The much anticipated top 10 matchup between UCLA and Oregon did not live up to the billing, as Oregon dismantled UCLA 45-30 and handed them their first loss of the season. UCLA was able to keep up with Oregon early, tying things up 10-10 (although their first field goal drive should have ended with a DTR pick), but things started to falter after that.
Oregon stole a possession with a surprise onside kick and would turn it into a touchdown to go up 24-10. UCLA then had to settle for a field goal on their next drive, which only cut the deficit to 24-13. Oregon answered with a touchdown right before the half to make it 31-13.
UCLA’s next opportunity saw them falter in the red zone and they again had to settle for a field goal to make it 31-16 (you could argue that, considering how the game was going at this point, Chip Kelly should have gone for it on 4th down).
Oregon scored again to go up 38-16. UCLA answered with a touchdown, but it was too late, as Oregon would answer again with their own touchdown before UCLA scored late and Oregon ran out the clock after UCLA could not recover an onside kick.
UCLA’s been pretty great up to this point, so dealing with just your first loss of the season against a good team isn’t too bad. Perhaps more upsetting is the way it happened and the degree to which Oregon pretty much entirely dominated the game.
UCLA never held a lead in this one. The numbers between the two teams were close to even, but that’s likely because UCLA was playing catch-up late. DTR played okay, but not great. He had a bad interception and another dropped one that should have been caught.
Charbonnet and Bobo put up their usual numbers, but Oregon was far more impressive in this one. They threw and ran for over 200 yards, they were 3-3 on 4th down, and Bo Nix played near-perfect football.
We’ve been talking all season about how UCLA’s offensive scheme is so hard to defend, but it was Oregon’s spread offense that really took the cake on this day. They used a lot of movement and misdirection concepts, and you could tell that UCLA’s defense was perplexed. They used multiple pull blockers to get their running game going downhill, and UCLA did not seem like they knew what was coming. They attacked with creativity and with the entire width and length of the field, and the multiplicity was simply too much for UCLA. The Oregon offense was one step ahead all day.
The UCLA defense was especially disappointing in this game. That had been the case for Kelly’s teams in the past, but it seemed that things were turning a corner with McGovern taking over for Azzinaro. Unfortunately, the UCLA defense against Oregon was as leaky as it had ever been, and Kelly is going to have to get it cleaned up quickly if this team wants to compete for a championship.
So how does this affect UCLA moving forward? Fortunately, their goals are still in front of them. With only one loss on the season, they still can compete for a Pac-12 Championship. They have a relatively easy three-game stretch before they play USC for the Victory Bell, a game that will likely decide the Pac-12 Championship. Luckily, that game will be played at the Rose Bowl, as this loss showed that UCLA may not be the same team on the road as they are at home.
This loss most likely takes UCLA out of the playoff conversation, something that was always a long shot but certainly a possibility coming into this game. They could still make it if they win the Pac-12, but the loss does not look good on paper. Even though it was only a 15-point loss, the reality is that Oregon was more or less in control the entire game.
Coming into last week, the Pac-12 was a four-team race between USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Utah. As I mentioned earlier, UCLA has a fairly easy schedule outside of the USC game. The same can be said for USC, assuming they take care of Notre Dame. Utah still has to play Oregon in Eugene. And the Ducks have to finish out the season vs Washington, Utah, and at Oregon State. All winnable, but things could go wrong somewhere along the way. So there’s still a lot of important football to be played for all of these teams.
A playoff appearance for the Pac-12 seems unlikely at this point, although USC and Oregon have the best chances right now. Similar to the Big 12, this conference often cannibalizes itself too much in order for one team to come out undefeated or with just one loss. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the year won’t still be interesting and have a lot of good football ahead. UCLA could even get another shot at Oregon in the Championship game if they play their cards right.
A loss is never fun, and certainly not when you get thoroughly outplayed as UCLA did against Oregon. If Chip wants to avoid these losses in the future, he’s going to have to learn how to play better on the road and from behind. Your defense has to be able to make some stops if you’re trailing, and you have to be able to win the battle up front against superior teams.
But having said all that, UCLA still has an opportunity to prove itself to the college football world this year. Their margin of error is smaller, and it may come down to a tough matchup against USC. But then again, isn’t that how things should be for those two teams?