Bruins head to Colorado after edging South Alabama at Rose Bowl
September 22, 2022
There is not much that seems to rattle UCLA Bruins head football coach Chip Kelly, the unflappable leader of UCLA football. But even Kelly had to be a little worried about the performance of his Bruins football team on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins needed a last second field goal from kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira to defeat the South Alabama Jaguars, 32-31.
The Bruins came out flat against the Jaguars, and the crowd of 29,344 fans also seemed flat, as the Jaguars played an inspired game and offensively kept the Bruins defense off-balance throughout the game. The Bruins were favored by 15.5 points in this game.
The victory moved the Bruins to 3-0 for the first time since 2015 and extended the current Bruin winning streak to six games. The Bruins last won six consecutive games in 2014. The loss dropped South Alabama to 2-1 for the season. The Bruins will travel to Colorado to take on the Buffaloes next Saturday morning, at 11 a.m., September 24th, in their Pac-12 conference opener.
In the win over the Jaguars, the Bruins were led by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who completed 20 of 30 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. The three touchdown passes from Thompson-Robinson moved him into second place all-time on the Bruins list with 85 total career touchdowns (passing and rushing), moving pass Cade McNown. Only Brett Hundley with 105 total touchdowns has more than Thompson-Robinson.
Wide receiver Jake Bobo also had a breakout game for the Bruins, catching five passes for 89 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Logan Loya had the best game of his young career with the Bruins, catching three passes for 37 yards and a touchdown, adding a punt return of 15 yards. Wide receiver Kam Brown also had his first touchdown grab of the season in this game.
But the star of the game was Barr-Mira, the younger brother of former UCLA star linebacker Anthony Barr. Besides the winning kick of 24 yards, Barr-Mira went 4 for 4 on field goal attempts, including a long conversion of 49 yards. He made both extra point attempts and had a 46-yard punt in the 4th quarter that left the Jaguars with poor field position at their own ten-yard line.
"We didn't punt often but when we did punt, that is the one thing with Nick – he had four field goals, but I thought that he punted the ball really well," Kelly said. "Nick is an outstanding directional punter. He keeps the ball away from the returner. He did a great job of pinning them down there deep. So, for him to have double duty, to be a punter and a field goal guy, I am really proud of how Nick played today."
The Jaguars were led by quarterback Carter Bradley, the son of former Jacksonville Jaguar head coach Gus Bradley, who is currently the defensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts. Bradley played well, completing 26 of 36 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown. Jaguar running back La'Damian Webb was also outstanding, rushing 16 times for 124 yards and one touchdown, and adding 6 receptions for 42 yards.
Coach Kelly was grateful to prevail in this matchup. "Well first thing, I think Carter [Bradley] was outstanding," Kelly said. "A lot of people tried to recruit him. I know his father Gus really well. Gus is the defensive coordinator for the Colts now, been a head coach in the league. And I thought that the kid has tremendous poise, tremendous ball location. That is a really, really good football team. And we knew that this would be closer, back and forth football game all along."
Kelly added, "I thought their running back was outstanding. People bounced off of him. He broke tackles. I think that they got a good scheme, offensively. They did some nice things. So, sometimes you've got to give them credit. They made some plays when they had to."
The Jaguars jumped to a 17-6 lead in the second quarter, but a nine-yard TD pass to Bobo cut the lead to 17-13 right before halftime. In this game Bobo looked like a No. 1 receiver. "One of the things that we saw when we recruited Jake to come here, to have a go-to guy," Kelly said. "We have the ability to move him around. He plays in a lot of different spots. He is also a tremendous blocker. He's a big, long, tall target. I think that Dorian is getting really comfortable with him."
The Bruins took a 20-17 lead early in the 3rd quarter on a 11-yard TD pass to Kam Brown. Barr-Mara added a 28-yard field goal to take a 23-17 lead and it looked like the Bruins were in control of the contest. But the Jaguars answered with a 67-yard scoring drive culminating in a one-yard touchdown run from Marcos Lee to take a 24-23 lead. A Thompson-Robinson fumble at the Bruin six-yard line set up a short score for the Jaguars, giving them a 31-23 lead heading into the 4th quarter.
But the Bruins defense stiffened in the 4th quarter and gave the offense a chance to win the game late on a Loya TD reception and the Barr-Mira game winning field goal. As Kelly stated after the game, "We were fortunate to come out on top today. We'll get back to work on Monday. The out-of-conference part is over. Now everybody is getting into conference play, and we've got to go."
The Colorado Buffalos are reeling this season, having lost all three of their nonconference games by at least 25 points or more. For the Colorado, it is the worst start in their 132-year history of Colorado football. They are coached by former UCLA head football coach Karl Dorrell, who was also a star wide receiver for the Bruins.
The Bruins are favored by 21 points in the game at Boulder, Colorado. The game will start at 11:00 AM pacific coast time and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. The Bruins will return home the following week to play a Friday Night game (September 30th) against the Washington Huskies at the Rose Bowl, in a game that will be televised on ESPN and will start at 7:30 pm locally.