In a must-win game for the UCLA Bruins, not just to clinch a Bowl birth but to keep Chip Kelly‘s seat at “hot” instead of “scorching”, UCLA came out flat and poorly coached. Coming off of a bye week, and playing against one of the worst teams in the PAC-12, it was actually shocking how poorly they played to start the game.
Colorado jumped out to a 20-7 lead and was able to run the ball at will. The Buffaloes stacked up 155 yards on the ground in the first half and went into the locker room leading 20-10.
Things looked bad at the Rose Bowl. Was this the end of Chip Kelly? Coming off a bye and losing by 10 to an inferior team was a horrible look. But as the old adage goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Bruins came out of the tunnel for the second half with a new-found energy, a purpose. In a season that has felt like a disappointment, the Bruins still sit with a winning record (the first during the Chip Kelly era) and a chance to clinch a bowl game (the first during the Chip Kelly era). Maybe that sentiment was realized at halftime. That there is still a lot to play for, for this team. A chance to do something that these Seniors have not accomplished during their tenure.
The Bruins scored a touchdown on every offensive possession in the 3rd quarter. They also scored a touchdown on their first offensive possession of the 4th quarter and followed that with a beautiful punt return for a touchdown by future NFL stud Kyle Phillips.
Who was this UCLA team? This was the Bruins team that we thought they were. Unfortunately, this Bruins team just doesn’t show up consistently, and that has been the biggest blemish in Chip Kelly’s coaching tenure. Getting his team to play sound, fundamental football at every phase for all 4 quarters. Had tonight’s opponent been Oregon, or even USC, it may have gotten out of hand early. But they were able to hang around just enough, and then play the way they are capable of in the 2nd half. And boy did they ever.
When this team is rolling, they are truly fun to watch. It’s the Chip Kelly brand of football that made him famous at Oregon. The offense is fast and uptempo. Big plays are aplenty, and the defense flies to the football, finishing with punishing hits.
Colorado is rebuilding its program. They are not a good football team right now. But, UCLA was supposed to come out and dominate, and aside from the first quarter and a half, they did.
UCLA finished with 502 yards of total offense, 245 of those coming on the ground. They had five rushing touchdowns; Zach Charbonnet led the way with three. Kyle Phillips led all receivers with 99 yards receiving and the aforementioned punt return for a touchdown. Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a very efficient game going 18-27 for 257 yards passing and the one interception. He also led all Bruins rushers with 99 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
The defense came to life in the 2nd half holding Colorado to 117 total yards and zero points. They also garnered three big-time sacks, totaling four in the game.
Like the famous Charles Dickens novel, this truly was a Tale of Two Halves. Luckily for Bruins fans, UCLA dominated the half that mattered most. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Next up, cross-town rival USC. One of the best rivalries in all of the sports, the Battle for the Victory Bell will feature a 6-4 UCLA team and a 4-5 USC team. We will have plenty all week at the LA Football Network leading up to this matchup, including our own tailgate at the Coliseum before the game. Hope to see you there!