A Culture Change At UCLA, Even After A Loss

Photo by Jevone Moore / fi360 News

Pasadena, CA – What was so important about UCLA and returning to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon was having their contest to have some meaning. That meant in their two road games, they needed to return home scooping up two wins. They did just that.

Photo by Jevone Moore / fi360 News

So, win or lose against the Ducks, the Bruins already drew more than enough attention to show that this team was sticking around. And to be fair, the Bruins showed what they were made of getting ahead two touchdowns early. Slowly, Oregon crawled their way back in and eventually took a lead early in the third. Since then, the Ducks never relinquished and took over for practically the entire second half. There could be a lot of negatives that are drawn from the  34-31 heartbreaking Bruin defeat. The plus side however: this is not a Bruins team that Chip Kelly has drawn up since his first few years at the helm.

“This is an unbelievable resilient bunch,” Kelly said. “We will fight to the end, and we just ended up one play short. We worked hard to get to field goal range at the end, but our guys are learning to make big plays when they need to. There were a bunch of guys that competed, and I am proud of that.”

UCLA got off to a hot start with plenty of consistency. The Bruins offense had a balanced offensive attack that completely caught the Oregon defense off guard within their first two touchdown drives. Dorian-Thompson Robinson, Brittain Brown, and Zach Charbonnet led the way with little spurts of gains on the ground and in the air on their first score. The second came off a blocked punt setting up UCLA 30 yards from the endzone in which they reached on just four plays.

Photo by Jevone Moore / fi360 News

When they needed to maintain ground, the Bruins were unable to keep up. It showed through the second and third quarters with Oregon scoring on four straight drives. UCLA certainly had their opportunities, especially on being able to force a fumble at midfield by DJ Warnell after a completed pass. Driving to the Oregon 30, Thompson-Robinson couldn’t avoid a sack on third down, which then led to a gamble pass to the endzone on fourth down that came away empty handed. That led to an Anthony Brown touchdown of 43 yards heading to the endzone nearly untouched. It was all part of a third quarter where UCLA thought they were working things through but instead only managed seven yards of total offense.

“There were plenty of big opportunities,” “But at the end of the day we need to take care of self inflicted wounds. Tip your hat off to some of the guys for Oregon when they made big plays. We need to clean those up if we need to play as a consistent football team.”

But instead of giving in, UCLA managed to do their part in the final quarter to show some life. UCLA did manage an opportunity to come back and even take a lead when Oregon could have sat on the ball with a commanding lead. Twice Brown elected to pass on second down, once in the endzone on a 24 yard pass. Both instances led to interceptions, with the latter giving UCLA a chance to relinquish their lead with under two minutes left. UCLA though had to do too much, with also putting Thompson Robinson exposed to the Ducks blitz. He had to come out after a hard hit near midfield, putting freshman Ethan Garbers in on the last few plays. Getting the Bruins about 20 yards and converting on a fourth down pass play, DJ James snuck in front of Kyle Phillips took the chance at a comeback away. It proved however that with UCLA giving in midway through the third, a 17 point lead was just too much to overcome.

Photo by Jevone Moore / fi360 News

“What we learned was what we can do to not put ourselves in this situation,” Kelly said. “Our kids were down, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of positives out of this game, because there certainly were. Our kids kept playing and our kids kept learning from their mistakes.”

While it wasn’t a complete game, the Bruins certainly have a lot to look forward to. They gained some recognition with ESPN taking their College Gameday crew to Pasadena. While Thompson-Robinson did only go 22 for 41 with only a touchdown, his offensive execution at times chugged along smoothly giving Charbonnet and Brown solid carries. They were also 10-for -19 on third down conversions, and their offense managed to get in the red zone six times, scoring five of those instances with only the missed field goal proving costly.

Photo by Jevone Moore / fi360 News

While the chance at making the Rose Bowl game could be out of reach, this does not mean the Bruins season has ended up being a dud. Looking ahead, UCLA has four games remaining, with their strongest opponent coming next week against Utah on the road. They would then stay in the Los Angeles area the rest of November taking on Colorado and Cal at home, and then on the road against a USC team that has faced adversity most of this year. Finishing the season with eight wins and a high bowl mark could create a beginning of a turnaround for a Chip Kelly program that has struggled to find solid ground since he has taken over.

“We have a tall task to get ready for Utah next week,” Kelly said. “We have to be ready.”

There is much to look forward for Bruin nation, and many people must not step off the bandwagon just yet.