Game recap: UCLA loses to Fresno State in stunning upset

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, left, stiff arms UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert.
Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, left, stiff arms UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert as he scrambles for yards in the first half at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Late-game heroics by Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener lifts the Bulldogs to a frenzied 40-37 comeback victory over No. 13 UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA stunned as Fresno State pulls off 40-37 upset

UCLA coach Chip Kelly talks about the Bruins’ 40-37 loss to Fresno State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s Hail Mary attempt fell short of the end zone and fell to the turf as No. 13 UCLA lost 40-37 to Fresno State on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins, who entered the rankings for the first time since 2017 this week, have not had a win as a ranked team since 2015.

Thompson-Robinson was 14-of-24 passing with 278 yards and three touchdowns, including one that gave the Bruins a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining, but Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener stole the show with 455 passing yards on 39-of-55 passing. He threw two touchdown passes, including one with 14 seconds left to stun the Bruins, who were riding high after a win over Louisiana State two weeks ago.

Thompson-Robinson had a team-high 67 yards on 13 carries as Fresno State’s stout rushing defense locked up running backs Brittain Brown (23 yards) and Zach Charbonnet (19 yards).

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener’s late-game heroics prove too much for UCLA to overcome in a 40-37 loss at the Rose Bowl.

Sept. 19, 2021


Fresno State scores with 14 seconds left to retake the lead

Jake Haener dropped to his knees and raised both arms to the sky after throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Cropper to put Fresno State up 40-37 with 14 seconds remaining.

After an incomplete down on first down, Haener fired completions of 10, 27 and 26 yards to quickly get the Bulldogs to the UCLA 12-yard line with 23 seconds remaining. The Washington transfer finished the drive two plays later with his second touchdown pass of the day.

Haener is 39-of-53 passing for 455 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Cropper has a team-high 141 receiving yards on 14 catches.


UCLA takes back lead with touchdown from Thompson-Robinson to Philips

With UCLA fans stunned into silence by a sublime throw from Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, Dorian Thompson-Robinson led the Bruins on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to re-take the lead, 37-33, with 54 seconds remaining.

Thompson-Robinson hit Kyle Philips for a 15-yard touchdown to put the Bruins up. The Bruins got critical third-down conversions from Thompson-Robinson, who scrambled on third-and-six, and Brittain Brown, who leaned forward to get just enough on third-and-one.

Thompson-Robinson is 13-of-22 passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns with 67 rushing yards on 13 carries.


Fresno State inches back in front

Just when UCLA fans were gaining steam, Jake Haener put them back in their seats.

The Fresno State quarterbacked fired a dart to Erik Brookes for a 19-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs back in front, 33-30, with 2:55 remaining. Haener, who has missed several open receivers tonight, threaded the pass right by the outstretched arms of Jay Shaw and kept it inside the boundary, allowing Brooks to haul it in for the score.

The Bulldogs had first-and-goal from the nine-yard line on the drive, but backed up on penalties off consecutive plays, giving UCLA fans some confidence that their resurgent defense could hold the lead. The touchdown was Fresno State’s first since the 6:37 mark of the second quarter.


Bruins grab momentum by scoring off another turnover

Devin Kirkwood was one of three defenders who gang tackled Fresno State receiver Josh Kelly at the Fresno State 37 on a 12-yard completion, forcing a turnover when the freshman from Gardena Serra ripped the ball free to put the Bruins back on offense.

Linebacker Jordan Genmark-Heath scooped up the loose ball and returned it 19 yards to put the Bruins at the Fresno State 18-yard line.

Zach Charbonnet scored on a three-yard touchdown run two plays later and put the Bruins ahead 30-26 with 7:27 to go. UCLA’s two-point conversion attempt failed.


Ball bounces the right way for UCLA on turnover, touchdown

This is, indeed, Pac-12 After Dark.

Carl Jones forced a fumble on Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener and UCLA’s Myles Jackson recovered it to give the Bruins the ball at their own 43-yard line.

For a moment, it looked like the ball would bounce back to the Bulldogs as Jones tried to scoop the ball up and run in the open field. A Fresno State player got his hands on it briefly, but it squirted free before Johnson could cover it up.

The Bruins cashed in on the turnover with a 42-yard pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kyle Philips to pull the Bruins to within two: 26-24 with 8:10 remaining in the fourth.


UCLA trails entering fourth quarter

After a third quarter that had more turnovers than touchdowns, UCLA trails 26-17 entering the fourth quarter.

