In an encounter marked by unconventional strategies and a surprising outcome, the UCLA Bruins suffered a notable defeat at the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils. The game, while highlighting ASU’s interesting tactics, also underscored the ongoing challenges faced by UCLA under coach Chip Kelly.
ASU’s approach was immediately apparent, with a mix of unorthodox formations and plays aimed at disorienting the UCLA defense. The Sun Devils implemented a rotational quarterback system with Jaylon Conners (TE) and Trenton Bourgnet, and frequently employed a 5-wide bunch formation, often switching to screens on the opposite side and QB draws. This interesting strategy, including wildcat formations with the tight end and running backs taking snaps, created a chaotic yet effective offense.
UCLA’s defense, employing tight man coverage and a substantial use of cover 2, initially adapted well. However, they were consistently caught off guard by ASU’s unpredictability. A key defensive highlight for UCLA was an interception in the end zone by Kenny Churchwell III, which was one of the few moments where the Bruins seemed to outmaneuver ASU’s tactics.
On the offensive side, UCLA’s performance was led by quarterback Collin Schlee, who showed a mix of mobility and vulnerability. The Bruins’ offense heavily leaned on the running game, with significant contributions from backs Steele, Jones, and Adkins. However, the reliance on the run, coupled with a limited passing game, made UCLA’s offense appear predictable and one-dimensional. Previously Schlee had only come in on designed run formations for himself, but having him start the entire game at QB was questionable.
As the game progressed, UCLA’s struggle to find a consistent offensive rhythm was evident. The late shift to a more passing-oriented approach could not overturn the game’s trajectory. In contrast, ASU’s defense, particularly their safeties, effectively countered UCLA’s offensive attempts, often coming down in the box for run support.
Chip Kelly At Risk Of Being Fired?
Beyond the game’s specifics, this defeat serves as a poignant reflection of UCLA’s season and the broader issues under Chip Kelly’s guidance. Kelly, who was expected to rejuvenate the program, has struggled to deliver consistent success. The Bruins’ performance this season, characterized by sporadic potential overshadowed by inconsistency, mirrors the issues prevalent during Kelly’s tenure. In this season alone things looked good as they were ranked within the top 25, but have since fallen heavily, most in part due to the offense.
Kelly’s strategy, especially in offensive play-calling, has been a point of contention, often criticized for its lack of innovation and adaptation. The loss to a 2-7 ASU team not only highlights UCLA’s immediate challenges but also raises questions about the direction of the program under Kelly’s leadership.
As UCLA assesses its future, this game stands as a stark reminder of the unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities during Kelly’s tenure, losing to a team that had an RB and TE gash them at the quarterback position. For a team and a coach once seen as catalysts for change, the journey has been marked by disappointment, culminating in a loss in one of college football’s most unorthodox and tactically intriguing games in recent memory.