Dorian Thompson-Robinson rallies UCLA to road win over Cal in regular-season finale

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UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson carries the ball against California on Nov. 25, 2022.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson carries the ball against California. He rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns as the Bruins had a big day on the ground in a 35-28 win Friday.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

No. 18 Bruins rally in the second half and hold on for 35-28 win over Cal, as Dorian Thompson-Robinson throws one touchdown pass and rushes for two more.

No. 18 UCLA lands late knockout punch to defeat Cal and reach nine wins

UCLA linebacker Carl Jones Jr. (35) celebrates after he recovered a fumble by California on Nov. 25, 2022.
UCLA linebacker Carl Jones Jr. (35) celebrates after he recovered a fumble by California to seal the Bruins’ 35-28 victory Friday in their regular-season finale. The Bruins moved to 9-3 for their most wins under coach Chip Kelly.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

BERKELEY — The play is called peanut punch, something UCLA practices repeatedly each week while teaching defenders how to smack the ball out of a player’s hands.

For much of Friday afternoon, what happened was simply nuts.

A field-goal try bounced off an upright. Three long touchdown passes gave California an 11-point lead over the heavily favored Bruins. There were times when it seemed that UCLA couldn’t even snap the ball without committing a false start.

“You name it, we had it,” Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said of his team’s lagging execution while trying to bounce back from back-to-back losses during a shortened week.

A gutsy decision — or a foolhardy one, depending on your perspective — to go for it on fourth and two at Cal’s 22-yard line with two minutes left failed, giving the Golden Bears one more chance to drive for a tying touchdown.

UCLA linebacker Kain Medrano ended it a few plays later, putting the technique from that practice drill to use when he knocked the ball out of Cal running back Jayden Ott’s hands. Linebacker Carl Jones Jr. recovered the fumble at the Golden Bears’ 38-yard line and sprinted around the stadium in celebration of the No. 18 Bruins’ 35-28 victory.

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UCLA seals nine-win season with final fumble recovery

And exhale.

A forced fumble and recovery ended Cal’s chance at a comeback as Kain Medrano punched the ball out of Jaydn Ott’s hands and Carl Jones Jr. scooped it up to seal UCLA’s 35-28 regular-season ending win over Cal.

UCLA clinched its first nine-win season under Chip Kelly and can match the school record for wins in a single year with a bowl victory next month.

The Bears nearly converted on fourth and six from their own 26-yard line as Ott caught a pass for 12 yards, but the freshman turned the ball over while fighting for extra yards.

The defense bailed out UCLA’s offense after the Bruins attempted to salt the game away, but turned it over on an incomplete pass on fourth down with less than two minutes remaining.

The Bruins carried the ball a season-high 64 times for 352 yards, led by 119 yards and one touchdown from Zach Charbonnet. Freshman T.J. Harden broke out for a career-high 89 yards in 12 carries.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson finished with 189 yards and one touchdown through the air on 21-of-30 passing. He added 88 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

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UCLA’s failed fourth down gives Cal last chance

Cal isn’t done yet.

With a chance to kick a field goal to go ahead by two possessions, UCLA ran a fourth-down play and turned the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass to Zach Charbonnet.

Cal, trailing 35-28, took over at its own 22-yard line with 1:58 remaining.

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Zach Charbonnet puts UCLA back in front

Zach is back.

After Zach Charbonnet was bottled up for less than 100 yards, against USC, for just the second time this year, the running back put the Bruins ahead again with a five-yard touchdown run.

Jake Bobo caught a pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the two-point conversion attempt to put UCLA up by a touchdown, 35-28 with 7:53 remaining.

Charbonnet, the Pac-12’s leading rusher, has 98 rushing yards in 21 carries and one touchdown to carry UCLA’s potent rushing attack. Freshman T.J. Harden is emerging as a strong second option with 89 yards in 12 carries. Thompson-Robinson has 88 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 14 carries.

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Cal retakes lead early in fourth quarter

This game had a midday kick, but we still have some Pac-12 After Dark vibes.

Cal jumped back in front with an eight-yard touchdown run from Jaydn Ott. The Bears lead 28-27 with 11:16 remaining.

Cal responded to UCLA’s field goal with an efficient five-play, 82-yard drive highlighted by a 49-yard pass from Jack Plummer to Jeremiah Hunter that led to Ott’s touchdown run on the next play.

Plummer threw four times on the drive, completing each attempt, and has 277 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-28 passing. Cal is doing just enough on the ground, led by 53 yards in 12 carries from Ott.

Hunter has 153 receiving yards on eight catches.

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UCLA extends lead with field goal

Another red zone chance and another field goal for UCLA.

The Bruins stretched their lead to 27-21 with 14:01 remaining after a 26-yard field goal from Nicholas Barr-Mira.