UCLA’s touchdown on its first drive of the second half was the only touchdown during the third quarter as Fresno State was held to a field goal. Each team turned the ball over on downs once and the Bruins also had a lost fumble.


UCLA gives the ball back after forcing turnover on downs

The UCLA defense picked up their offense by forcing a turnover on downs near midfield, but the Bruin offense didn’t return the favor.

Receiver Chase Cota caught a 45-yard pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but fumbled as Fresno State’s DaRon Bland punched the ball out at the Fresno State 23-yard line. The Bulldogs recovered at the 15-yard line.

The Bruins appeared to force a three-and-out after the turnover, but for the second time tonight, a fourth-down offsides penalty on UCLA prolonged a Fresno State drive. This time, Ale Kaho was called for the infraction on fourth-and-one.


Dorian Thompson-Robinson stuffed on fourth-and-one

UCLA tried back-to-back quarterback sneaks to pick a first down, but got stood up by a stout Fresno State rushing defense.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson went under center and pushed forward up the middle for one yard on third-and-two, then tried to quickly run the play again on fourth-and-one, but was stuffed when he tried to bounce the run outside to the left.

Fresno State took over on downs at the UCLA 46-yard line.

Fresno State entered the game allowing 96 rushing yards. The Bruins have 61 tonight.


Fresno State adds a field goal

Fresno State mistakes bailed the UCLA defense out as the Bulldogs settled for a 39-yard field goal to extend their lead to 26-17 with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter.

Quarterback Jake Haener missed two open receivers on touchdown opportunities and even when Haener put the ball on target on third-and-10, receiver Erik Brooks dropped a pass that would have given the Bulldogs a first down, if not a touchdown.

A 30-yard, first-down rush from Ronnie Rivers set up the Fresno State drive.

Haener, a Washington transfer, is 23-of-33 passing for 214 yards.

The Bruins got the ball back on their 25-yard line after the kickoff.


Kam Brown starts UCLA’s second half off right

UCLA is awake now.

After a lackluster first half, the Bruins opened the second half with a methodical six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 39-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kam Brown. UCLA now trails 23-17 with 12:29 remaining in the third quarter.

Brown had two catches on the drive, including a 15-yard completion on second down. He has a team-high three catches for 92 yards and one touchdown.

Thompson-Robinson was two-of-three passing on the drive with the lone incompletion coming after a nice pass breakup from former UCLA defensive back Elijah Gates.


UCLA starts second half on offense

Fresno State defensive back Elijah Gates forces UCLA running back Ethan Fernea out of bounds.
Fresno State defensive back Elijah Gates forces UCLA running back Ethan Fernea out of bounds near the end zone in the first half Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA, trailing 23-10, will start the second half with the ball on the UCLA 25-yard line in desperate need of a spark.

Fresno State outcoached and outplayed the Bruins in nearly all aspects in the first half. The Bulldogs outgained UCLA 276-81 and scored on four of their last five drives. The one stop came from an interception by Kenny Churchwell III, but even that went awry when Dorian Thompson-Robinson gave the ball back on a blooper reel fumble in which the ball slipped out of his hand as he loaded up to throw.

The Bruins were held to 16 plays and 81 yards on six drives in the first half. Thompson-Robinson is struggling (two-of-five passing) and Zach Charbonnet is almost invisible with just three carries for 10 yards.


Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s fumble turns into Fresno State field goal to end first half

A dramatic turnover tradeoff resulted in three points for Fresno State, which leads 23-10 at halftime.

Abraham Montano scored on a 21-yard field goal after the Bulldogs got the ball back on a Dorian Thompson-Robinson fumble.

Along with the costly turnover, which occurred on the first play after Kenny Churchwell III’s interception that shut down a Fresno State drive, Thompson-Robinson is two-of-five passing for 43 yards with a team-high 15 rushing yards on five carries.

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener is 21 of 28 for 200 passing yards. Running back Ronnie Rivers has 68 rushing yards, 10 carries and two touchdowns.

The Bulldogs have 276 yards to UCLA’s 161. The Bruins have only 16 offensive plays compared to Fresno State’s 49.


UCLA and Fresno State trade turnovers

Kenny Churchwell III grabbed the first turnover of the game, coming up with an interception in the end zone, but UCLA gave it right back on a lost fumble by Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Churchwell returned his interception to the UCLA 33-yard line, where the UCLA offense took over, but the ball fell out of Thompson-Robinson’s hand as he dropped back to throw on first down. The ball was recovered at the UCLA 20 by Fresno State.


Ronnie Rivers is flowing for Fresno State

Fresno State fans are making their presence known as the Bulldogs extend their lead to 20-10 with 6:37 to go in the second quarter.

Running back Ronnie Rivers scored on 36-yard touchdown run to cap off a seven-play, 75-yard drive that left the large contingent of Fresno State fans in the Rose Bowl chanting “Fres-no State!” from behind the south end zone. Rivers has 65 rushing yards on nine carries with two touchdowns.

Fresno State has scored touchdowns on three straight drives.


UCLA squanders Kazmeir Allen’s long return, settles for field goal

Kazmeir Allen set up UCLA with great field position on a 66-yard kickoff return, but the Bruins couldn’t cash in with a touchdown.

UCLA went three-and-out after getting the ball on the Fresno State 26-yard line and settled for a 39-yard field goal from Nicholas Barr-Mira, whose kick made the score 13-10 in favor of Fresno State with 9:43 remaining in the second.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson rushed for eight yards on first down, but the Bruins went backwards on second and third down with losses of one yard from Thompson-Robinson and Brittain Brown.

Meanwhile, safety Quentin Lake left the field with an apparent injury and was seen jogging into the locker room with a slight limp.


Fresno State answers with touchdown

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18, 2021:Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener (9) looks to throw.
Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener passes against the Bruins in the first half.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Looks like we’ve got ourselves a shootout.

Fresno State answered UCLA’s touchdown with a touchdown of its own, scoring on a one-yard run from Jalen Cropper, who took a handoff on a jet sweep and ran in untouched.

The Bulldogs now lead 13-7 with 11:49 to go in the second quarter.

Fresno State used a fourth-down conversion at the end of the first quarter to keep its drive going.

UCLA nearly answered on the ensuing kickoff with Kazmeir Allen, who ripped off a 66-yard return before getting tripped up at the Fresno State 26-yard line.


Fresno State converts on fourth down to end first quarter

Fresno State is driving as the first quarter comes to an end.

The Bulldogs, trailing 7-6 after the first quarter, went for it on fourth-and-four from the UCLA 42-yard line and converted on an 11-yard completion from Jake Haener to Jalen Cropper. They’ll start the second quarter on the UCLA 37.

Haener is 10-of-13 passing with 119 yards in the first quarter.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is one-of-three for 38 yards with 21 rushing yards on two carries.


Bruins strike back quickly to take lead

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet is lifted by offensive lineman Paul Grattan.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet is lifted by offensive lineman Paul Grattan after scoring a first-half touchdown against Fresno State on Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA has entered the chat.

The Bruins answered Fresno State’s scoring drive with a methodical five-play, 73-yard touchdown march capped off by a six-yard scoring run from Zach Charbonnet. UCLA leads 7-6 with 3:59 to go in the first quarter.

After the UCLA defense gave up the game’s opening touchdown, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson fired back quickly by hitting Kam Brown for a 38-yard completion on the first play of the drive.

From there, the UCLA rushing attack took over behind Thompson-Robinson, who carried the ball for 10 and 11 yards on back-to-back plays. Ethan Fernea took a hand-off for eight yards and then Charbonnet finished off the drive with his fifth touchdown of the season.


Fresno State scores first on short field

So that prime field position Fresno State had? The Bulldogs made UCLA pay.

Fresno State scored on a 10-play, 55-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a one-yard run from Ronnie Rivers. The Bulldogs attempted a two-point conversion that failed and now lead 6-0 with 5:54 remaining in the first quarter.

Fresno State had three straight negative-yardage plays on the drive that landed the Bulldogs in a seemingly impossible third-and-24. But a throw from former Washington teammates Jake Haener to Ty Jones pushed the drive into the red zone.

The Bruins nearly forced a turnover as Quentin Lake appeared to jar the ball loose on a crushing hit against Fresno State’s Jalen Cropper, but referees ruled Cropper down at the three-yard line. The Bulldogs scored two plays later.


Sam Marrazzo gets first start of the season at center

After an injury kept center Sam Marrazzo sidelined for the first two games of the season, the senior returned to the starting lineup Saturday.

Marrazzo, who missed all of spring practice, started at center, which bumped Jon Gaines II to right guard, where Atonio Mafi had started the first two games this year. With Marrazzo back, the Bruins have their entire starting lineup from the previous season back together, including Sean Rhyan (left tackle), Paul Grattan (left guard) and Alec Anderson (right tackle).

