Nicholas Barr-Mira field goal helps UCLA escape with a win over South Alabama

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes to tight end Hudson Habermehl.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes to tight end Hudson Habermehl against South Alabama in the first quarter at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA overcame a heroic effort by South Alabama, relying on a Nicholas Barr-Mira 24-yard field goal as time expired to claim a 32-31 win Saturday.

It wasn’t the prettiest showing for UCLA, but the Bruins are off to their first 3-0 start since 2015.

Gutty South Alabama nearly added to the Sun Belt’s string of early-season upsets, but UCLA kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira hit a 24-yard field goal to seal the Bruins’ 32-31 victory as time expired at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

UCLA kicks aside South Alabama’s upset bid on Nicholas Barr-Mira’s dream field goal

UCLA kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira (third from left, facing forward) watches his game-winning field goal
UCLA kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira, third from left and facing forward, watches his game-winning field goal sail Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

It was every kid kicker’s dream and millionaire coach’s queasy scenario, a fateful flash of seconds defining their team’s narrative for at least the next week.

As the last blocker crouched into place for the game’s final play Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl, UCLA kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira lined up behind his holder. He measured off two wide steps to his left. He waited for the snap with his team trailing South Alabama by two points and just three seconds left.

A back-and-forth game filled with bizarre plays and Bruins blunders needed resolution. Would Barr-Mira, a former walk-on who had been perfect on the day after a shaky start to the season, fully redeem himself? Or would he falter under the pressure of his first game-deciding kick at any level of football, reviving doubts about UCLA under coach Chip Kelly?

On the Bruins’ sideline, coaches and players alike felt as if they could predict the future.

“Honestly, I thought he had it,” said Kelly, who awarded Barr-Mira a scholarship near the end of training camp.

“Shoot, I was at ease,” said quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had frantically guided his team from its 33-yard line to the South Alabama six over the final 2 minutes 52 seconds.

“His name has been ‘Money Nick’ since he started his first game here,” said linebacker Carl Jones Jr., who had foiled South Alabama’s fake field goal on the Jaguars’ final drive.

With the crowd of 29,344 standing and straining their necks to follow the trajectory of the ball, Barr-Mira earned that nickname anew, sending his 24-yard kick sailing inside the right upright to provide UCLA with a 32-31 victory.

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Nicholas Barr-Mira field goal seals UCLA win

After both teams were forced to punt, South Alabama lined up for a field goal. It appeared to be a fake that UCLA pounced on, dropping Tanner McGee for an 11-yard loss at the Bruins’ 33-yard line.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed a few passes and Zach Charbonnet converted on third-and-two on the South Alabama 17.

The Jaguars exhausted their timeouts as they tried fruitlessly to get the ball back and the Bruins used a few runs to protect the ball, take time off the clock and align the ball for a Nicholas Barr-Mira. The kicker, who was just recently placed on scholarship, hit a 24-yard field goal to win the game as time expired.

UCLA 32, South Alabama 31


Dorian Thompson-Robinson leads scoring drive

We haven’t seen many Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs so far this game, but he took off for two big gains on a key drive to open the fourth quarter.

Thompson-Robinson delivered an eight-yard touchdown pass to Logan Loya, but his two-point conversion fell short. UCLA trimmed South Alabama’s lead to two points with 12:25 left.

South Alabama 31, UCLA 29


UCLA driving to open fourth quarter

Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s connection with his receivers continues to be off, with the quarterback tossing his first pass of the Bruins’ next drive landing on the turf between two UCLA receivers.

After a short Zach Charbonnet run, Thompson-Robinson showed no signs of anxiety and hit Logan Loya for a 28-yard gain to close the third quarter.

UCLA will open the fourth quarter with the ball on the South Alabama 37-yard line.

South Alabama 31, UCLA 23


UCLA fumble sets up another South Alabama touchdown

Mistakes continue to haunt UCLA.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s shovel pass to Keegan Jones caught him offguard and the ball hit the turf. UCLA and South Alabama players dove after it. The Jaguars seemed to have it, but the ball squirted out toward UCLA’s end zone and South Alabama finally landed on it.

South Alabama got the ball back at UCLA’s six-yard line and the Jaguars scored a touchdown two plays later.

