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Chip Kelly on a cooling hot seat? Takeaways from UCLA’s victory

UCLA coach Chip Kelly argues a call and receives an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly argues a call and receives an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the first half of the Bruins’ 62-33 win over USC on Saturday at the Coliseum.
(Harry How / Getty Images)
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UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson dominated crosstown rival USC with 349 passing yards and six total touchdowns as the Bruins crushed the Trojans 62-33 at the Coliseum on Saturday.

Here are four takeaways from the game:

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What effect will this have on Chip Kelly’s job security?

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and coach Chip Kelly are interviewed by a Fox sideline reporter.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and coach Chip Kelly are interviewed by a Fox sideline reporter after the Bruins’ win over USC at the Coliseum.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Fans may still want Kelly out based on his body of work — just 17-25 in his four seasons — but this victory makes it even more difficult for a cash-strapped administration to write a $9-million buyout check. With struggling California coming to the Rose Bowl in the regular-season finale, UCLA (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) has a chance to finish with its best record since 2015. The Bruins are already going to a bowl for the first time since 2017.

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But this was supposed to be the peak of the Kelly era. If this team, which is stacked with 20 returning starters, a three-year starter at quarterback and seniors at every defensive starting position, can only muster nine wins, then a championship is still a far-away dream in Westwood. Saturday’s victory only complicates Kelly’s job status more for athletic director Martin Jarmond.

UCLA could easily suffer the same fate as USC and stumble into a lost season soon if it decides to hang on to Chip Kelly too long, Bill Plaschke writes.

3

Kazmeir Allen breaks out

UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen scores a touchdown in front of USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart.
UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen scores a touchdown in front of USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart during the first quarter Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Thompson-Robinson starred, but Kazmeir Allen’s supporting role was just as critical in UCLA’s beatdown. The do-it-all redshirt junior had three catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was a long-awaited encore for the former high school track star who has worked in the shadows since he caught everyone’s attention with a 74-yard touchdown run in his college debut.

Allen was Kelly’s first commitment when the coach took over at UCLA in 2018. It seemed like a perfect match as Kelly was known for his speedy offenses at Oregon and Allen was the California state champion in the 100-meter dash.

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“Kaz is special, you know, and he’s really getting comfortable being a receiver,” Kelly said, adding that Allen was prepared to step back in at running back with an injury to Brittain Brown. “We needed him today — we needed the kickoff return, we needed the two long touchdown passes.”

Dorian Thompson-Robinson wants to leave a lasting legacy in Westwood, and he did just that, accounting for six touchdowns in UCLA’s 62-33 win over USC.

4

USC’s mess gets bigger and bigger

USC interim head coach Donte Williams talks to an official during the second half of the Trojans' loss to UCLA.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Each time the Trojans (4-6, 3-5 Pac-12) play at home, they seem to find new ways to disappoint. A 41-34 victory over lowly Arizona is the team’s only Pac-12 win at the Coliseum this year. Before Saturday’s embarrassment, USC was already giving up 40.8 points per home conference game and lost to Stanford, Oregon State and Utah in blowout fashion.

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A 29-point loss to UCLA reached a new level of despair that extended to every phase of the team. The offense failed to capitalize on two early turnovers. The defense gave no resistance to the Bruins. The special teams gave up a kickoff return touchdown.

When asked why the Trojans haven’t been able to correct the persistent issues, center Brett Neilon said, “I have no clue.”

“If I was hired as the next head coach maybe I’d have the answer but I have no clue,” Neilon continued. “Maybe it’s just the culture that’s been established here, I don’t know, I can’t tell you, but yeah, it just seems like the same old story this year.”

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Could this be the worst USC defense ever?

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, left, escapes a tackle attempt by USC cornerback Jayden Williams.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, left, escapes a tackle attempt by USC cornerback Jayden Williams near the goal line in the fourth quarter.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA’s 62 points were the most the Bruins have ever scored against the Trojans and tied the USC record for most points allowed in a game, also done by Oregon in 2012 and Arizona State in 2013. The Bruins rolled up 609 yards, the most against USC since Arizona State had 612 in 2013.

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Through 10 games, USC is allowing 417.8 yards and 32.2 points per game. Both are on pace for the most for a season in Trojan history.

If the numbers don’t lay bare how poorly the defense has performed this year, then consider the effort on the field.

Safety Jaylin Smith didn’t even attempt to tackle Kyle Philips as the UCLA receiver ran across the middle of the field for a touchdown. Thompson-Robinson said he was surprised no Trojan defender was present to hit him harder on either of his rushing touchdowns.

“Just guys not being accountable to one another, not playing with pride for this team, getting down and not getting up to pick yourselves back up,” defensive lineman Nick Figueroa said of the defensive issues. “It’s just not the brand of football that we want to play, it’s not the brand of football that’s played here.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando did not speak to reporters after the game.

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