UCLA had first and goal from the eight-yard line, but Cal’s Daniel Scott came up with three big plays to force the field goal attempt. Scott dragged Logan Loya down for a four-yard gain on first down, saved a potential touchdown on second down by tripping up Dorian Thompson-Robinson for a four-yard loss, then hurried Thompson-Robinson to force a third-down incompletion.

UCLA has entered the red zone six times and had to settle for field goal attempts three times. One kick sailed wide.

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Special teams gaffe gives UCLA red zone shot

A three and out turned into a red zone trip for UCLA after the Bruins got new life by recovering a fumbled punt.

UCLA was pinned deep in its own end and punted on fourth and 10 on its 12-yard line. Jeremiah Hunter fielded the punt and tried to juke some tacklers, but long snapper Jack Landherr IV punched the ball out just before Hunter fell to the ground. Laiatu Latu recovered the ball at the Cal 43.

Cal nearly got another stop with third and 12 from the Cal 45, but T.J. Harden broke free for a 21-yard gain to move the chains.

Entering the fourth quarter, UCLA leads 24-21 with first and goal from the Cal eight-yard line.

Harden, a freshman from Inglewood, has run for a career-high 69 yards in eight carries to complement Zach Charbonnet’s 93 yards in 20 carries. UCLA is outrushing Cal 255-61.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s second rushing TD puts UCLA back in front

Dorian Thompson-Robinson won’t go down easy in his last regular-season game.

The quarterback put the Bruins back in front with a 14-yard touchdown run as UCLA leads 24-21 with 7:06 to go in the third quarter.

Thompson-Robinson has three total touchdowns, including two on the ground. UCLA has 220 rushing yards, led by 91 from Zach Charbonnet and 71 from Thompson-Robinson.

While Cal moved the ball down the field on its first drive, the Bears were forced to punt after Jaydn Ott slipped on a screen pass that went for a six-yard loss. It snapped Cal’s streak of three consecutive touchdown drives and opened the door for UCLA to build on its late first-half momentum.

Thompson-Robinson is 15 for 21 for 148 yards and one touchdown.

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Cal starts second half on offense with lead

And we’re back.

Cal, which is playing its final game of the season, leads 21-17 against No. 18 UCLA and will receive the opening kickoff for the second half.

The Bears rolled off three consecutive touchdown drives before halftime behind quarterback Jack Plummer, who missed his first four pass attempts and has reeled off 11 straight completions.

He is attacking a short-handed UCLA secondary that is without starting cornerback Devin Kirkwood, who has been out with a hand injury.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson sparks UCLA before halftime

UCLA has reentered the chat.

The Bruins found life late in the second half with a hurry-up five play, 74-yard, 40-second touchdown drive capped off with a 19-yard touchdown run from Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

The Bruins trail 21-17 at halftime with Cal set to start the second half on offense.

Thompson-Robinson is 12 for 17 for 109 yards and one touchdown with 41 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.

The Bruins are trying to grind the game out on the ground with 30 rushing attempts, led by 15 for 76 yards by Zach Charbonnet.

The Bears are finding their success through the air behind Jack Plummer, who has completed 11 consecutive passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Cal is averaging 2.9 yards per carry.

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Cal rolling in first half

One of these teams fired its offensive coordinator two weeks ago. And it’s the one that’s winning.

Cal is dominating after an excellent back shoulder throw from Jack Plummer to Jeremiah Hunter for a 22-yard touchdown pass that put the Bears up 21-10 with 58 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Bears have scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives while the Bruins are coming off their first three and out after their previous drive ended with a sack on Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Cal fired offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and offensive line coach Angus McClure two weeks ago after Cal’s 38-10 loss to Oregon State in which the Bears finished with just nine rushing yards.

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Cal jumps in front in second quarter

A fake punt, a pass interference and a deep shot have Cal head 14-10 with 4:37 to go in the second quarter.

Jeremiah Hunter caught a contested 38-yard touchdown pass over UCLA’s Azizi Hearn to get the Bears their first lead of the game despite getting outgained 209-162 and possessing the ball for five minutes less than UCLA.

Jack Plummer attacked Hearn on the drive, also throwing against the Wyoming transfer earlier on the drive and forcing a defensive pass interference.

Cal was dangerously close to another three and out on the drive, but wiggled free on a fake punt. The Bears snapped it to linebacker Jackson Sirmon, who plunged forward for two yards on fourth and one from the Cal 26-yard line.

Plummer is seven for 11 for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed seven consecutive passes.

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UCLA settles for field goal after false starts stall drive

Two false starts inside the 10-yard line forced UCLA to settle for a 23-yard field goal as another red zone trip went awry for the Bruins.

UCLA leads 10-7 with 9:27 to go in the second.