Fresno State and UCLA traded punts on their opening possessions. The Bruins went three-and-out after a third-down penalty wiped out a completed pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Mike Martinez that would have moved the chains. The Bulldogs fielded the punt near midfield and will have prime field position to start their second drive of the night.


Fresno State to start on offense

UCLA won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Fresno State the ball to start Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl.

Playing as a ranked team for the first time since 2017, the No. 13 Bruins (2-0) are coming off a bye week and are trying to snap a three-game losing streak against Fresno State. The Bulldogs last beat the Bruins in the Rose Bowl in 2018, the first year of Chip Kelly’s UCLA tenure.


Make a great block, meet a UCLA legend? That works for Kyle Philips

UCLA wide receiver Kyle Philips turns upfield for a touchdown run after making a catch against LSU.
UCLA wide receiver Kyle Philips turns upfield for a touchdown run after making a catch against LSU at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 4.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A familiar face approached Kyle Philips on the sideline at the Rose Bowl after the UCLA wide receiver’s crunching block that freed Zach Charbonnet on his 35-yard catch against Louisiana State.

“Good blocking,” the man said.

It was Troy Aikman.

Getting notice from Bruins luminaries would become a trend.

The day after UCLA’s 38-27 victory, former longtime NFL defensive end Datone Jones tweeted out footage of Philips blocking Tigers cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., allowing Bruins running back Brittain Brown to score on a one-yard touchdown run.

“I want this guy in a fox hole with me,” tweeted Jones, who played for UCLA before becoming a first-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers. “You don’t find WRs with this kind of physicality. this is how you get yourself drafted.”

Philips’ blocking has drawn raves from teammates, coaches and seemingly the entire football world. Bruins coach Chip Kelly said the redshirt junior was one of the team’s players of the games because of the vicious way he deployed his 5-foot-11, 191-pound body on plays that didn’t involve him making catches.

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UCLA is unbeaten on the field and in its early 2021 efforts to ward off COVID-19

People lean over a railing where Bruins football players are gathered.
The Bruins prepare to take the field against LSU on Sept. 4 at the Rose Bowl.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A game was canceled, necessitating a replacement opponent on practically a moment’s notice. The starting quarterback was among the players sidelined by contact tracing. Others tested positive and experienced a variety of symptoms.

Last year, every game on the UCLA football team’s shortened, conference-only schedule was affected in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the team has withstood the lingering impact of the health crisis through the early weeks of the 2021 season. No players have tested positive for the coronavirus, and the Bruins are on the brink of completing nonconference play against Fresno State on Saturday without any significant disruptions.

Has UCLA turned the corner on the virus? Coach Chip Kelly shook his head when the question was posed before practice Wednesday, his gesture saying it all.

“I don’t think this country’s turned the corner on it,” Kelly said. “I think we still have to be hyper-vigilant on social distancing. … We can’t in any stretch of the imagination let down our guard right now and say, ‘Hey, we haven’t had a positive test in a while, so let’s say, hey, we’ve got this beat’ because until the CDC comes out and says that this [Delta] variant is gone, we’re still going to be hyper-vigilant in terms of how we’re taking care of ourselves and what we’re doing.”

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It might seem like old times at Rose Bowl for Fresno State’s Elijah Gates, Alex Akingbulu

Utah running back Devonta'e Henry-Cole (7) outruns UCLA defensive back Elijah Gates.
Then-UCLA defensive back Elijah Gates tries to chase down Utah running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole on Nov. 16, 2019.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

UCLA will be reacquainted with two old friends Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. They used to call the place home.

Fresno State’s Elijah Gates and Alex Akingbulu will face their former team for the first time, providing the Bulldogs (2-1) with some extra incentive to upset the No. 13 Bruins (2-0).

Gates has gone from a reserve defensive back at UCLA to a starting strong safety at Fresno State. Akingbulu, who redshirted one season at UCLA and sat out another because of a knee injury, has become the Bulldogs’ starting right tackle.

“Alex is a big, physical offensive lineman that we’re gonna have to have our hands full [with because] he’s tough, strong at the point of attack,” Bruins coach Chip Kelly said of the 6-foot-6, 300-pound lineman who transferred after Kelly’s arrival.

