play short. That was a game in itself in the fourth quarter. We just came up a little bit short."
Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal also was impressed with the performance of both teams. "A great college football game," said Cristobal. "Hard-fought, big plays all over the place. Some really gutsy performances because a lot of guys we"re getting banged up and going down. All in all, a great team victory against a really good football team. They're really talented. To go on the road and get this thing done, get us to 6-1, can't tell you how proud I am of those guys in there."
It was a great win for the Ducks and a tough loss for the Bruins. But a great game for the nation to witness and hopefully, a game that will impress recruits that are considering playing football for the Bruins. The importance of recruiting can be seen with the Ducks, who are annually in the top ten in the nation in football recruiting, with many of their top recruits coming from Southern California.
Running back Travis Dye, who played his high school ball at Norco high school, rushed for four touchdowns. Thibodeaux spent the afternoon wreaking havoc along the Bruins offensive line. He had eight solo tackles, two sacks, 4.5 tackles for losses, a forced fumble and a key quarterback hit. That knocked out Thompson-Robinson. Thibodeaux is considered by many as the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Chip Kelly described the difficulty in blocking Thibodeaux, stating that, "We did a lot of things. We slid the protection to him. We kept maxing protection, put the tight end on him, and we tried to give him as many different looks as possible. And he's a really talented player and you do have to give him credit. I think he's what everybody thinks he is, a heck of a football player. But we gave him every different look that you could possibly give him, so credit to him."
The Bruins can still win the Pac-12 South Division title, but they need a win this week at Utah. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.