Center Duke Clemens was called for a false start on first and goal from the seven when he snapped the ball thinking that Dorian Thompson-Robinson was under center, but when the quarterback was actually in shotgun, Clemens didn’t let the ball go, backing the Bruins up. Zach Charbonnet had three consecutive runs to get the ball inside the one-yard line, but Garrett DiGiorgio was whistled for another false start on fourth down.

UCLA has three false start penalties today.

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Cal offense wakes up late in the first quarter

Cal has finally woken up from its Thanksgiving food coma.

The Bears shocked UCLA with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Jack Plummer to J. Michael Sturdivant to tie the score 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Cal had just five total yards on its first two drives but got going with two short passes from Plummer. He opened up the field with a 15-yard pass to Monroe Young, then two plays later found Sturdivant striding down field for the score.

UCLA is outgaining Cal 144-85 and is focusing on getting its running game on track. Zach Charbonnet, who was held to less than 100 yards last week for just the second time this season, has 55 yards on eight carries.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is 5-for-9 for 31 yards and a touchdown.

Plummer is 4-for-8 for 74 yards and one touchdown.

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UCLA comes up empty in red zone

UCLA is dominating but only leads by one touchdown after Nicholas Barr-Mira’s 33-yard field goal sailed wide. The Bruins remain up 7-0 with 3:15 to go in the first quarter.

The Bruins marched down the field behind Zach Charbonnet and T.J Harden, but stalled in the red zone with a false start on second and seven from the Cal 10-yard line. Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw consecutive incompletions after the penalty. He took a hit on third and 12, the second time today that a UCLA drive ended with Thompson-Robinson on the ground after a quarterback hurry.

The maligned UCLA defense forced consecutive three and outs to begin the game. After getting torched by Caleb Williams last week, a matchup against Cal should be a welcome respite for the Bruins. The Bears entered the game ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense and scoring. They have five total yards — all on the ground — after two drives on offense.

UCLA has 134 yards with 103 on the ground, including 45 from Charbonnet.

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UCLA jumps ahead with touchdown to Jake Bobo

After a punt on its first possession, UCLA got on the board with a five-yard touchdown strike from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Jake Bobo.

UCLA leads 7-0 with 7:04 to go in the first quarter after an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive.

Zach Charbonnet got the Bruins going with 22 combined rushing yards on the first two plays, including a 17-yard carry that got UCLA into Cal territory. Thompson-Robinson caught the Bears off guard with a quarterback sneak on third and three from the Cal 12-yard line, pushing the pile for a seven-yard gain. The quarterback found Bobo in the back of the end zone for the receiver’s seventh touchdown catch of the season on the next play.

Thompson-Robinson is four for five for 19 yards and a touchdown pass along with 28 rushing yards in four carries.

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UCLA starts on offense against California

Hi, this is Thuc Nhi Nguyen, I’ll be piloting our final UCLA live blog of the regular season as the Bruins face California. UCLA beat reporter Ben Bolch is on the scene in Berkeley.

This could have been UCLA’s chance to advance to the Pac-12 championship game. Instead, the Bruins (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) are just trying to hang on for a top bowl berth after consecutive losses to Arizona and USC.

Cal (4-7, 2-6) is destined for its fourth losing season in six years under Justin Wilcox, but the Bears are coming off a rivalry win against Stanford.

Cal won the toss and deferred to the second half, putting UCLA on offense to start. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is coming off his worst statistical game of the year. He completed a season-low 60.5% of his passes against USC while committing three interceptions and losing a fumble.

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UCLA can’t play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. What are the Bruins’ other bowl game possibilities?

UCLA coach Chip Kelly stands on the sideline during his team's loss to USC
UCLA coach Chip Kelly stands on the sideline during his team’s loss to USC last Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The College Football Playoff dream died with the stumble against Arizona. Returning to the Rose Bowl game for the first time since 1999 was out after the heartbreaker against USC.

Back-to-back losses have left UCLA to ponder something a lot less fun than a path to the Pac-12 championship game.

Now it’s all about which mid-tier bowl game the Bruins might find themselves in next month.

First, a quick primer on Pac-12 bowl selections. If the Pac-12 champion makes the CFP, the Rose Bowl picks a replacement team (presumably the one with the next-best CFP ranking). The Alamo Bowl gets the next pick, followed by the Holiday Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl. Those bowls can choose based on their own preference so long as there isn’t more than a one-game difference in conference record between their selection and teams remaining on the board.

Starting with the Sun Bowl, which picks next, the selections are based strictly on conference record. The Jimmy Kimmel Bowl goes next and the Pac-12 also will fill one slot from either the Armed Forces Bowl, First Responder Bowl or Gasparilla Bowl.

If everything breaks right, UCLA fans could get to spend a few days on San Antonio’s River Walk as part of a trip to the Alamo Bowl. In a far less enticing scenario, they would get to roam their own homes before making a much shorter commute to SoFi Stadium for the Jimmy Kimmel Bowl.