With the extra point, South Alabama extended its lead to 31-23 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.

South Alabama 31, UCLA 23


South Alabama takes shots, quickly scores to regain lead

South Alabama took some shots down field, failing to convert on the first deep pass before connecting on a 37-yard pass. That set up runs by La’Damian Webb and Marco Lee.

Lee capped an eight-play, 67-yard scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

With the extra point, South Alabama claimed the lead at the 1:43 mark in the third quarter.

South Alabama 24, UCLA 23


UCLA scores field goal after fumble returned for touchdown overturned by review

Bruising, quick South Alabama tailback La’Damian Webb continues to challenge the Bruins, reliably delivering chunk gains for South Alabama that set up the team’s passing attack.

The UCLA defense, however, dug in and forced a fumble that Devin Kirkwood appeared to return for a touchdown.

The play was reviewed and the ball was ruled down after the fumble. It was the second time a UCLA touchdown was overturned by video review.

The Bruins got the ball at their 33-yard line and stalled in the South Alabama red zone, settling for a 28-yard Nicholas Barr-Mira field goal with 4:46 left in the third quarter.

UCLA 23, South Alabama 17


UCLA quickly scores to open third quarter, takes lead

UCLA clearly sorted out some issues during halftime.

The Bruins mounted a four-play, 75-yard drive that spanned 1:38, picking apart the South Alabama defense.

The balanced, efficient drive featured two Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes and two Zach Charbonnet runs. With 13:22 left in the third quarter, the Bruins claimed their first lead of the game.

UCLA 20, South Alabama 17


UCLA defense gets a stop, chance to regroup during halftime

UCLA’s defense gave up some ground before forcing South Alabama to punt with eight seconds left in the second quarter.

The Bruins headed to the locker room with some time to regroup and build on their second quarter touchdown. UCLA will receive the ball to open the third quarter.

South Alabama 17, UCLA 13


Jake Bobo delivers two big catches as Bruins finally score touchdown

UCLA needed a touchdown drive to shift the early momentum against South Alabama, but the Bruins were in danger of falling short.

UCLA faced third-and-nine at the Bruins’ 32-yard line when Dorian Thompson-Robinson connected with Duke transfer tight end Jake Bobo for a huge 34-yard gain. After two Keegan Allen runs, Thompson-Robinson returned to Bobo, delivering a nine-yard touchdown pass that finally gave the Bruins’ offense a big energy boost. The Bruins still trail the Jaguars 17-13 with 3:25 left in the second quarter.

South Alabama 17, UCLA 13


South Alabama completes 80-yard scoring drive

South Alabama has completed an absolute nightmare swing for UCLA.

The Bruins celebrated what appeared to be a seven-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Zach Charbonnet. It would have been Charbonnet’s first touchdown reception of his career.

Instead, a review determined the Charbonnet’s knee was down at the one-yard line.

Charbonnet fumbled on the next play and South Alabama recovered in the end zone.

The Jaguars then mounted an 80-yard drive capped by a La’Damian Webb 9-yard touchdown run during which the bruising tailback was largely untouched. With the extra point, South Alabama extended its lead to 17-6 with 5:54 left in the second quarter.

The Bruins’ defense is wearing down after spending a big chunk of the first half on the field.

South Alabama 17, UCLA 6


UCLA falls inches short of a touchdown and fumbles

Zach Charbonnet and Keegan Jones delivered a string of long runs that set up what appeared to be a Dorian Thompson-Robinson seven-yard touchdown pass to Charbonnet.

A review determined Charbonnet was stopped just short of the goal line.

On the ensuing play, Charbonnet fumbled the ball as he pushed forward and South Alabama recovered the ball. A touchback gives South Alabama the ball at its 20-yard line early in the second quarter.

South Alabama 10, UCLA 6


UCLA closes first quarter trailing 10-6

UCLA has been in this position before this season.

The Bruins trailed Bowling Green in the season opener before regrouping en route to a 45-17 win.

UCLA will need sharper play, particularly on offense, to match the feet. South Alabama’s defense has largely frustrated the Bruins in the first quarter and leads 10-6.

Look for Zach Charbonnet to get more touches as the Bruins look to wear down the Jaguars moving forward.


