Two weeks ago, UCLA got its first win of the season, beating Washington State 67-63. No, that wasn’t a typo. Sixty-seven to sixty-three. I didn’t write about the game last week, but it was such an amazing game that it’s still worth mentioning two weeks later. This was one of the best games you’ll ever see in college football. It wasn’t just the score, but the way it happened, and who it happened to.
UCLA was looking like one of the worst teams in college football through their first 3 games. It looked to be more of the same against Washington State, as UCLA was down 49-17 late in the 3rd quarter. At this point, it was past 1 AM, and after a full Saturday of watching college football, I was only half paying attention. What happened next was almost surreal. I couldn’t even manage to get excited because I was in such utter shock.
UCLA absolutely went off, going on an unbelievable scoring run. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, after looking inept for much of the year, finished the game with over 507 yards passing and 5 touchdowns through the air. The defense finished the game with two interceptions and four forced fumbles, as they went after the football during that 4th quarter and simply kept stripping Washington State again and again. If this comeback was pioneered by, say, Alabama or Ohio State, it’s all we’re talking about for the rest of the season. But because it was a late Pac-12 game and was led by UCLA, it’s barely registered in the national consciousness. That’s really too bad because it was absolutely incredible, and unlike anything you’ll likely ever see again.
It’s been tough covering this UCLA team because they’ve really just been so bad in just about every way possible. You try to be objective, you try to be positive, and you try to stay focused on the short term, but at some point, it can become depressing to see the same things happen again and again and have no hope that things are going to get better. The Washington State game showed that, if anything, this team and its players have the potential to be great. No, it likely still won’t be a good season, and it’s quite possible we’ll look back on this game as an outlier. But it gave me hope going forward that this team and this program aren’t entirely lost.
As you might have predicted, UCLA came crashing down to earth last week, losing 17-20 to the Arizona Wildcats. I didn’t think it was an awful game, however, and I did see an improvement compared to the first three weeks.
Attitudes are going to turn south on this team rather quickly (if they weren’t already there) if UCLA isn’t able to eek out a win against Oregon State on Saturday, but they certainly have the potential to come out on the winning side of this one. Whatever happens though, if you haven’t yet, please make sure you set aside some time to go watch the UCLA Washington State highlights from two weeks ago. You’ll be glad you did.
And with that, let’s take a look at our players to watch for this week’s matchup.
5 UCLA Players To Watch Against Oregon State
1) Austin Burton – Quarterback
Just as Dorian Thompson-Robinson was beginning to show improvement on the season, he got hurt late in the 3rd quarter during last week’s loss to Arizona. In comes quarterback Austin Burton for his first action of the season, and the results were pretty good in his limited action. He showed positive ability to pick up yards on the ground, and he drove the team down into field goal range with under three minutes left in the game, only for kicker JJ Molson to miss the game-winner wide right.
It’s looking like Burton will get the start for the still injured DTR this Saturday. How will he look? What will the game plan be? And what are his strengths and weaknesses? He’s still mostly a question mark at this point, so it will be interesting to find out.
2) Joshua Kelley – Running Back
Kelley spent the early part of the season recovering from a fall injury, and he’s looked healthier and healthier in subsequent weeks, showing his trademark ability to burst forward and bounce off of defenders. He is being rewarded with more carries as a result. Bruins fans are crossing their fingers that he can continue his success and build on the last two weeks of play, his two best games of the season.
3) Demetric Felton – Running Back
Felton was unstoppable in the Wazzu win, making defenders miss all over the place on his way to 150 yards and 2 receptions through the air. Then, he strangely didn’t see the field much in last week’s loss. Let’s hope that he gets more playing time and is able to make an impact, as he’s shown early on that he’s a difference-maker catching the ball through the air and running in space.
4) Keisean Lucier-South – Linebacker
KLS again drew praise from the coaches in practice this week, and it’s easy to see why. As one of the few veteran leaders of this defense, he needed to take a step forward this year, and he absolutely has done so, proving to be one of the few difference makers on that side of the ball. He had a sack last week and a forced fumble the week before. Let’s see if he can keep the turnover streak going this week.
5) JJ Molson – Kicker
The Bruins officially have a problem at kicker. Molson was one of the few areas of stability for a struggling Bruins team last year, and coming into his senior year, the expectation was that this would be one area that the Bruins wouldn’t have to worry about. Instead, Molson is just 2 of 5 on the year, putting the cherry on top last week when he pushed a would-be game-tying field goal from just 39 yards out wide right with little time left. Molson has to get back on track, because–inexplicable Washington State late-night shootouts aside–UCLA isn’t going to be putting a ton of points on the board this year. That means every point is crucial, and this team can’t afford to be missing makable field goals.
Oregon State is currently rebuilding, and were we talking about pretty much any other team besides the Bruins, we’d be penciling this in for an automatic win. Unfortunately, that’s far from the case for this UCLA squad, and Oregon State has been scoring much more easily than the Bruins this year. I’m not going to speculate on what will happen if UCLA loses this game, because I think they’re absolutely capable of winning. Then again, pretty much nothing has come easy for the Bruins this year. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.