UCLA quarterback directs hurry-up offense against California

UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson, left, congratulates Joshua Kelley after he ran in for a touchdown against California at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday in Berkeley.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

You weren’t imagining things if it seemed like UCLA quickened its offensive pace on the way to its first victory of the season.

But imagine this: It wasn’t coach Chip Kelly who ordered the hurry-up against California.

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said he was responsible for things moving a bit swifter Saturday during UCLA’s breakthrough 37-7 victory at California Memorial Stadium.

“I wouldn’t say tempo necessarily [came] from the coaching staff,” Thompson-Robinson said afterward. “I think I was just pushing guys more to just go because Cal’s defense was always standing up and stuff, so I just wanted to get the play rolling and stuff like that but other than that, coaches called the same [things] we always call every week.


“Maybe it just looked faster because I was trying to push it.”

It always increases the options when there’s an effective running game. The Bruins (1-5 overall, 1-2 Pac-12 Conference) were able to dictate the pace in large part because they moved the ball on the ground. Joshua Kelley finished with a career-high 157 yards and three touchdowns in 30 carries, the kind of workload that indicated the transfer from UC Davis has become the team’s every-down tailback.

He had 19 carries in the first half alone, when his 114 yards allowed him to become the first UCLA ballcarrier since Jordon James in 2013 to notch triple digits in three consecutive games.

“I didn’t even know,” Kelley said of his number of carries before halftime. “That was crazy.”

Kelley averaged 5.2 yards per carry for the game, efficiency that helped the Bruins open up their passing attack.

“We can get the ball to our playmakers if we just start getting the running game going,” Kelley said before directing his praise elsewhere. “I think the offensive line, they’ve been tremendous. I wanna make sure they get credit every single week because those guys, they fight man, they fight. They fought hard tonight and they were tremendous.”

The offensive line gave up two early sacks before improving its protection of Thompson-Robinson, who contributed to the running game with 49 yards in seven carries on scrambles and read-option plays. The two sacks negated 22 yards from his rushing total.

“I think it’s just all instincts,” Thompson-Robinson said of his running, which included a 20-yard scamper. “When they drop everybody back in coverage and try to bunch up the middle on the D-line, you just take it outside and try to get what you can get.”

Transfer mania?

College football players can depart their teams without asking schools for permission under a new transfer rule that takes effect Monday. It could lead to significant movement but won’t trigger any sort of big board being posted in UCLA’s football offices.

“We’re not having a big transfer watch party on Monday, I can tell you that,” Kelly said.

Kelly said he was in favor of players who wanted to transfer being allowed to leave without restrictions. Those who decide to depart will have their names entered into a national database that will allow coaches from other schools to make contact to gauge interest.

“I think kids should have a choice,” Kelly said. “If they don’t want to be where they don’t want to be, then it’s up to them to move, so I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve never put a restriction on a kid transferring when they’ve asked to transfer.

“My question if they want to transfer [is], ‘Can I help you? If we can help you, that’s great.’ I think that’s what our job as coaches is, can we help our players be successful? If they think it’s somewhere else, then we’ll help you somewhere else and thank you for the time that you spent with us. I don’t have any issue with it.”

Kelly did note that it’s often best for players who feel like they might be better off elsewhere to stick it out wherever they are.

“I think a lot of guys chose our school for a reason and I think sometimes when people face adversity they’re like, ‘Well, I’m going to leave,’ ” Kelly said. “Well, I don’t think that’s right, take your ball and go home. You fight through the adverse times and usually come out on top, but the guy who’s always searching for something and transfers three or four times usually doesn’t find it, so sometimes it’s just better off to stay where you are.”

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch