UCLA is for real.
If you still had any doubts about the legitimacy of Chip Kelly’s 18th-ranked Bruins, those should be put to rest after a convincing 42-32 over No. 11 Utah at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet make up one of the top quarterback-running back duos in the country, and those two were spectacular against a strong Utes defense. Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-year senior, ran Kelly’s offense beautifully. He completed 18 of his 23 throws for 299 yards and four touchdowns while Charbonnet gashed the Utes for 198 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The UCLA defense gave up a lot of yards but made big plays when it mattered, including an interception of Utah quarterback Cam Rising late in the first quarter and then a clutch strip of Rising in the fourth. UCLA also stopped the Utes twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
UCLA led nearly the whole game, but the Utes were within one possession until the fourth quarter. Utah cut UCLA’s lead to three points on two occasions — 21-18 at the 5:01 mark of the third and 28-25 at the 11:39 mark of the fourth.
Both times, UCLA responded in a big way.
First, Thompson-Robinson found Jake Bobo for a 10-yard touchdown to cap off an eight-play, 75-yard drive. And then in the fourth quarter, Thompson-Robinson hit Logan Loya in stride for a 70-yard touchdown to extend the lead back to 10, 35-25, with 11:17 to play.
On the ensuing drive, Utah moved toward midfield but faced a fourth-and-1 when Rising plunged ahead but the football was jarred loose. UCLA's Jaylin Davies scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the 1-yard line, setting up a Charbonnet touchdown to put the game out of reach.
In the end, UCLA had accumulated more than 500 yards of offense against a Utes defense that had been allowing just 278.8 yards per game entering Saturday’s contest.
It was a statement win for the Bruins, who are now 6-0 entering a bye week.
Saturday's win marks the second straight home victory over a higher-ranked opponent. Last Friday, the Bruins upset then-No. 15 Washington 40-32 in a game that was not as close as the final score makes it seem. Previously, UCLA had only played lackluster competition. Included in that bunch was a 32-31 win over South Alabama, a solid Sun Belt program.
As a result of the unchallenging non-conference slate, some were understandably skeptical about the legitimacy of this Bruins team. These two wins should put those doubts to rest. UCLA is a real player in the Pac-12 title race.
Next on the schedule is a trip to Eugene to face Oregon, which is 4-1 and ranked No. 12 entering Saturday night’s game against Arizona. Kelly, of course, won three Pac-12 titles and made an appearance in the national title game during his four-year stint as Oregon’s head coach. Now he’ll be back in familiar territory for one of the biggest Pac-12 games of the season.