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UCLA vs. Stanford: Center Sam Marrazzo draws inspiration from teammate Jon Gaines II

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UCLA offensive lineman Sam Marrazzo (64)
UCLA offensive lineman Sam Marrazzo (64) lines up against Colorado last season.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

No. 24 UCLA is pushing to bounce back from a sobering last-minute home loss to Fresno State when the Bruins visit Stanford.

UCLA center Sam Marrazzo tells a story of perseverance starring teammate Jon Gaines II

His eyes slickened, his expression uneasy, Sam Marrazzo wanted to share a friend’s pain.

“Can I just say something real quick first, before we get questions?” the UCLA senior center asked Wednesday at the start of his Zoom session with reporters.

Marrazzo went on to tell the story of teammate Jon Gaines II’s father, Jon, who beat kidney cancer but is on dialysis twice a week and fighting the loss of both kidneys while waiting for a transplant.

“Even when he comes to watch Jon play,” Marrazzo said of the elder Gaines, “he has to get [dialysis] out here, so I just wanted to kind of get that out there. Jon’s been here every day through the whole thing, battling through it, he’s a great guy and I feel like just to get that story out there and hopefully help his dad out a little bit in the process.”

Marrazzo and Gaines have been inseparable and interchangeable — Gaines, a redshirt junior, replaced Marrazzo for the first two games this season while Marrazzo completed a lengthy recovery from an unspecified injury suffered last December against Stanford. Marrazzo made his season debut against Fresno State last weekend, with Gaines also playing as part of the offensive line rotation.

“Ever since he’s come in, we’ve been really close and I feel like we’ve kind of developed together,” said Marrazzo, a former walk-on. “He’s always been one of those guys that’s come in every day, no matter what, just grinding everything, giving it all he’s got.”

Marrazzo said he enjoyed everything about his return, with one exception — Fresno State scoring a late touchdown to pull out a 40-37 victory after the Bruins had taken the lead with 54 seconds left.

“That clutch drive in the fourth quarter, going down and scoring a touchdown, I haven’t really had that feeling of football in a long time, so that felt really good,” Marrazzo said. “I kind of exhausted myself on the sideline a little bit after that.”

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Chip Kelly concedes UCLA secondary should have tightened coverage during loss

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener eludes the oncoming rush of UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

On UCLA’s final defensive play, three defensive backs positioned themselves almost as close to fans sitting behind the end zone as the line of scrimmage.

Jay Shaw hovered around the goal line. DJ Warnell stood at the one-yard line. Kenny Churchwell III lingered between the one and the two.

When Fresno State snapped the ball from the 13-yard line to quarterback Jake Haener, Shaw and Churchwell retreated several yards into the end zone.

Haener eyed the available real estate and fired a pass to Jalen Cropper in the right corner of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 40-37 victory Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

Cropper beat cornerback Mo Osling III, who was near the line of scrimmage at the snap, with Shaw unable to provide help after having run himself out of the play.

It was almost an exact repeat of the 19-yard touchdown pass Haener had thrown minutes earlier while facing a similarly soft defensive alignment.

Whether it played man or zone coverage, held a lead or was coming from behind, UCLA gave out more cushions than a mattress store hosting a free pillow promotion. Defensive backs routinely played five or 10 yards — sometimes more — off the line of scrimmage.

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Vaccination requirement expected for fans attending UCLA vs. Oregon

Rose Bowl before a game between UCLA and Fresno State on Sept. 18, 2021.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen / Associated Press)

A City of Pasadena spokeswoman said a vaccination requirement for mega events, including UCLA football games at the Rose Bowl, would more than likely start after Oct. 9, meaning that if implemented, it would go into effect for the Bruins’ game against Oregon on Oct. 23.

Dr. Ying Ying Goh, a Pasadena health officer, is scheduled to provide a COVID-19 update to the city council on Sept. 27 that is expected to include a recommendation to require proof of vaccination at mega events, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

UCLA announced last weekend that it would require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours of the start of all indoor athletic events for all fans ages 3 and older through at least Nov. 1.

Fans attending the Bruins’ next home football game, against Arizona State on Oct. 2, are not expected to be required to show proof of vaccination.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week passed a vaccination requirement at mega events attended by more than 10,000 people, but Pasadena is not subject to that order because it has its own department of health.

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Is this a fork in the road — or the end of it — for the UCLA football bandwagon?

Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) reaches out to fans as he heads to the locker room after a disappointing loss to Fresno State.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Sputter. Swerve. Crash.

Less than a month after racing to unrecognizable speeds on the fuel of two impressive victories, the UCLA football bandwagon has careened into a ditch, run off the road by some raging dudes from Fresno.

The screech was deafening. The shine was stripped. The wreckage was spectacular, powder blue turning a deep red just before midnight Saturday as the Rose Bowl was filled with the chants of strangers.

“Fresno State! Fresno State!”

In the end, that is how it sounded, this first Bruins loss, this stealing of Bruins magic, set to a chorus of dancing witnesses simply repeating the first words in a final score.

Fresno State 40, UCLA 37.

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UCLA’s Fresno State loss a buzz-killer for Westwood resurgence devotees

UCLA coach Chip Kelly, left, speaks with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson
UCLA coach Chip Kelly, left, speaks with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson before a touchdown play against Fresno State in the fourth quarter against Fresno State on Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

No matter what sort of flattery was lavished upon UCLA, breathless talk of contending for the College Football Playoff accompanied by musings about coach Chip Kelly having regained his visor-inspired mojo, the message never changed inside the Wasserman Football Center.

A number and a word continually flashed on television screens inside the Bruins’ practice facility during their two weeks of preparation for Fresno State, as if to remind players of the netherworld they had only recently inhabited.

The number was “15,” a reference to the combined points in the team’s four losses last season. The word was “finish,” alluding to collapses in the final minutes against USC and Stanford.

On Saturday night, after having seemingly emerged from that world of pain with two season-opening victories, UCLA sunk back into the familiar misery.

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