Fresno State offensive lineman Alex Akingbulu (75) blocks for running back Ronnie Rivers.
Fresno State offensive lineman Alex Akingbulu (75) blocks for running back Ronnie Rivers, right, against Oregon on Sept. 4.
(Andy Nelson / Associated Press)

Gates played in all seven games last season at UCLA and tied for the team lead with two interceptions before his departure.

“Love Elijah. He’s really done a nice job fitting in there,” Kelly said. “They’ve got him playing safety there, does a great job of fitting their run fits but can cover half the field, so I think he can do both things for them.”

Gates ranks fourth on the Bulldogs’ defense with 12 tackles, including two for losses. He has also broken up two passes.


Obi Eboh and Alec Anderson strike NIL deals to endorse Sissy Blue shirts

UCLA defensive back Obi Eboh (22) during an NCAA football game against Hawaii.
UCLA defensive back Obi Eboh follows the ball during a win over Hawaii on Aug. 28.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Obi Eboh and Alec Anderson think you would look good in Sissy Blue.

The UCLA football players are expected to begin promoting the brand of T-shirts on social media after signing name, image and likeness deals to capitalize on the phenomenon sparked by Louisiana State coach Ed Orgeron’s impromptu exchange with a Bruins fan.

The first batch of more than 100 shirts — selling at $22 each (with a surcharge for XXL and XXXL) plus shipping — sold out Sunday, according to David Witzling, the UCLA fan and creator of The profit margin on each shirt is $10, with all proceeds going directly to the players.

Witzling said a second batch of shirts was expected to be shipped Tuesday so that customers could receive them before No. 13 UCLA (2-0) plays Fresno State (2-1) on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

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UCLA receiver Kazmeir Allen ready to run following COVID bout and other setbacks

UCLA's Kazmeir Allen looks on during a game against LSU at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 4.
UCLA’s Kazmeir Allen has switched from running back to receiver this season and the move seems to have paid off for the redshirt junior and the Bruins.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

His first name is a playful twist on Prince’s “Pink Cashmere,” the unusual spelling and sound intended to make him memorable.

It was repeated like a chorus at the Rose Bowl on that sensational Saturday of a college debut three years ago.

Wow, Kazmeir Allen! Kazmeir Allen is the fastest guy on the field! That Kazmeir Allen is something!

The running back dashed into the UCLA record book that day, his 103 rushing yards against Cincinnati ranking second in school history for a freshman while salvaging an otherwise glum Bruins debut for coach Chip Kelly.

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UCLA vs. Fresno State: Betting odds, analysis and picks

UCLA (-11) vs Fresno State

The Bruins are coming off a bye week after their impressive start to the season, in which they blew out Hawaii 44-10 as 18-point favorites, then upset No. 16 Louisiana State 38-27 as 1.5-point underdogs.

UCLA is 2-0 straight-up and against the spread, but VSiN college football handicapper Scott Seidenberg warns Bruin fans to not be overconfident in laying the points in the 7:45 p.m. game Saturday in the Rose Bowl. Fresno State is 2-1 straight up but also undefeated at 3-0 against the spread after expected blowouts of UConn and Cal Poly, plus a narrow 31-24, spread-covering loss against Oregon, against whom it was an 18-point dog.

Seidenberg’s analysis: Look out Bruins, the Bulldogs are coming to play. Quarterback Jake Haener has been terrific, passing for 1,009 yards, 8 TDs and zero INTs in his first three games, while completing 73.6 percent of his passes. Against Oregon — in a narrow loss that looks much more impressive against the backdrop of the Ducks’ road upset of Ohio State last week — Haener threw for 298 yards and a touchdown. In its win over LSU, UCLA allowed Max Johnson to throw for 330 yards and three scores.

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UCLA vs. Fresno State: Three things to know

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes to running back Zach Charbonnet.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes to running back Zach Charbonnet during a win over LSU on Sept. 4 at the Rose Bowl.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

No. 13 UCLA (2-0) vs. Fresno State (2-1)

Location: Rose Bowl.

Time: 7:45 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks.

Weather forecast: 79 degrees, clear.

Latest line: UCLA by 11 points.

About UCLA: Coach Chip Kelly joked the late game will be played in prime time in the Philippines — kickoff is actually 10:45 a.m. Manila time — but it could be the last bedtime start of the season for the Bruins if they notch a third consecutive win. The combination of a running attack that has produced 227 yards per game and a defense that’s holding opponents to an average of 37.5 yards rushing — ranking No. 4 nationally — has led to decisive wins over Hawaii and Louisiana State.

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