Pasadena, CA – All the buzz about college football rivalries were kind of was taken away in the Los Angeles area as USC has practically maintained strong records the last few seasons. Over time, Chip Kelly’s UCLA football team has been fairly short of being able to compete in meaningful games. Last season had sense of change in the air. Even at a 3-4 record, all of their losses were by six points or less. Beating Hawaii to a pulp last week was what UCLA wanted to send some shockwaves. With LSU in town Saturday night, did people notice?
Two years ago, Oklahoma came to town. The game wasn’t even close. Jaylen Hurts took over the field with his arms. Jaylen Hurts practically ran all over the Bruins secondary. In all he had 439 scrimmage yards. Over 52,000 were there to witness really a 60 minute Sooner show. Fans then eventually lost interest.
Fast forward now two years later, and now a rather strong SEC team and LSU travels to the Rose Bowl. The hype leading up to the game is far different. After the Bruins win last week, many have them believing this team is now for real. Nearly every UCLA player is on scholarship. A handful of returners made a tremendous impact against Hawaii. Newcomer from Michigan Zach Charbonnet has blown up UCLA tweets about him being an early vote for the Hesiman. While Vegas odds did have LSU favored by just under 3 points, only 62 percent of bettors swung in favor of the Tigers.
68,123 showed up to the Rose Bowl Saturday night. Most expected that LSU would take over the stands. About 15 minutes to kickoff, it looked as if the bowl was going to be split between purple and blue. The stands suddenly dominated in all blue. Every Bruin player immediately had a feeling something special was brewing.
Just once did LSU have a lead and it came early. After, UCLA relied on their defense to pick up their offense. Immediately after an LSU score, Dorian Thompson Robinson targeted Greg Dulcich for a 75 yard touchdown pass untouched. From there, the Bruins found ways to never let up.
Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown tag teamed for 28 carries and combined for just over 200 yards Thompson Robinson only threw 16 passes but managed three touchdowns on nine completions. As a team they outgained LSU 470 to 378. It was though the defense that credited the Bruins taking away prime chances for LSU to come back. UCLA took away the running game, only allowing 48 total rushing yards. Max Johnson did manage to throw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, but the difference in yards per completion forced LSU’s offense to slow down quite a bit.
Stat wise the Bruins did dominate, but it wasn’t tremendous. The fourth quarter became key utilizing the run game. With UCLA leading by just four, the Bruins kept the ball on the ground. In their final two scoring drives, UCLA managed over 110 rushing yards, but it was two key pass plays that set up the Bruins to push this game out of reach. Completions to Dulcich and Kyle Phillips, the latter being a 45 yard touchdown pass, were the only two that Thompson Robinson needed setting up the Bruins at a 2-0 record.
Chip Kelly had never been 2-0 with UCLA. The Bruins were last 2-0 in 2017, starting the season with a nail biting win against Texas A&M. They eventually fell to 6-6 falling apart in the Pac-12. This is a far different feeling though. Another true test comes to town in two weeks with Fresno State. 3-0 is the next aim, but the Bruins are slowly starting to prove they will be no joke when conference play starts.