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UCLA-San Diego State: A look at how the teams match up

After enduring what might have qualified as his worst game as a Bruin last week against Cincinnati, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson will face one of the nation’s top defenses.
After enduring what might have qualified as his worst game as a Bruin last week against Cincinnati, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson will face one of the nation’s top defenses.
(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

UCLA (0-1) vs. San Diego State (1-0)

Saturday, 1:15 p.m., Rose Bowl. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 570.

Marquee matchup

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson vs. the San Diego State defense. After enduring what might have qualified as his worst game as a Bruin, Thompson-Robinson will face one of the nation’s top defenses. His first task is to hold onto the ball after losing two fumbles and having two passes intercepted during his team’s season-opening loss to Cincinnati. He’ll also have to show better touch than he did against the Bearcats, when most of his eight completions came on passes that were not crisply thrown.

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Getting offensive

UCLA (218 ypg/14 ppg): The Bruins’ offense would immediately become more prolific should running back Joshua Kelley return from the lingering knee injury that sidelined him in the opener. His presence would allow the team to significantly lessen the load on Demetric Felton, who generated 162 yards last week, while presumably opening up the passing game for Thompson-Robinson.

San Diego State (238 ypg/6 ppg): Aztecs fans have already called for the firing of offensive coordinator Jeff Horton after the team managed just two field goals out of its new spread formation last week against Weber State, a Football Championship Subdivision team. San Diego State gained just 3.0 yards per carry and its longest completion went for 11 yards. It could help the Aztecs that running backs Chase Jasmin and Kaegun Wiliams are expected to play after sitting out the opener with injuries.

Getting defensive

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UCLA (417 ypg/24 ppg): There was some early progress with the run defense, which allowed only 3.6 yards per carry last week, but the defensive backs routinely gave up big plays, particularly while playing zone coverage in crucial situations. UCLA allowed Cincinnati to convert 50% of its third downs, a defensive success rate that ranks No. 100 nationally.

San Diego State (154 ypg/0 ppg): The Aztecs’ defense completely dominated Weber State, holding the Wildcats to five first downs and allowing them to run just one play in San Diego State territory — a fourth-and-one pass that fell incomplete. Still, it took safety Tariq Thompson intercepting a pass with three minutes left to assure victory because the Aztecs’ offense was so inept.

Something special

Graduate transfer Wade Lees had a career-best 72-yard punt against Cincinnati, the longest for the Bruins since Jeff Locke had an 81-yarder in 2009.

Of note

San Diego State coach Rocky Long was UCLA’s defensive coordinator during the 1996 and ’97 seasons under coach Bob Toledo.

Injury report

For UCLA, uncertainty lingers about Kelley, cornerback Darnay Holmes (ankle), receiver Theo Howard (wrist) and offensive linemen Michael Alves (back) and Alec Anderson (leg), who all missed the Bruins’ opener after coach Chip Kelly declared them available to play. All five players practiced this week, though Holmes worked on the side with a trainer Wednesday. The Bruins will play without running back Kazmeir Allen (academic ineligibility) and linebackers Keisean Lucier-South (academic ineligibility), Tyree Thompson (foot surgery) and Bo Calvert (NCAA suspension). … San Diego State starting running back Juwan Washington is questionable with a lingering ankle injury suffered in the first half against Weber State. Cornerback Darren Hall’s status is also unclear as he continues to recover from a hip injury.


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