Pasadena, CA – If you want to compare expectations between the two Pac-12 schools in Southern California, UCLA has a much more interesting storyline. Chip Kelly opens his fourth season as the Bruins head coach. However, in each of his opening season games, he has come away empty handed. While he has had losing seasons throughout his tenure, opening season matchups have usually dictated what direction the Bruins will be going, and that has been a problem for Kelly. Righting the ship with what he has built over the years is what the Bruins are hoping for, having ten returning starters and quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson back at the helm for this third year under center.
Everything that needed to go UCLA’s way did. In a 44-10 dominant win over Hawaii, it was a message sent to the Pac-12 early saying this team is ready to compete.
“We are excited as a team, and we have been chomping at the bits since the end of last season. We don’t know what we are going to get in all three phases of the game. Until you play your opponent, you are not sure. There are a lot of things to clean up, but the great thing is we are right back to work on the right side of things.”
UCLA’s defense, while allowing 269 total yards, did their part in producing for their offense. Hawaii Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro did manage to throw for 216 yards. But the Bruins defense managed to force three turnover on downs and an interception. Hawaii only reached the red zone once, which did end up being a touchdown in that drive. The Bruin defense collectively forced a total loss of 37 yards and forced two interceptions, pinning Hawaii under heavy pressure throughout the game.
“Our entire team played their hearts out, but our defense had a lot of energy. We played well with a lot of one-on-one matchups, and with it being a hot day we had to do a lot of rotations. Off of film, we learned a lot from this game.”
Things were unsettling in the beginning after the Bruins managed a big stop deep in Hawaii territory on their opening drive. Only six yards were managed in the Bruins first possession as they started with the ball in the redzone, settling for just a field goal. Credit the defense on UCLA’s next drive forcing another punt. This gave Thompson-Robinson and running back Brittain Brown to use their arms and legs for their first touchdown of the season.
By then the Bruins took advantage of a weak Hawaii front seven on the ground, utilizing Brown and Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet. Combined they rushed for 184 yards, while as a team UCLA ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns, three coming from Charbonnet.
“When I transitioned in the spring it was tough,” Charbonnet said. “I needed this time to get ready, and our coaching staff and players are doing their part to get me and this team ready to play.”
Last season the Bruins had a statement win over Cal. It didn’t propel them to a winning season, but in each of their four losses they were only decided by six points or less. Experience seems to be key for coach Kelly. With LSU next up and with their issues they had last year, a 2-0 start to the Bruin season may finally have the Pac-12 create a bit more buzz for more teams.
“This is a very mature team,” Kelly said. We have 16 graduate students on this team. This team is hungry and these guys really are a strong suit of really hoping to go places.”