Believe it or not, Chip Kelly Era for the UCLA Bruins is now heading for its sixth season. That’s a lot of games played, and there has definitely been some good and some bad along the way. Since it’s the offseason, I thought it’d be a fun time to take a look back and pick out the best wins of Kelly’s time here in Westwood. So without further ado, here are the five best wins of the Chip Kelly tenure:
The Top 5 UCLA Wins of the Chip Kelly Era
5) November 17, 2018: 34-27 vs USC
There wasn’t a lot of good in Kelly’s first year at UCLA. The Bruins came into the Victory Bell matchup just 2-8 on the year. But even so, Kelly was still able to notch out a win against USC in his very first try.
UCLA went up 14-10 before USC came back to lead 27-21, but UCLA closed in this one, putting together three fourth-quarter scoring drives while holding USC scoreless the rest of the way. It was a very well-balanced performance.
UCLA was 7-13 on 3rd down attempts, the defense picked off JT Daniels twice, Wilton Speight was efficient through the air, and Joshua Kelley was dominant on the ground, with 40 carries for 289 yards (7.2 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns with a long run of 61. Kelley was pretty much the only good thing going for this team in 2018, and he put the team on his back that day.
Ultimately, this was a satisfying win that gave some future hope for the Kelly tenure after a painful year. Furthermore, it showed that when Kelly went back to his roots on offense–hurry up, spread, and run the ball–his offense could be dangerous.
4) October 8, 2022: 42-32 vs Utah
UCLA had a good thing going on early on this past year, and this game was its peak. This win against 11th-ranked Utah took them to 6-0 on the year, by far their best start under Kelly. Utah is typically the class of the Pac-12, but UCLA dominated this game and never trailed. They did so against a team that had defeated them by a combined score of 182-54 in their last four meetings. This Utah team would end up defeating USC in the Pac-12 Championship and playing in the Rose Bowl. Considering all of that, this was a statement win for Kelly’s Bruins.
3) September 21, 2019: 67-63 at Washington State
This is probably one of the best games that no one has ever seen. UCLA was on the road against Washington State after an 0-3 start. At that point, they had failed to score more than 14 points in any game.
Things were looking the same early on, as UCLA found themselves in a hole to Wazzu 49-17 in the 3rd quarter. After that, out of nowhere, things took a turn and UCLA exploded. With the help of several key defensive turnovers and a breakout day from, the then-sophomore, Dorian Thompson-Robinson the Bruins turned the game into an insane shootout. DTR threw for 507 yards and 7 total touchdowns. The QB on the other side, Anthony Gordon, threw for 9 touchdowns but UCLA managed to come out on top with a 67-63 win.
This was one of the craziest and most exciting games I’d ever seen, but because of the teams playing and the late-night kickoff, it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. If this were an Auburn-Alabama game, we’d still be talking about it.
So why is it only ranked third? Well, in the context of the 2019 UCLA season, it didn’t end up meaning too much. UCLA finished the year just 4-8 on a three-game losing streak, and this game ended up being somewhat of an outlier. Still though, if you find yourself looking for a fun old football game to watch, definitely flip this one on.
2) September 4, 2021: 38-27 vs LSU
The first two years of Kelly’s tenure were bad. The third year was better, but still not good. The last two years have been good, and you could very well argue that this game was the turning point for this program.
It was Week 2, and UCLA welcomed in a blue-blood SEC team to their house for a big-time cross-conference matchup. It was a much-anticipated game, and UCLA passed the test with flying colors, dominating pretty much the whole way.
They were led by two big-time transfers at running back, Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown. Together, they notched over 200 yards on the day, outrushing the Tigers by over 150 yards. DTR threw for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 16 attempts. Greg Dulcich had 3 receptions for 117 yards. The UCLA receivers averaged almost 29 yards per reception.
The Bruins feasted on the Tigers defense for big play after big play. All in all, this game showed that Kelly’s program had finally turned a corner. UCLA finished the year 8-4, the first winning season in the Kelly tenure, and this statement game against a big-time SEC opponent was a big reason why.
1) November 20, 2021: 62-33 at USC
You know what’s great? Beating your rivals. Do you know what’s even better? Crushing your rivals. That’s what UCLA did on November 20, 2021 against that “other” LA team. Complete and total domination. Sure, this wasn’t a good USC team. Sure, Clay Helton got fired at the end of the year and should have been fired much sooner. Sure, UCLA didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter. But honestly, who cares?
The Bruins capped off their breakout season by absolutely taking it to the Trojans, winning by 29 and dropping 62 on them. DTR, Charbonnet, and Kyle Phillips all had monster days. The Bruins were efficient and explosive. Meanwhile, as crisp as the Bruins were, it was how lost USC was.
Of course, changes would be coming for USC, and the following offseason would see the hiring of Lincoln Riley and the transferring of Jordan Addison, Caleb Williams, and pretty much an entirely new team.
It may be a while before we see this kind of dominance from the UCLA side again in this rivalry. But that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. If there’s one reason you play college football, it’s to crush your rivals. And that is exactly what UCLA did on this day, making it the top win of the Chip Kelly tenure.
So there you have it: The top 5 UCLA wins of the Chip Kelly tenure. Agree? Disagree? Any other thoughts? Let me know in the comments. Ideally, many more wins are on the way, and a few years from now, we’ll be looking at an entirely new list.