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Cue the UCLA punch line: It’s Chip Kelly vs. Karl Dorrell at the Rose Bowl

Karl Dorrell claps on the sideline while he was coach at UCLA.
Karl Dorrell was a symbol of UCLA futility even though he was 35-27 as coach from 2003 to 2007. His Colorado team faces the Bruins on Saturday.
(Jim Bryant / Associated Press)
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If you enlisted a writer from Comedy Central at the time of Chip Kelly’s hiring to create a sidesplitting scenario for late in his fourth season at UCLA, it might resemble what’s about to unfold. Kelly’s team needs to beat one coached by Karl Dorrell, a symbol of Bruin futility, to avoid further cratering, Kelly’s 15-25 record making Dorrell’s 35-27 record with UCLA from 2003 to 2007 seem like the good old days.

If UCLA (5-4 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) can’t beat Colorado (3-6, 2-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl in a game it’s favored to win by 17 points, many Bruins fans won’t want Kelly to make it to Monday. There doesn’t figure to be many in the stands or watching on Pac-12 Network with so little at stake besides the Bruins possibly qualifying for a lower-tier bowl for the first time since 2017.

Let’s look at the game’s matchups and storylines:

Welcome back

It’s been three weeks since Dorian Thompson-Robinson took a snap for the Bruins.

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The senior quarterback hurt the thumb on his throwing hand during the team’s final drive against Oregon before sitting out UCLA’s loss to Utah. The bye week that followed gave Thompson-Robinson extra recovery time, though he acknowledged this week that he wasn’t fully healed even while throwing passes with considerable zip in practice.

Thompson-Robinson needs 107 passing yards to surpass Cory Paus (6,877) for fifth place on the school’s all-time list. It would certainly help Thompson-Robinson if the Bruins can revitalize their run game after rushing for 110 and 146 yards against Oregon and Utah, respectively, their lowest and third-lowest totals of the season.

UCLA is a heavy favorite heading into its game against Colorado, so how should bettors approach the game? A potential Colorado upset offers intrigue.

UCLA is seeking a breakthrough at home after losing its last three games at the Rose Bowl.

Welcome back, Part Deux

This will be Dorrell’s first game back at the Rose Bowl since Nov. 24, 2007, when his Bruins upset No. 9 Oregon 16-0, thanks in part to the Ducks playing without injured quarterback Dennis Dixon.

UCLA lost to USC the following week and Dorrell was fired two days later. The onetime UCLA receiver defeated his alma mater in his first game as Colorado’s coach last season, and his Buffaloes appear rejuvenated after beating Oregon State in double overtime last weekend.

Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis has sparked an offensive resurgence by throwing for six touchdowns with no interceptions over Colorado’s last two games. The Buffaloes are also running the ball much better, Jarek Broussard notching a season-high 151 yards against Oregon State.

Colorado’s recent offensive success — the team averaged 33 points over its last two games after having averaged 14.7 points in its seven previous games this season — also comes largely as a function of committing no turnovers in its last two games.

He’ll be missed

The Buffaloes are expected to be without All-American linebacker Nate Landman because of a lingering soft-tissue injury, creating a massive hole the team has been unable to fill.

With Landman and fellow linebacker Guy Thomas sidelined the last two games, Colorado allowed Oregon to run for 256 yards and Oregon State for 220 yards.

Ethan Fernea leaned on his determination to succeed to become one of the player favorites on the UCLA football roster, and he’s looking to accomplish more.

Thomas is also considered unlikely to play because of an unspecified lower body injury.

Go for it

One area in which the Bruins have thrived is fourth-down conversions.

UCLA converted seven of nine fourth downs against Utah and has now converted 20 of 29 attempts (69%) this season. Only Mississippi (24) and Navy (21) have converted more fourth-down opportunities.


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