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Turnovers haunt Dorian Thompson-Robinson: Takeaways from UCLA’s loss to USC

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson busts into the end zone against USC
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson busts into the end zone against USC last Saturday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Caleb Williams climbed a red ladder in the south end zone of the Rose Bowl, raising a sword in the air as the Trojan Marching Band serenaded the traveling Trojan faithful with USC’s ubiquitous fight song.

This couldn’t have been the way Dorian Thompson-Robinson imagined his career in the Rose Bowl would end.

Williams outdueled Thompson-Robinson in a rivalry shootout 48-45 as No. 7 USC (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12) clinched its spot in the Pac-12 title game and eliminated the No. 16 Bruins from championship contention. While USC’s first-year rebuild under Lincoln Riley continues at warp speed, UCLA (9-3, 5-3) is still trying to reach the summit after a five-year climb with Chip Kelly.

“We came up short and it’s tough when you talk to them after a game to put it into words,” coach Chip Kelly said. “That you can play with the effort that you played with tonight, but that wasn’t good enough. Sometimes it’s a very tough lesson for all of us to learn.”

Here are four takeaways from UCLA’s loss:

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson bruised but not beaten as UCLA prepares for Cal

USC cornerback Mekhi Blackmon puts a big hit on UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson
USC cornerback Mekhi Blackmon puts a big hit on UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson at the Rose Bowl last Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Dorian Thompson-Robinson spent the final 21 minutes of Saturday night’s game grimacing in pain after the UCLA quarterback, his right thumb already taped, smacked his throwing hand on the helmet of Bruins guard Sam Marrazzo on the follow-through of his 38-yard pass to Logan Loya in the third quarter.

This was in addition to the two monster hits Thompson-Robinson took from USC defensive back Latrell McCutchin, the latter of which sidelined the fifth-year senior for one fourth-quarter play.

And the helmet-to-chest hit he absorbed from Trojans nose tackle Stanley Ta’ufo’ou, a second-quarter blow that was so ferocious it was reviewed for potential targeting.

Then there was the vicious lead block that Thompson-Robinson, showing the vigor of a 275-pound pulling guard, “pancaked” USC safety Max Williams with on Zach Charbonnet’s 19-yard run in the second quarter.

Also the third-quarter sack by Tyrone Taleni, USC’s 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle who flattened Thompson-Robinson and forced a fumble the Trojans recovered.

Thompson-Robinson was nearly beaten to a pulp in a grueling 48-45 loss to USC, his willowy 6-1, 205-pound frame battered and bruised, his right index finger bleeding, his hand throbbing and his ego stung by his four turnovers — three interceptions and a lost fumble.

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UCLA vs. Cal: Betting odds, lines and picks against the spread

No. 18 UCLA (8-3, 5-3 in the Pac-12) closes its regular season with a Black Friday matinee against the Cal Bears at 1:30 p.m. at California Memorial Coliseum in Berkeley.

Oddsmakers have installed the Bruins as 10-point road favorites as they try to end a two-game losing streak, including the 48-45 loss to USC last Saturday in the Rose Bowl that ended their Pac-12 title hopes.

Early bettors have shown a preference for the road faves as 85% of the bets and 77% of the money has been on the Bruins at DraftKings sportsbooks.

For the most up-to-date betting trends, see VSiN’s CFB Betting Splits page.

A lot of those bettors might actually be fading Cal (4-7, 2-6 in Pac-12), which is near the bottom of the conference despite rallying to snap a six-game losing streak in its 27-20 win over its biggest rival, Stanford, last Saturday in the “Big Game.” In addition, UCLA routed Stanford 38-13 four weeks ago in their meeting.

The over/under has been set at 60.5 points, with 64% of the early bets and 83% of the money on the over as a shootout is expected with UCLA doing most of the damage with its offense averaging 40 points per game (and the defense allowing 28 points per game). The Bruins are by the quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (3,238 total yards, 33 total TDs) and running back Zach Charbonnet (1,240 rushing yards, 13 TDs).

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After gut-wrenching loss, UCLA looks to snap skid and end season on a positive note

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson celebrates after scoring a touchdown against USC in the first half.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson celebrates after scoring a touchdown against USC in the first half on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The late-summer heat glimmered off the artificial turf, a whole season in front of him, in addition to a small group of reporters.

Kazmeir Allen stood on that sauna of a practice field and set the agenda for UCLA’s season.

“Rose Bowl or bust,” the wide receiver said.

It wasn’t a player going rogue on a roster conditioned never to look ahead, to focus only on that day, on what it would take to have a really good Saturday. That same week, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson acknowledged thinking about leading the Bruins back to the Rose Bowl every day. Guard Jon Gaines II, usually as guarded with his comments as anyone in college football, alluded to even greater expectations.

“Win every game,” Gaines said.

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