UCLA’s mistakes in win over Bowling Green could be fatal later

What a nightmare, and that’s no indication of the triple-digit gaming temperature.

Where to start

UCLA’s opening drive that ended in a blocked punt that Bowling Green returned for a touchdown?

The time out that Chip Kelly had to call because his punt returner had the same number as one of his blockers?

The delay in calling play at the opponent’s one-yard line?

Games like this are meant to inspire dreams, the destruction of a non-conference scapegoat inspires optimism for what lies ahead. In the case of UCLA, Saturday’s 45-17 season-opening win over Bowling Green dampened expectations.

Starting Year 5 for Kelly at UCLA had many similarities to his previous seasons at Westwood, the Bruins continued to make mistakes that would have cost them against an opponent who wasn’t completely overwhelmed.

Her ability to turn a 17-7 deficit into an overwhelming victory in the second quarter was due more to superior talent than willingness.

Whatever self-inflicted damage they suffered, the Bruins ended up having weapons the visiting Falcons didn’t have, from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who scored his first touchdown on a 68-yard streak, to running back Zach Charbonnet, who 111 yards rushed in 21 carries.

Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet were the offensive leaders envisioned by the Bruins. Improved defense limited Bowling Green to 162 yards of total offense and allowed UCLA to have 38 unanswered points.

Kelly tended to emphasize these positive aspects of the comeback and applauded his team’s spirit. And while the coach blamed the lack of pre-season games for the early mistakes, their tenaciously loyal fans braving the heat had to wonder if they were going to get more of the same. The mistakes were uncomfortably familiar.

“You’re never going to play a perfect game,” Kelly said. “There are always things that you have to work on after every game you play. … Winston Churchill said that the troubles of victory were far more pleasant than the troubles of defeat, but they were no less difficult. So we have things that we need to get better at and I think that’s what college football is all about.

“As I said to our boys, I hope our goal is for this to be the worst game we play. This is how learning happens. You must correct these errors. That’s the process for us and I think our guys understand that.”

Kelly has offered variations on this statement in the past, and problems have remained.

The fan base’s waning trust in Kelly was reflected in the announced attendance of 27,143, the smallest attendance to watch a UCLA home game in her 41 years at the Rose Bowl.

The number included no-shows, as well as yours.

Those who missed the game were not only spared the oppressive 100-degree heat, but also insane football.

The Bruins poked from their own 23 on their opening drive. Nicholas Barr-Mira’s kick was blocked by PaSean Wimberly and the loose ball was picked up by Charles Rosser, who put it into the end zone.

Thompson-Robinson leveled the score with a 68-yard run, forcing the Falcons to go for three and fold on their next drive. Before the Falcons punted, however, UCLA called a timeout.

The reason?

Punt return Jake Bobo wore the #9, as did Choe Bryant-Strother, who was part of the return team. Bobo slipped into a number 87 jersey.

“We’ve been working on that all week,” Kelly said. “I don’t know exactly what happened to it, but he has to put a jersey on because Choe is Bryant-Strother’s number 9, he’s on defense and he’s on our punt rush team, so…”

When asked by Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch whose responsibility that was, Kelly replied, “It’s ours.”

The coaching staff?

“Yes.”

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes against Bowling Green on Saturday.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes against Bowling Green on Saturday.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

UCLA’s subsequent possession ended with Thompson-Robinson throwing a pass straight into the hands of Bowling Green linebacker DJ Taylor. The Bruins were lucky not to be brought down by a touchdown soon after when Falcons quarterback Matt McDonald brought down a wide-open receiver in UCLA 10.

Bowling Green punched, only for Bobo to drop the ball after signaling for a fair catch. A 24-yard field goal from Mason Lawler put Bowling Green back ahead 10-7.

Down 17-7 in the second quarter, UCLA started their comeback with another mistake: the Bruins were called out on the bowling green for delaying play. The small but noisy crowd booed vigorously.

Pushed back to six, the Bruins opted for a field goal.

UCLA later missed two field goals.

On the plus side, while Kelly tried to downplay his team’s sloppiness, Thompson-Robinson admitted his mistake. Rather than brag about his two touchdown passes, he mentioned his interception when asked to reflect on his performance.

“I can’t stop thinking about the selection,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I’m going to be very, very critical of this and make sure these bugs are fixed, especially a lot of the things that happened in the first quarter.”

He almost certainly knew what everyone else was doing in the stadium.

The mistakes didn’t matter against Bowling Green. But against Utah they will. Against USC they will.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-09-03/mistakes-ucla-made-in-win-over-bowling-green-fatal-against-utah-and-usc UCLA’s mistakes in win over Bowling Green could be fatal later

Emma Bowman

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