Bowl eligible Bruins to take on the Trojans
November 25, 2021
It took four seasons, but the UCLA Bruins football team is finally bowl eligible after a resounding victory over the Colorado Buffalos, 44-20 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The game was played Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 36,573 fans. It took Bruin head coach Chip Kelly just under four years from the day he signed his contract to get the Bruins to a bowl game, but they are going, and they want more. The victory moved the Bruins to 6-4 and six wins qualifies for a bowl game. The Buffalos are 3-7 for the season after the loss.
“I think it’s awesome for those guys that they get to play another game,” said Kelly after the game. “And the great part about this sport is what you earn, and they earned it. I’m very proud of them in terms of what they’ve done, but we’re not done. We still have two regular season games to go and they’re really important games for us.”
The Bruins have an opportunity to clinch their first winning season since the 2015 season with a victory in either of the last two games. With the next game against the USC Trojans, their cross-town rivals, they have every reason to want to win the next game. The Bruins end the season with another rival, the Cal Bears. Winning these final two games would be fitting way for the Bruins to cap their best season since 2015.
The Bruins came out flat and listless in the first half of the game against Colorado and fell behind 20-7 late in the second quarter. The Buffalos had touchdown scoring drives of 70 and 75 yards, along with two field goals to gain the 13-point lead just before the half. Nicholas Barr-Mira's 40-yard field goal on the last play of the first half got UCLA within 10 at halftime, at 20-10.
The second half was a completely different game. The UCLA defense shut-down Colorado’s offense and the UCLA offense woke up. Running back Zach Charbonnet rushed for three touchdowns, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson chipped in with a 23-yard touchdown run and Kyle Philips returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.
The Philips touchdown gave the Bruins a 44-20 lead with 10:10 left in the game. The Bruins had scored 37 unanswered points and that was the game. In just over one quarter, the Bruins had scored 37 points with all three phases of the game participating in the rout.
Philips caught eight passes for 99 yards, giving him a total of 151 career catches at UCLA, which is 7th best in school history. On Monday, Philips won the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season. For his career, Philips has averaged 22.2 yards per return on punts, which is second only to Maurice Jones-Drew, who averaged 23.2 yards per return in his UCLA career.
Thompson-Robinson returned to action after missing the Utah game and had a very good game as well, throwing for 257 yards and running for another 99 yards. Kelly had strong praise for Thompson-Robinson, stating, “Dorian is an awfully confident young man, and deservedly so. I mean, he’s worked so hard at it. I’ve said it before, I don’t know if I’ve been around a tougher kid than him.”
Kelly added that, “I thought he played outstanding today. We’ll go back over the film and help with some corrections. He was critical with his legs today, and he was critical throwing the ball. The cool part is now we don’t have two games left, now we have three. They deserve that, that’s the cool part of the process is they’ve earned it. You have to earn your opportunity to do that, and this group has.”
So, UCLA moves on to "Beat 'SC Week." As Thompson-Robinson said after the game, “we still have stuff left to play for, and obviously the bowl game was one of them. Now that we have that, we can check that off the list, but the works not done. We still have to play the last two games, and we have a big one coming up next week against USC.”
Beating USC and Cal, along with their victories over Stanford and LSU, would make this a successful season for the Bruins. If Oregon wins out and makes the playoffs, then Utah will go to the Rose Bowl and Arizona State will land in the Alamo Bowl. At 8-4, UCLA would be in line for the Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium against a Big 10 school.
Allegiant Stadium is the 65,000-seat home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The Las Vegas Bowl will be played on Thursday, December 30, 2021, with a game time of 7:30 PM PST. The game will be televised on ESPN. But first, the Bruins need to defeat the USC Trojans this Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Bruin-Trojan matchup is scheduled to start at 1:00 pm and will be televised nationally on FOX.
The Trojans are 4-5 for the season with games remaining against the Bruins, BYU, and Cal. Quarterback Kedon Slovis is out for the game against UCLA and the Trojans lost star wide receiver Drake London for the season a few weeks ago with a fractured ankle. The Trojans will start 18-year-old true freshman Jaxson Dart at quarterback.
The Trojans have struggled on defense, especially against the run. They are ranked No. 83 in the nation against the run and No. 81 in total defense. The Bruins are ranked No. 22 in rushing yards per game. Of course, this is a rivalry and stats do not always mean much.