Dorian Thompson-Robinson short-armed a pass only a few minutes into UCLA’s practice Sunday evening, testing the part of his body he had hurt the previous day.
Something didn’t go as the quarterback had hoped.
He immediately shifted into throwing a few balls underhanded before standing off to the side of drills with a member of the strength and conditioning staff. Thompson-Robinson held his arms out at shoulder level and gently rotated them in what looked like range-of-motion exercises.
The early prognosis did not appear promising for the true freshman who suffered an unspecified injury to his upper body Saturday during the Bruins’ 31-30 victory over Arizona, forcing him to miss most of the last three quarters.
Graduate transfer Wilton Speight replaced Thompson-Robinson and guided UCLA to its second consecutive victory. He also ran the first-team offense Sunday during the portion of practice open to the media as the Bruins (2-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-12 Conference) commenced their preparations for No. 23 Utah (5-2, 3-2) on Friday night at the Rose Bowl.
No matter who takes the first snap against the Utes, there remained confidence that UCLA would have a quarterback capable of sustaining the team’s upward trajectory.
“Not many teams can have that, two quarterbacks who can both get the job done,” Bruins tight end Caleb Wilson said. “We’re very fortunate to have a guy like Wilton and Dorian who both can help us win games, so this is definitely a little comfort to know that you have another option.”
A rosier picture?
Ninety-three teams have advanced to the Rose Bowl after starting a season 5-0.
UCLA is attempting to be the first to get there after starting 0-5.
No one has even come close. Washington lost its first three games in 1963 amid a 2-3 start that ended in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. The Bruins opened the 1983 season with an 0-3-1 record before rolling off five straight wins on the way to an unlikely Rose Bowl triumph over Illinois.
What the current Bruins are attempting to do would be a feat on par with achieving a yearlong detente in the crosstown rivalry with USC.
It’s still a Mega Millions lottery long shot, but UCLA remains in position to make history after prevailing against Arizona. The Bruins would need to win the rest of their games and get some help to qualify for the conference championship game Nov. 30 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
The Bruins aren’t counting themselves out.
“That locker room is filled with winners, led by a coaching staff full of winners,” Speight said Saturday. “And we’re going to keep winning each day and winning each meeting and winning each practice, and stack little wins until the outcome is what we want every Saturday.”
UCLA is tied with Colorado for third place in the Pac-12 South, a half game behind USC and Utah, which both have 3-2 conference records. If the Bruins beat the Trojans and the Utes, they would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. But UCLA needs Colorado to lose at least one more game because the Buffaloes defeated the Bruins last month in Boulder.
Colorado’s most difficult remaining games are both at home, against Washington State and Utah.
UCLA has the toughest remaining schedule of the four teams in contention. The Bruins face Utah as well as Oregon on the road before finishing the season with USC and Stanford at home.
USC must play only struggling Arizona State, Oregon State and California before facing UCLA. Utah’s remaining schedule includes Arizona State, Oregon and Colorado.