UCLA vs. No. 15 Washington: Five things to watch

UCLA started the season with four straight wins, but you’d never know given the team only got one vote in the Associated Press poll.

The Bruins have won seven straight games since last season, but given the scattered fans at the Rose Bowl, that might be unimaginable.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson leads the Pac-12 conference by completing 74.8% of his passes, but you may not have been told since everyone across town wants to talk about the quarterback.

The disrespect could end here.

When UCLA defeats Washington No. 15 in a nationally televised unbeaten match Friday night at the Rose Bowl, people will take notice. The narrative that the Bruins have never hit anyone of importance under coach Chip Kelly will end.

For at least one glorious week, UCLA football will be back.

Here are five things to watch as the Bruins (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) take on the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 ) line up:

big game hunting

Washington running back Will Nixon celebrates after a touchdown against Stanford.

Washington running back Will Nixon cheers after scoring a touchdown against Stanford in Seattle on Saturday.

(Stephen Brashear/Associated Press)

As Kelly’s detractors are fond of pointing out, his Bruins have only beaten two teams to finish seasons with winning records — Arizona State in 2019 and California in 2018.

What looked like a momentous triumph over Louisiana State last September took a lot of luster when coach Ed Orgeron agreed to leave at the end of the season and the Tigers finished 6-7.

The handful of conference showdowns that UCLA has attended under Kelly have not gone well for the Bruins. After starting 5-2 last season, the Bruins hosted Oregon at the Rose Bowl with ESPN’s “College GameDay” being held on campus. UCLA lost to the Ducks and then was beaten by Utah the next week to end all Pac-12 South Division title hopes.

In 2020, UCLA started 3-2 before losing their last two games to USC and Stanford.

In 2019, a midseason three-game winning streak ended in a 49-3 loss in Utah.

A win over the Huskies on Friday would undoubtedly be Kelly’s most impressive with the Bruins. It would also help the coach, who has gone 22-25 in more than four seasons, to sneak closer to .500.

A strong resemblance

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet warms up before a game against Alabama State.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet warms up before a game against Alabama State September 10 at the Rose Bowl.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

The Bruins and Huskies are very similar.

They boast two of the Pac-12’s top offenses, Washington averaging 530.8 yards and 44 points per game versus UCLA’s 508.3 yards and 41.8 points. The Huskies are more passing-oriented, transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the nation with 347 passing yards per game while throwing for 12 touchdowns and just one interception.

UCLA’s running game is superior, with Zach Charbonnet averaging 97.7 of his team’s conference-best 220.5 yards per game on the ground. Thompson-Robinson is another running threat averaging 42.5 rushing yards.

On defense, UCLA (295 yards allowed per game) and Washington (302 yards) are 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Pac-12. But neither has faced an offense as prolific as the one they will see on Friday.

You again?

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer gestures from the sidelines.

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer gestures from the sidelines during the second half against Stanford in Seattle on Saturday.

(Stephen Brashear/Associated Press)

Kalen DeBoer has already ended an unbeaten start to a UCLA season.

Last year, the Fresno State Bulldogs came to the Rose Bowl from DeBoer and brought down the undefeated Bruins thanks to a touchdown pass from Jake Haener with 14 seconds remaining.

After the season, DeBoer took over the Washington job and reunited with Penix. The pair had been together in Indiana in 2019 when DeBoer was the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator and Penix was the star quarterback.

It’s a powerful combination. Penix is ​​the only power-five conference quarterback to throw for 300 yards or more in four games this season. He has given his team quick starts, the Huskies have never been behind and scored 17 of 20 goals in the first half.

With a win over the Bruins, DeBoer would be the only first-year Washington coach of the last century to start his career at the school 5-0.

sack attack

UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu fires Colorado quarterback Owen McCown.

UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu (left) sacks Colorado quarterback Owen McCown in the first half Saturday in Boulder, Colorado.

(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

If UCLA fires Penix, it will be the first team this season to do so. The quarterback wasn’t brought down once in the backfield thanks to a strong offensive line that produced just two sacks involving both of Penix’s backups.

Meanwhile, Washington’s defense picked up eight sacks against Stanford last weekend and leads the Pac-12 with 3.75 sacks per game.

UCLA’s offensive line has given up just three sacks this season, while the Bruins’ defense has given up an average of 2.75 sacks per game. Edge rusher Laiatu Latu, a Washington transfer, leads the team with five sacks.

“Our group, we’re bag hungry,” said UCLA edge rusher Carl Jones Jr. “Their O-line has to go against us, not us against them.”

One concern for the Bruins could be the passing rush inside. Defensive tackle Martin Andrus Jr. is out for the season and Gary Smith III and Jay Toia are unlikely to play following recent injuries.

revenge bowl

UCLA wide receiver Colson Yankoff runs the ball against the Alabama State defenders.

UCLA wide receiver Colson Yankoff runs the ball against Alabama State defenseman Naytron Culpepper (left) and defenseman Keenan Isaac (center) in the first half September 10 at the Rose Bowl.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Latu isn’t the only ex-husky who might have a grudge to settle.

Quarterback Ethan Garbers and running back Colson Yankoff also traded from Washington, with the Huskies notoriously blocking Yankoff’s immediate playing eligibility during the 2019 season.

Ikaika Malloe took over the coaching job of the UCLA Outside Linebackers after being part of the Washington staff that was laid off after last season. He asked Latu, who had to retire on medical grounds in the spring of 2021 due to a neck injury, to visit him at his new school

“That’s our coach,” Jones said of Malloe, “so the outside linebacker group, we’re taking it very personally and we’re just going to wait until Friday to see how it goes.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-09-29/ucla-no-15-washington-five-things-to-watch UCLA vs. No. 15 Washington: Five things to watch

Emma Bowman

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