You can’t do anything with the ball if you don’t have it.
UCLA is learning that painful lesson through the season’s early going, when it has committed six turnovers through its first two games.
Not coincidentally, the Bruins are 0-2.
Their two fumbles Saturday at the Rose Bowl resulted in 10 points for San Diego State during the Aztecs’ 23-14 victory. San Diego State did not have one turnover, greatly enhancing its chances at its latest triumph over a Pac-12 Conference team.
“Any time that one team turns the ball over and the other team does not,” Aztecs coach Rocky Long said, “the team that turned the ball over has a very little chance of winning.”
UCLA knows this well. The Bruins have lost the turnover battle, 6-2, through their first two games. Compounding the problem, opponents have scored on four drives immediately following UCLA turnovers.
Giving the ball away also leads to lopsided time of possession. San Diego State held the ball for 38 minutes, 16 seconds on Saturday compared to UCLA’s 21:44. The disparity was particularly acute in the first quarter, when UCLA had the ball for just 2:56.
“You can’t turn the ball over, is what happened,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said after tight end Michael Martinez’s fumble late in the first quarter gave the ball back to the Aztecs.
Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had his team’s other turnover in the third quarter when he was hit and lost the ball. He coughed up the ball on another play, but it went out of bounds.
“I still need to improve on some things,” said Thompson-Robinson, who has generated five turnovers through two games. “Obviously, still with two fumbles – you can’t have that.”
Turnovers are an ongoing problem for UCLA under Kelly, whose teams have committed 23 turnovers in 14 games. Opponents have scored 17 times on the possessions immediately following those turnovers.
“UCLA is a good football team,” Long said. “They should have won last week, too, but they turned the ball over four times. I thought they had outplayed Cincinnati. If they had not turned the ball over today, I think the outcome would have been completely different.”
They were missed
UCLA played a second game without cornerback Darnay Holmes (ankle), receiver Theo Howard (wrist) and offensive lineman Michael Alves (back).
Offensive lineman Alec Anderson returned from the leg injury that had sidelined him in the opener against Cincinnati and filled in at left guard, allowing true freshman Sean Rhyan to remain at left tackle. But Anderson was hurt early in the third quarter and replaced by Jon Goines II, who started at left guard against the Bearcats.
The crowd of 36,951 was UCLA’s fourth-smallest at the Rose Bowl since making it its home stadium in 1982. The only smaller crowds were against Oregon State in November of 1984 (34,116) and in November of 1992 (32,513). … UCLA generated only two sacks but had 10 tackles or loss, including three each by linebacker Krys Barnes and defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa. Linebacker Jason Harris added two tackles for loss.