Dante And Defense Dazzle For Bruins vs. SDSU

NCAA Football: UCLA at San Diego State
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

We all grew up with the adage: Actions speak louder than words. All week, Chip Kelly stated the quarterback competition was as wide open as a non-vegan restaurant in LA during Sunday brunch hours. Kelly definitely declared that all three signal-caller candidates would see considerable playing time on Saturday. But in the end, Bruin fans got what they so desperately wanted…more Moore.

After two consecutive punts by each team, Dante Moore ushered in his spectacular play with an 81-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Norwood, where the true Freshman used seasoned eye manipulation to sell Norwood’s outside-in slant to bust open the Aztec secondary coverage, while Norwood’s exceptional speed did the rest. San Diego State responded to tie the game at 7-7 courtesy of savvy play calling that leveraged screen passes and running back slips to neutralize the Bruins’ dominant front seven with over-commitments. The Aztecs drive culminated in a gorgeous 21-yard back shoulder pass from quarterback Jalen Mayden to Mekhi Shaw, who outfought Devin Kirkwood to the end zone.

On the Bruins subsequent possession, the Moore to J. Michael Sturdivant connection took center stage. Moore connected with JMS on a 13-yard out route and also drew two additional pass interference penalties. Later in the drive, Moore displayed pocket feel, nimble feet, and competitive toughness when sidestepping and scrambling for eight tough yards on third and nine to set up a fourth and short at the beginning of the second quarter. Carson Steele exploded for a 13-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play as the Bruins ran a power formation with three running backs in the backfield, an ode to the historic “T” formation.

After a dominant stop of the Aztecs on the ensuing possession courtesy of the Bruins ability to continually set the edge defensively and limit any stretch runs outside the hash marks, the Bruins big play offense struck again. A dynamic 59-yard touchdown run by TJ Harden capped a three-play 68-yard drive – all Harden runs.

San Diego State countered with a field goal after a long drive, one that could have resulted in more if not for a dropped touchdown pass by Joshua Nicholson on third and 12 from the Bruins 27.

As the Bruins and Aztecs exchanged punts, Moore’s most spectacular sequence came on UCLA’s final drive of the half. He once again demonstrated grit and guile diving for the first down pile-on by rolling to the right and scrambling on third and four to give the Bruins a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, he backpedaled outside the pocket to buy time and drop a gorgeous dime to Moliki Matavao for 35 yards in stride. On the very next play as UCLA emphasized tempo, Moore looked like an NBA superstar feeling it from distance as he threw an artistic parabola with enough air underneath it for a breaking Logan Loya to adjust and grab in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown strike. At 28-10, the Bruins went into the locker room with all the momentum and having blown the game wide open.

The second half was sloppy on both sides as both teams combined for five turnovers and only seven total points. The most meaningful flurry came as Moore was strip-sacked deep in Bruins territory with San Diego State recovering the ball at the Bruins 1-yard line. But this resilient D’Anton Lynn unit rose to the occasion, stuffing the Aztecs twice on run plays before Darius Muasau intercepted a tipped ball in the end zone.

Moore subsequently led a methodical 12-play 80-yard drive culminating in a Derek Jeter-esque side arm bullet throw to Carsen Ryan for a six-yard touchdown score that culminated the scoring at 35-10. From there on out, the Aztecs were forced to get out of their comfort zone by frantically throwing the ball which opened the door for Alex Johnson to make two terrific interceptions.

Collin Schlee relieved Moore in garbage time in the fourth quarter and had two effective rushes for 35 yards, but this was a special separation day for the Bruins “2 D’s.” Dante Moore finished 17/27 for 290 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. While the Bruin defense dominated the Aztecs at the line of scrimmage with consistently disruptive penetration that prevented San Diego State from getting in front of the chains as evidenced by 10 total tackles for loss.

The quartet of primary disrupters was Muasau, who looked like he had a cheat code on en route to six tackles and three tackles for loss. Usual suspect Laiatu Latu chipped in with 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack, while Grayson Murphy’s 1.5 tackles for loss and Oluwafemi Oladejo’s 10 total tackles impacted the lack of Aztec offensive flow in profound ways.

Two weeks in, the Bruins seemed to be finding an identity. They have the two necessary ingredients to make lots of noise in arguably the best conference in college football – a dynamic quarterback and a disruptive front seven. And that’s all the actions Chip Kelly needs.