Improving UCLA Team Defeats Arizona To Move To .500 On The Year

UCLA Bruins Pre-Game. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network
UCLA Bruins Pre-Game. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network

UCLA handily defeated the Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl last Saturday with a score of 27-10. They are now 2-2 on the season. It’s the first time the Bruins have been .500 under Chip Kelly, who was just 7-17 as the Bruins coach coming into this season. But in his third year, things may finally be looking up.

Of course, the bar was awfully low to start with. UCLA was about as bad as you can be in Kelly’s first two years, so quite frankly, any sort of improvement would have been welcome. It almost would have been hard not to improve upon the first two years. One could even argue that viewing .500 as such a positive landmark is indicative of what bad shape this Bruins program is in.

But a win’s a win, and progress is progress, and considering how low my expectations were coming into the year, the Bruins have surprised me. This is a team that couldn’t do much of anything over the last first few years, a team that could barely execute the basics on the football field. Now, all of a sudden, they look different. They have improved in pretty much every area, but especially when it comes to their key weaknesses from last year. Their offensive line is improved, and their defense, which was awful last year, looks much better.

UCLA came into Saturday’s game facing a struggling Arizona team, and those struggles only continued as the game played out. Arizona lost their starting QB early in the game, and their backup was making his first start. It was a recipe for failure, and the Cats looked lost on offense for much of the day.

Meanwhile, UCLA has developed an identity on offense that seriously works for them: RUNNING THE BALL. The Bruins rushed for nearly 300 yards on the day, giving their backs a whopping 48 carries. They were able to get downhill quickly, and the offensive line dominated in the trenches. This is what Chip Kelly’s team is when they are at their best.

Demetric Felton has seamlessly taken over Joshua Kelley‘s role as lead back, as he accumulated 206 yards on 32 carries in this game. Grad transfer Brittain Brown has emerged as a nice compliment; he had 72 yards on 16 carries, and together they make a really good 1-2 punch for these Bruins.

The passing game didn’t do much on this day, nor did it have to. Chase Griffin was 12/20 for 129 yards and a touchdown. It’s no secret that UCLA has been hamstrung by poor QB play in the Kelly era, but I’m curious to see what this offense will eventually look like with a capable QB at the helm.

And of course, the defense swarmed the Cats. They overwhelmed the offensive line and stuck close to receivers in the secondary. They felt in control of the game, a far cry from what we saw last year from this unit.

Now, of course, the Wildcats aren’t the toughest opponent. And UCLA has played them well over the past few years, beating them last year and just losing the year before. It’s also worth mentioning that this was a 20-10 game in the fourth quarter before a missed Arizona field goal, and the Bruins’ last TD came late when the game was pretty much already over.

So if you’re wondering if this result was more about good Bruins play or bad Arizona play, the answer is probably a little bit of both. Nonetheless, this UCLA team does feel different than it has in the past. No one’s mistaking them for Clemson or Alabama, but they do seem to have something going in Chip Kelly’s third year.

Shockingly, we’re now halfway through this crazy 2020 football season for the Pac-12. I’m curious to see if the Bruins can maintain this momentum and keep making strides during the second half of the season.