UCLA football is focused on earning a Pac-12 title — and more

Loss hasn’t ruled UCLA out of the Pac-12 title shot, and it may not have affected a new mystery target that surfaced Monday.

“We have a lot bigger goals than that,” said quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson when asked if he would fight for the conference championship, “and I personally think we can still achieve those if we just do our work weekly.” .”

The obvious follow-up question: Do bigger goals mean college football playoff semifinals?

“I’m not going to go into the goals, that’s more of a team, personal thing,” Thompson-Robinson said, “but yeah, it’s definitely a lot bigger than that, I can tell you that for sure.”

Some guesswork left a few possibilities.

A Pac-12 title comes with a Rose Bowl appearance — at least — so it’s conceivable that Thompson-Robinson meant winning a Rose Bowl, something the Bruins haven’t done since 1986.

More likely, he meant making the bottom four in college football. That gets considerably more difficult after UCLA fell to 12th in the Associated Press poll following their 45-30 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

The Bruins (6-1 overall, 3-1 Pac-12) are still in prime position to qualify for the Pac-12 title game on December 2 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Provided they don’t stumble in any of the games where they are critically favored, including Saturday night’s win against Stanford (3-4, 1-4) at the Rose Bowl, the Bruins could likely do so with a home win over No. 10 USC on Nov. 19.

UCLA has significantly more work to do to enable the Pac-12’s first appearance in the CFP since Washington did so in 2016. There’s no margin for error, and the Bruins may need significant help. Six unbeaten teams sit ahead of them in the rankings, and there’s always the specter of a team – or teams – qualifying on a loss from the mighty Southeastern Conference.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly said he reminded his players they hadn’t lost in nearly a year — 357 days, to be exact — before the Oregon game, but what matters now is what the Bruins can do over the next 39 years Do days ending in the Pac -12 championship. Kelly pointed out that his team responded to the recent loss with a nine-game winning streak.

“This is a really good football team,” Kelly said. “We didn’t do what we should have played on Saturday and we’ll go ahead and see how the rest of the season unfolds, but our whole mantra since the start of the season has been, ‘Pick your head up in December and we’ll see ‘whether our work is good enough to have the opportunity to continue playing after December.’ ”

There were several allusions to the urgency of the moment on Monday. A few hours after Van Halen’s “Right Now” blared over the speakers during the first few minutes of practice, Thompson-Robinson encountered a similar theme while speaking to reporters.

“If there’s a time to fix things, it’s now,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We know that, we’re a group that’s mature enough, we’re grown men, to go in there and look at ourselves in the mirror and say what we did wrong and come here on Monday and fix it. I think that’s where we are.”

Without giving specifics, Thompson-Robinson said the team got into their habit in the week leading up to the Ducks encounter.

“It’s always an accumulation of things and things that add up that you don’t really notice until it gets you,” he said. “I think that’s what we need to come back to, just making sure we’re doing everything right and if it still doesn’t work then we move on. But you know, those six games that we won, everything that we really did before those six games really showed up for us on Saturday.

Thompson-Robinson endured his worst game of the season while facing a relentless passing rush. He threw a pass into double cover, which was intercepted and missed a couple of the shorter shots he normally takes, but far bigger problems emerged on the other side of the ball. UCLA’s defense was hollowed out for its worst 545 yards of the season.

“Defensively, there were breakdowns at all three levels,” Kelly said.

Those failures were perhaps best illustrated by free safety Mo Osling III, who finished with a career-high 17 tackles with 17 tackles, including a handful that saved touchdowns.

“I don’t think that’s a recipe for success, if you’re moving forward, unless you’re blitzing your free safety every game and he’s got 17 tackles, that’s a good thing,” Kelly said, “but we have Mo not flashed singleplay every day so we need some more production [from others] and level those tackles.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-10-24/ucla-pac-12-title-chip-kelly UCLA football is focused on earning a Pac-12 title — and more

Emma Bowman

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