Her season was ignored, but no more.
Her record was minimized, but no more.
Their presence on the Los Angeles college football scene this fall was completely overshadowed by Friday night, when the UCLA Bruins emerged from a cool darkness into the blinding brightness of legitimacy.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson Hurdles. Zach Charbonnet sprints. Jake Bobo rocks. A defense that swarms and strikes and chokes.
Yes they are pretty good.
And yes, it’s time to pay attention.
In a rocking Rose Bowl against a team that had never cracked before, UCLA stormed to their biggest win of the five-year Chip Kelly era, snapping a 24-point lead and then holding on to beating unbeaten No. 15 Washington .
The 40-32 win wasn’t just about chips, it was about chips.
“I’ve been reading all these articles all week, people say we’re the worst 4-0 team out there, they write us off,” said a husky quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson after three hours of brilliance. “My boys came here with a chip on their shoulder. I think I told you on Monday, see if Washington can run with us, not the other way around. So that’s my answer. That is my answer.”
It was quite a reaction really.
In their first game against a credible power-five opponent, the Bruins overcame skepticism like Thompson-Robinson skipping a stunned Washington defenseman.
In their first game on national television, the Bruins ditched the jokes like Thompson-Robinson tricked two Washington defenders into an awkward bunch on a two-yard touchdown run.
In yet another opportunity to screw up a big moment, as this program has done so many times, the Bruins stood their ground, converting two third downs in the closing minutes while rolling down for one final drive to end it.
Your ultimate game? On three-five? Would you believe a six-yard pass from Thompson-Robinson to Hudson Habermehl? It was a final daring act of trust in a veteran quarterback five seasons old and grown and making 24 of 33 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns and no blatant errors.
“He doesn’t get phased, doesn’t get bummed, he’s as tough as they come,” Kelly said, later adding, “It was really cool … to see how it ended.”
It’s also cool to see how these Bruins have gotten started after their season officially begins after four games against North-South-Alabama Something-or-Anothers.
It’s early but they are 5-0 and have won eight straight games since last season, their longest winning streak in 17 years.
It’s a small sample size, but they just beat a team that wasn’t lagging behind this year while dominating a quarterback that led the country in passing.
“This game is a race to maturity, you get tested, but competitors react to situations like that,” Kelly said. “There’s a resilience to this group, they’ve been through a lot. … Every week they get a little bit better.”
Carefully hop on the moving bandwagon as they host mighty Utah next week and travel to stunning Oregon two weeks later.
And of course, as always, believe in Kelly at your peril as his teams have never survived success, here is his 23-25 career record with just two wins against teams who ended the season with winning records.
But, hey, give ’em this: On their first chance this season to show off and show off, the Bruins were huge.
There was Thompson-Robinson, shaking off the ferocity of first ownership to show all his veteran know-how with smart decisions, fearless sprints, 60-yard rushing, leadership everywhere. His hurdle will be a neat memory. His juking of the two Husky defenders will be a viral video.
Kelly said: “We really have complete faith in everything Dorian does. I think he understands very well what we are trying to do.”
Rasped Thompson-Robinson: “To be honest, I’m getting hoarse from game to game.”
Then there was an offensive line that opened huge holes that resulted in a 184-yard rush, including 124 yards and a Charbonnet touchdown. The Huskies only sacked Thompson-Robinson once and were so frustrated that Duke-transfer Bobo was able to tussle free for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
“All these guys are starting to grow together as a group,” Kelly said of a line that has three veterans in the middle surrounded by two newcomers. “I was proud of how these guys handled it.”
There was also a much-maligned Bruins defense chasing star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with first-half interceptions from Stephan Blaylock and JonJon Vaughns and all sorts of pressure from everywhere. They allowed 410 total yards, but much of that was gained after the Bruins took their big lead.
“For us, keeping them in check a little bit, I think, was the difference,” Kelly said.
Hmm, we suspect they’ll get more than the one vote they got last week in the Associated Press poll this week. Though they’ve obviously learned to feed on the disrespect.
“I love it. I love it,” Thompson-Robinson said. “You know, I’m not on social media 24/7, all day every day like most people might think, but I read it. I read it. I get notifications like everyone else. And if you think words won’t hurt, do it. They do and I always remember it, even if I don’t say anything.”
In addition to their soft early schedule, the Bruins were also criticized for their tiny support ahead of Friday. In a way, maybe that narrative is starting to change for this season too.
After three home games in front of empty seats that included two of the smallest crowds in UCLA’s Rose Bowl history, Friday’s game drew a real crowd that actually made noise, so much that they even confused the Washington offense at an early stage forced time out. The announced attendance was 41,343, which still isn’t great, but is about double the average early crowd, and it was important.
“It is really important. …Friday night game in LA traffic, I saw three crashes on the way to the game. I have to give credit to our police escort, they swung and dodged,” Kelly said. “For the people that have come out … hopefully we’ll continue to get more of this.”
And considering UCLA started off so badly, midway through the first quarter, they were booed.
First there was Washington’s 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, which ended with a fourth 33-yard pass from Penix to a wide-open Rome Odunze. Things didn’t get any better after UCLA’s ensuing possession, as the Bruins failed three times at the Huskies’ three-yard line on three dropped passes from a pressured Thompson-Robinson. The last miss was in fourth place, and here came those boos.
But the anger didn’t last. The game changed two plays later when Washington running back Wayne Taulapapa lost a short pitch from Penix at the goal line, leading to a UCLA safety that started a run in which they surpassed Washington 33-3.
Yes they are pretty good.
Next week, when defending Pac-12 champion Utah comes to Pasadena, the football world will find out just how good it is once again.
“This will brighten your eyes as you prepare for it,” Kelly said.
The eyes are actually up and open.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-10-01/plaschke-on-ucla-vs-washington After UCLA upset Washington, stop ignoring the Bruins