UCLA’s second-stringers are mostly first-rate as Bruins blow out Alabama State
It was the sort of mismatch where UCLA’s backups figured to play.
Just not before halftime.
If one looked solely at the final score — UCLA 45, Alabama State 7 — they might have thought the Bruins’ first game against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent in their 103-year history went according to script.
Not so much.
UCLA’s primary protagonists Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl included some unexpected names because of a few notable absences.
Star running back Zach Charbonnet did not play for undisclosed reasons, giving Keegan Jones the starting nod. Veteran quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson left early in the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury, forcing Ethan Garbers into the game.
UCLA dispatches Alabama State with ease as several reserves assume starring roles
It was the sort of mismatch where UCLA’s backups figured to play.
Just not before halftime.
Some unusual circumstances led to Keegan Jones and Ethan Garbers finding themselves on the field relatively early Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl.
If one looked solely at the final score — UCLA 45, Alabama State 7 — they might have thought the Bruins’ first game against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent in its 103-year history went according to script.
Not so much.
UCLA’s primary protagonists included unexpected names because of a few notable absences.
Star running back Zach Charbonnet did not play for undisclosed reasons, giving Jones the starting nod. Veteran quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson left after getting hurt early in the second quarter, forcing Garbers into the game.
The second-stringers were mostly first-rate.
Jones logged the Bruins’ opening points, keeping his legs churning on a powerful two-yard touchdown run. Garbers completed 11 of his first 12 passes. Running backs T.J. Harden, Colson Yankoff and Christian Grubb showed durability as UCLA relied heavily on its ground game in the second half.
With the Bruins (2-0) comfortably on their way to a fifth consecutive victory going back to last season — their longest stretch of sustained success under coach Chip Kelly — the game’s final 20 minutes belonged to third- and fourth-stringers.
Alabama State (2-1) found some success moving the ball, generating 310 yards of offense, but committed three turnovers and could not come up with nearly enough big plays. UCLA defensive backs Jaylin Davies and D.J. Justice each had an interception.
Hornets quarterback Myles Crawley also had to contend with UCLA’s Laiatu Latu. More than a year after medically retiring because of a neck issue at Washington, the transfer linebacker showed he was far from done, sacking Crawley twice and forcing a fumble when he walloped the quarterback.
There was one department in which Alabama State won decisively — the battle of the bands. The high-stepping, slippery moves and perfect choreography of the Mighty Marching Hornets elicited a standing ovation from the crowd of 33,727 that was noticeably bigger than the record low UCLA had drawn in its opener last week in unbearable heat.
The lack of significant playing time for UCLA’s starters added to the lack of definitive takeaways against a 48½-point underdog. Thompson-Robinson completed nine of 11 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown before his departure.
Garbers sustained that pace, completing 14 of 18 passes for 164 yards, though he did have one unsightly interception at the Alabama State goal line.
The biggest developments might have come in UCLA’s running game, which had largely been a one-man show in the opener.
Harden ran for 56 yards and a touchdown, yielding an impressive average of eight yards per carry. Jones was a two-way threat, running for 33 yards and hauling in four catches for 31 yards. Colson Yankoff, the quarterback-turned-receiver-turned running back whose career has been beset by injuries, tallied 35 yards in six carries, including an impressive 19-yard run. And Grubb rushed for 49 yards in six carries including 33 yards in four consecutive carries that culminated in UCLA’s last touchdown.
One week after a horrendous showing, UCLA’s special teams were a non-issue. Nicholas Barr-Mira made his only field goal attempt, from 19 yards, and Logan Loya showed reliable hands in replacing Jake Bobo as the punt returner while making his season debut.
UCLA pads its lead on first possession of the fourth quarter
Christian Grubb, a redshirt junior from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High, scored his first college touchdown to cap a UCLA drive that was all Grubb.
Grubb carried the ball on four consecutive plays, beginning with a 21-yard run from the Alabama State 33 yard line and culminating with a seven-yard touchdown that extended the Bruins’ lead to 45-7 with 13 minutes to play.
UCLA goes to the ground to score a TD on its first second-half possession
Rose Bowl spectators were treated to a rousing halftime show from the the Alabama State marching band. Then the second half began and it was the Bruins who commenced marching down the field for a touchdown that extended their lead to 38-7.
The Bruins went 70 yards after receiving the second-half kickoff — and every yard was gained on the ground except a four-yard reception by Keegan Jones to begin the drive.
TJ Harden ran 13 yards for the touchdown and racked up 35 yards rushing on the last three plays of the drive. UCLA rushed for only 45 yards in the first half, and more than doubled that total on this drive.
