Bruins use big plays to defeat the Aztecs
September 14, 2023
UCLA Bruin head football coach Chip Kelly has decided that he is not prepared to name a starter at quarterback, but when he does make the decision, true freshman quarterback Dante Moore will have made it for him. In a Saturday evening game at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, Moore threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Bruins to a 35-10 victory over the San Diego State University Aztecs.
Moore, a five-star player in high school and the No. 3 ranked quarterback in the nation his senior year, led the Bruins on five offensive touchdown drives in the game. The Bruins used big plays to win the game. The UCLA had seven plays of 20 yards or more in the game, three for touchdowns. The first big play came off a play-action fake, with Moore connecting on an 81-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josiah Norwood. That put the Bruins up 7-0.
The Aztecs came back to tie the game at 7-7 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Mayden to wide receiver Mekhi Shaw. Running back Carson Steele scored on a 13-yard run on 4th-and-1 to give the Bruins a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.
Leading 14-7 with a third down and one at their own 41, the Bruins used tempo and snapped the ball quickly, allowing running back T.J. Hardin to burst through a huge hole and go untouched for a 59-yard touchdown run, giving the Bruins a 21-7 lead.
After an Aztec field goal cut the lead to 21-10, the Bruins took 56 seconds to drive 85 yards for a late second quarter touchdown, with Moore connecting with wide receiver Logan Loya for a 24-yard touchdown in the end zone. The big play on that drive was a 35-yard completion to tight end Moliki Matavao. The Bruins had a comfortable 28-10 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Aztecs got a needed break when Moore was sacked by linebacker Zyrus Fiaseu at the goal line and fumbled, with the fumble recovered by linebacker Trey White at the half-yard line. The Aztecs were a half yard away from closing the gap. But the Bruins defense arose to the occasion.
“I was really pleased with them, especially the response after the one turnover we had,” Kelly said of the UCLA defense. “The ball is on the half yard line. I thought our defense responded. That is what we talk about. There is going to be adversity. Competitors respond. They were on the field at the half yard line, and we came back with the ball.”
Moore led a late third quarter drive for the final Bruins score, throwing a sidearm pass to connect with running back Carsen Ryan for a six-yard touchdown. Ryan was recruited as a tight end and at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds looks like a tight end and is on the John Mackey award watchlist, an award given annually to the most outstanding tight end in college football. But Ryan is currently listed as a running back.
Kelly continues to insist that he has not decided on who the starting quarterback will be, insisting that all three quarterbacks can help the Bruins win. “I feel like we have three guys that are really good football players, so that’s something that not every team can say,” Kelly said.
But when asked about the 18-year-old Moore, his eyes light up. “He is doing fantastic,” Kelly said after the game. “He’s special. He is a special player. To be as advanced as he is at his age is unique.”
The win improved the Bruins record to 2-0 for the young season. With the win, the UCLA moved into the AP Top 25 with a ranking of No. 24 in the country. The Pac-12 conference has eight teams of their 12 teams ranked in the AP 25, the most of any conference in the country.
The Aztecs fell to 2-1 on the season. The game was the first for the Bruins at San Diego State’s new stadium. The attendance for the game was 32,017 in the 35,000-seat stadium. It is an intimate environment with the fans close to the field. A nice place to watch a game. The Bruins are scheduled to return to San Diego in 2031 to play SDSU and will take on SDSU at the Rose Bowl in 2026.
The Bruins will be back home at the Rose Bowl this Saturday, September 16th, to take on the North Carolina Central Eagles. The game will begin at 2:00 PM PST and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. The Eagles quarterback, Davius Richard, is a dual-threat quarterback who broke team records in total offense in 2022 with 3,449 yards and was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2022. Richard threw for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 15 touchdowns in 2022.
The Bruins should not overlook the Eagles. They are 2-0 for the season and Richard is considered an NFL late round prospect. A victory on Saturday will set up a matchup in Salt Lake City in Week 4 against the Utah Utes, on Saturday, September 23rd. The Utes are 2-0 and currently ranked 12th in the country by the AP. The game will be televised nationally on FOX starting at 12:30 p.m. locally.