South Alabama counters with another field goal

UCLA’s defense gave up a lot of ground on the next drive before forcing fourth-and-eight at the Bruins’ 20-yard line.

South Alabama’s Diego Guajardo hit the 38-yard field goal with 1:50 left in the first quarter.

South Alabama 10, UCLA 6


UCLA offense can’t build on 44-yard play, Bruins add a field goal

UCLA’s offense has struggled to consistently move the ball.

It seemed like the Bruins might have found their groove when Dorian Thompson-Robinson connected with Zach Charbonnet for a 44-yard pass play that mostly was a run along the sideline.

However, UCLA’s offense could only move the ball from the South Alabama 44-yard line to the 31-yard line before settling for a 49-yard field goal with 4:26 left in the first quarter.

South Alabama 7, UCLA 6


Big run sets up South Alabama touchdown

After applying considerable defensive pressure, South Alabama poked a big hole as La’Damian Webb pulled off a 47-yard run.

Marco Lee later scored off a 2-yard run, giving South Alabama a 7-3 lead with 11:07 left in the first quarter.

South Alabama 7, UCLA 3


UCLA forces turnover and scores

UCLA kicked off to South Alabama at the Rose Bowl and the defense quickly applied pressure.

Linebacker JonJon Vaughns delivered the game’s first big play, returning an interception to the South Alabama 21.

After two incomplete passes and a one-yard run, Bruins kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira converted a 38-yard to give UCLA a 3-0 lead with 12:18 left in the first quarter.

UCLA 3, South Alabama 0


UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson reveals why Chip Kelly pulled him vs. Alabama State

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson sits on the bench.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson sits on the bench during the second half of the Bruins’ win over Alabama State on Sept. 10.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Chip Kelly apparently believes in load management.

Two days after the UCLA coach did not play star running back Zach Charbonnet and pulled quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the middle of a series, there were strong indications that both players’ workload had been intentionally limited against Alabama State.

Thompson-Robinson revealed that he was removed early in the second quarter because Kelly wanted his backups to play the balance of the game against an overmatched Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

“Garbs got his call, it was his time,” Thompson-Robinson said Monday, referring to backup Ethan Garbers, “so I just had to get out of the game and be the best teammate I can be.”

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UCLA gives rise to the comeback tale of transfer linebacker Laiatu Latu

UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu looks for a sack against Alabama State at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu looks for a sack against Alabama State at the Rose Bowl. He had two sacks that day, completing a two-year comeback from a neck injury.
(Don Liebig / UCLA Athletics)

The celebration started before the first play, the first tackle, the first victory.

As he prepared for UCLA’s season opener, Laiatu Latu looked at the coach who had stood with him this entire time. They had been through so much.

So much doubt. So much heartache. So many doctors.

Was this really happening?

For nearly two years, they had heard one medical expert after another crush their spirits with the same word: No.

No, you can’t play. No, you can’t resume your career. No, you’re not going to come back.

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‘That shouldn’t have gone up’: Chip Kelly says tweet calling UCLA ‘Transfer U’ was a mistake

UCLA coach Chip Kelly speaks during Pac-12 media day in July.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

A UCLA football program that was long a national force in high school recruiting, often edging rival USC for the best young players in Southern California, momentarily ceded those designations earlier this week.

Just check the title it gave itself.

Transfer U.

The nickname surfaced Monday on the official UCLA football Twitter account. A graphic illustration showed a group of Bruins transfers in uniform below a list indicating that the school led the nation with 20 transfer starters since 2020.

Atop the post, on a faux city limits sign, was the slogan: “Welcome to Transfer U.”

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Another Sun Belt shocker? What to watch for when UCLA faces South Alabama

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes against Bowling Green on Sept. 3.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

They have forced the dismissal of one coach while speeding the redemption of another.

They have silenced fans inside the college football mecca that is Notre Dame Stadium, as well as a crowd of nearly six figures inside Texas A&M’s Kyle Field.

No smaller conference has done bigger things over the last week than the Sun Belt, whose underfunded upstarts knocked off three Power Five conference counterparts, including two ranked in the top 10.

Georgia Southern stunned Nebraska in an outcome leading to Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost’s farewell, not to mention a much heartier welcome for USC castoff Clay Helton in Statesboro, Ga.

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