Ethan Garbers rushes for a second touchdown as UCLA scores again just before halftime
Backup quarterback Ethan Garbers dashed two yards for a touchdown that extended UCLA’s lead to 31-7 less than a minute before halftime.
Garbers, who replaced Dorian Thompson-Robinson early in the second quarter, has completed 11 of 12 passes for 148 yards. DTR completed nine of 11 for 101 yards before exiting, so UCLA was 20 of 23 for 249 yards through the air in the first half.
Keegan Jones rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown in 10 carries for UCLA. Starting running back Zach Charbonnet hasn’t played.
UCLA backup quarterback Ethan Garbers caps efficient drive by rushing for a touchdown
Ethan Garbers replaced Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback for UCLA and bulled five yards for a touchdown, increasing the Bruins’ lead to 21-7 with 10:39 to play in the first half.
Garbers, who was helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty on a key third-down play, was four for four passing for 36 yards on the 70-yard drive that took barely more than three minutes.
Alabama State cuts UCLA’s lead in half with a touchdown early in the second quarter
Jumping into the end zone with a leap and a flourish, receiver Jeremiah Hixon put Alabama State on the scoreboard early in the second quarter.
Hixon ran a simple inside rout and was wide open with he caught Myles Crawley’s pass, turned downfield and scored from 21 yards to cut UCLA’s lead to 14-7.
The score capped an eight-play, 68 yard drive by the Hornets.
UCLA needs only one play to score following an Alabama State fumble
UCLA immediately capitalized on an Alabama State turnover, scoring on the first play after taking possession on a 25-yard pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Hudson Habermehl.
Alabama State quarterback Myles Crawley fumbled while trying to pass the ball under pressure and the Bruins recovered deep in Hornets territory.
UCLA leads 14-0 with five minutes to play in the first quarter.
UCLA moves the ball with ease, opening the scoring on a short run by Keegan Jones
With Dorian Thompson-Robinson getting excellent protection, UCLA moved the ball with ease on its first possession, scoring on a two-yard run by Keegan Jones seven minutes into the game at the Rose Bowl.
DTR completed all four of his passes for 49 yards on the 68-yard drive, which took only 2:10.
Alabama State didn’t look bad on its game-opening drive, marching 53 yards in nine plays before turning the ball over on downs at the UCLA 32-yard line. Quarterback Myles Crawley displayed athleticism avoiding the Bruins’ rush, completing five of seven passes for 56 yards.
Josiah Norwood becomes latest former UCLA walk-on to take a star turn under Chip Kelly
One by one, UCLA coach Chip Kelly called the six players to the front of the meeting room.
Josiah Norwood. Alex Johnson. Carson Schwesinger. Jack Landherr IV. Nicholas Barr-Mira. Dovid Magna.
Come on down.
Some of the UCLA veterans had seen this sort of thing before and knew where it was headed. Senior offensive lineman Jon Gaines II stood up in excited anticipation.
All the players were walk-ons. By the time Kelly was done talking, they had something new in common.
Pac-12 ultimate travel guide: Where we love to eat, sleep, have fun and watch football
Before UCLA and USC leave the Pac-12 in 2024, fans have a chance to hit the road and check out the conference’s best outposts.
Our panel of four college sports writers have traversed Pac-12 country for years, arriving early and leaving late. They explored the Arizona desert, mountains of Utah and Colorado and vast landscape along the Pacific coast.
We’ve ranked every Pac-12 city and shared hidden gems that help convert them from quick game-day getaways to ultimate road trip weekends.
We omitted the Los Angeles schools from our rankings because it’s too difficult to evaluate the place we live as a road trip. However, we included L.A. recommendations in our guide in case you’re hosting out of town visitors or planning a visit.
If you rebuild it, they will shun? UCLA’s attendance hits new low under Chip Kelly
The late-morning sun was just starting its slow, steady climb over the old stadium.
A crowd that might not have filled Pauley Pavilion, much less the Rose Bowl, scattered in search of protection from the unrelenting glare.
Some fans found slivers of shade near the top of the bowl thanks to trees lining the outer rim of the stadium. Others clustered in seats underneath the Terry Donahue Pavilion, their own shadowy oasis.
Mercifully, there wasn’t much competition for choice spots.
History will be made by UCLA on Saturday: Five things to watch against Alabama State
It’s going to be historic, it just might not be entertaining.
The Bruins checking the FCS box after more than a century of football will leave USC and Notre Dame as the only major college teams never to do so. The Trojans will be the lone holdout after next season, once the Fighting Irish play Tennessee State in September 2023.
UCLA is a 50½-point favorite over the Hornets, meaning anything less than a four-touchdown halftime lead could stir unease among Bruins fans.