LA Bowl 2023: Comprehensive Analysis of UCLA’s Comeback Victory Over Boise State

Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

LA Bowl 2023: Initial Struggles and Boise State’s Early Advantage

The game began with UCLA’s Collin Schlee struggling to find rhythm in the passing game, as reflected in the stats with only 78 yards on 11 completions from 16 attempts. His aversion to staying in the pocket, and making his throws was evident in the gameplay and hindered UCLA’s offensive efficiency. This, combined with two early 3-and-outs, indicated a lack of offensive cohesion.

Conversely, Boise State’s CJ Tiller, despite not having a stellar game (117 yards, 1 INT, 41.0 QBR), managed to keep the Boise State offense moving, aided by UCLA’s sluggish first half.

Boise State capitalized on quick screen passes and dump-offs, exploiting UCLA’s defense, which was playing without D’Anton Lynn and missing the pass rush presence of Laiatu Latu.

Schlee’s touchdown to Habermehl was a highlight, but his overall play was lackluster as a passer, but great as a runner with 7 carries for 127 yards.

UCLA’s Defensive Woes and Turnaround

Initially, no UCLA player seemed to play with urgency, and the defense was being dissected by Boise State’s running game. George Holani‘s impressive 138 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns for Boise State underscored UCLA’s early defensive struggles.

However, a significant shift occurred post-halftime. Darius Muasau emerged as a key figure for UCLA, making 11 tackles with 2.5 for loss, highlighting a more aggressive and effective defensive stance in the second half.

The Game-Changing Quarterback Switch for UCLA

The introduction of Ethan Garbers at quarterback was a turning point for UCLA. Garbers’s stats (9/12, 152 yards, 2 TDs, 98.6 QBR) were not just impressive in isolation; they transformed UCLA’s approach. His ability to stay in the pocket and deliver effective passes was a stark contrast to Schlee’s earlier performance. This change in quarterback play was pivotal, as UCLA scored 28 points with Garbers, showcasing his impact as the offensive MVP.

Boise State’s Inconsistencies and UCLA’s Resurgence

NCAA Football: LA Bowl-UCLA at Boise State
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State’s offensive rhythm suffered due to inconsistent quarterback play.

Schlee’s performance, was reminiscent of Justin Fields, running for more yards than he passed for, and was reflected in his inability to leverage a decent pocket provided by his offensive line. His replacement, showcased better control and decision-making, leading to more sustained drives.

UCLA’s rushing attack was another critical factor, with Collin Schlee contributing a surprising 127 yards on the ground, and TJ Harden adding 105 yards with 2 touchdowns. This diverse rushing attack kept Boise State’s defense off balance. It was mentioned by Coach Kelly in the post-game press conference that running their QBs was a part of the game plan.

Special Teams and Turnovers

Special teams played a more subdued role, with UCLA kicker Blake Glessner perfect on extra points and Boise State’s Jonah Dalmas successful on field goals.

The turnover battle was relatively even, with UCLA grabbing an interception that slightly tilted the field in their favor.

Job Security

Chip Kelly’s job security at UCLA appears somewhat more stable following the team’s performance in the 2023 Los Angeles Bowl. Ethan Garbers needs to be getting some extra NIL money from Chip due to how he’s saved his job the past few times he’s been on the field.

While these successes have likely bolstered confidence in his leadership, the nature of high-profile college football coaching means that more success and progression are essential for maintaining long-term job security. Garbers stated in the post-game presser that he’ll be coming back for another year and ended with a “Go Bruins” which means he’ll likely be UCLA’s QB1 in the BIG10.

Closing Thoughts

UCLA’s 28-16 victory over Boise State in the 2023 Los Angeles Bowl was a game of two halves. Early on, Boise State capitalized on UCLA’s defensive lapses and Schlee’s lack of passing consistency.

However, the introduction of Garbers at quarterback and strategic defensive adjustments by UCLA changed the course of the game. Garbers’s efficient passing, combined with a rejuvenated defense led by Darius Muasau, allowed UCLA to overcome their early struggles and secure a memorable comeback victory.