UCLA’s Chip Kelly returns to Oregon for his biggest game

For the third time, Chip Kelly returns to the place of his greatest success, the place where he revolutionized the fabric of college football with dizzying offenses and cheesy uniforms.

For the first time, fans at Autzen-Stadion could feel like they’re seeing the same guy they remember.

His team is undefeated. His attack is so good that it’s almost a shock when he misses. His defense reliably gets enough stops.

That’s something the man who catapulted Kelly into the national spotlight in Oregon always thought it would happen to his UCLA protégé, albeit a little before the 5th grade.

“It took a while,” said Mike Bellotti, who hired Kelly as his offensive coordinator prior to the 2007 season and supported his successor as head coach two seasons later. “At UCLA, it certainly took longer than I’m sure he thought. He made the decision to stay and work and it’s certainly paying off not just for Chip and the team but for the entire university and they are one of the best teams in the nation.”

Bellotti sees two key factors elevating the No. 9 Bruins (6-0 overall, 3-0 Pac-12) to elite status ahead of their Saturday afternoon showdown against No. 10 Oregon (5-1, 3-0). The first is a team Kelly told him may be the most experienced he’s coached at the college level, including a fifth-year quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson and 19 players in grad school. The second is a defense that’s finally generating sacks and forcing takeaways after four years of doing very little.

Another big difference: Kelly clearly has fun.

“He’s slick, he doesn’t overdo it with the media, he answers the questions — every once in a while he’ll poke fun and say something a la Mike Leach,” Bellotti said, referring to the Mississippi state coach known for verbal detours, “but yeah he’s enjoying it and he’s passionate about what they do, the group of kids they have.”

Kelly’s first two trips back to Autzen Stadium with the Bruins were duds. A 42-21 setback in 2018 gave the coach as many losses in his first nine games at UCLA as he has in four seasons at Oregon while posting a 46-7 record. A 38-35 loss in 2020 was far more competitive but just as disappointing after Bruins receiver Kyle Philips dropped a pass in the last minute.

By the end of that season, many doubted Kelly could set a winning record at UCLA, let alone reach the kind of heights he achieved leading the Ducks to four major bowl games in as many years. At one point the trainer was being sold on Craigslist as a “used Chip Kelly in broken condition” with the seller offering “some serviceable parts in here if you’re looking for 5 tight end play designs and need to tear your list down to the bone.” .”

In a sign of depth Kelly once clawed, a win on Saturday would mark his 10thth Consecutive victories – and taking his UCLA all-time record to .500 for the first time.

Of course, that would only be a footnote to the big picture. UCLA would become the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 game and take their biggest step toward an appearance in the December 2 conference championship game in Las Vegas. It would also remain in contention for a place in the College Football Playoffs.

Seduced by the storylines, ESPN sent its College GameDay crew to the Oregon campus, even though the game will air on Fox. Oregon will be sporting a special color combo on its helmets and uniforms, the pink feathers are a nod to breast cancer awareness, even if it feels like a homage to the coach who made being a duck fashionable.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly celebrates the Ducks' win over Kansas State at the Fiesta Bowl.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly celebrates the Ducks’ win over Kansas State at the Fiesta Bowl January 3, 2013 in Glendale, Ariz.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Kelly said he never had anything to do with the uniform design, although he had his hands on everything else that made Oregon’s game days notable. The Ducks have maintained their massive home field advantage since his departure after the 2012 season, winning 22 straight games at Autzen Stadium and losing there most recently to UCLA in 2004.

“It’s always special to go back there, it’s a special place in my life and there are a lot of great people there who have had a profound impact on my life,” Kelly said when asked about his recent trip to Autzen Stadium UCLA could be for the 2024 Big Ten Conference. “But I’m not playing the game.”

Luckily for Kelly, given his staff, he can draft the game plan. His offense has been nearly unstoppable during the team’s nine-game winning streak since last season, averaging 510 yards and 44.1 points per game. It adds up to dominance, with the Bruins winning by a 21.6-point average while having just three wins in the series by less than 24 points.

Kelly’s offense might not be as quick as Oregon’s, but it’s just as effective.

“He’s playing at different tempos now, it’s not just all blurry, with some it’s like I’m looking at the line of scrimmage, with others it’s fast, with others it’s just not a scrum, which all puts pressure on the defense exercises,” said Bellotti, “but he’s effectively running football, and that’s the same plan that we had when he was here in Oregon.”

This game in progress features Zach Charbonnet averaging a Pac-12-best 123 yards per game. The stat that best illustrates his worth: UCLA is 11-0 when he rushes for 100 yards over the past two seasons.

Oregon players dump Gatorade on coach Chip Kelly after the Ducks beat Kansas State 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Oregon players throw down Gatorade on coach Chip Kelly after the Ducks defeated Kansas State 35-17 at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on January 3, 2013.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

With a weather forecast calling for an 80% chance of rain, running the ball could be a bigger factor than usual. Kelly prepared his team for wet conditions in practice this week, squeezing a water bottle to give his punt returns a splash before catching the balls hurtling towards them.

Any rainfall could water the bamboo that sprout on both teams. At the Pac-12 media day, new Oregon coach Dan Lanning used the same metaphor Kelly has long favored about explosive growth after a long lull. Lanning’s Ducks only had to wait a few weeks for the bud to burst, and after losing 49-3 in the season opener against Georgia, they went from strength to strength.

In many ways, the Ducks and Bruins are the same. Their offenses are among the most prolific in the nation, with Oregon (42 points per game) holding a slight advantage over UCLA (41.5). The teams place first and second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (Oregon gains 241.6 yards on the ground per game versus UCLA’s 211.5), completion percentage (UCLA completed 74% of its passes to Oregon’s 69.4), and Rushing defense (Oregon only 98 yards per play on the ground to give up UCLA’s 99).

Bellotti said he will likely wear the Oregon colors while sitting among Ducks fans to cheer on his former team. He will also keep an eye on his former colleague roaming the UCLA sidelines.

“I text him after the game whether I win or lose,” Bellotti said, “and say either ‘Congratulations, great job’ or ‘Difficult.’ ”

If it feels like old times for Kelly in his old home, the only ones who will be disappointed will be his old fans.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-10-21/ucla-oregon-football-chip-kelly UCLA’s Chip Kelly returns to Oregon for his biggest game

Emma Bowman

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button