Chip Kelly says poor practices contributed to UCLA’s loss to San Diego State

UCLA coach Chip Kelly watches action against San Diego State from the sideline at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA’s games this season will be played on Thursdays and Saturdays, but the Bruins might have found a way to lose on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Coach Chip Kelly acknowledged Monday that his team had two poor practices early in the week after its season-opening loss to Cincinnati, leading to another dreadful showing Saturday during its 23-14 setback against San Diego State.

“Probably a hangover from the Cincinnati game,” Kelly said of the practices, “and we talked to our players about that, that you can’t let a team beat you twice.”

Officially, the Bruins will still take an 0-2 record into their game against No. 5 Oklahoma (2-0) on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.


Kelly has said that good practices typically lead to good performances in games, citing his team’s victory over USC last season that was preceded by what he described as “a really, really good week of practice.”

“We have evidence that when we play well in games,” Kelly said this summer, “there’s a direct correlation to how we practiced Monday through Friday of that week.”

Kelly spoke with reporters before practice Monday, preventing him from giving an assessment of how his team responded to its fourth consecutive defeat to a Group of Five opponent in his tenure going back to last season.

Tight end Greg Dulcich, who made his first career touchdown catch Saturday, called it “a good practice” when he spoke with reporters after the session ended.

Mark Saltveit believes some of the NFL-level complexity UCLA coach Chip Kelly deploys doesn’t mesh well with the college game.

Dulcich said the Bruins were doing their best to avoid wallowing in defeat.

“You can’t really think about what happened before,” Dulcich said. “Whether or not we did, we’ve just got to move past whatever affected us last game to focus on what’s coming up.”

Kelly provided a long list of corrections that needed to be made. There were two turnovers, two pass interference penalties on third-and-long plays that allowed the Aztecs to extend drives and 16 missed tackles (including five on just two plays), not to mention secondary coverage breakdowns and struggles protecting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

The shoddy play prompted another player’s parent to take shots at Kelly on social media Saturday, one year after Thompson-Robinson’s father directed a Twitter rant at the coach.

“I know 1 thing,” tweeted Martin Andrus Sr., the father of defensive lineman Martin Andrus, “you stupid UCLA fans made a mistake wishing [coach Jim] Mora out of town smh [shaking my head].”

Later, Andrus Sr. retweeted another fan’s message that alluded to Kelly’s salary. The tweet read, “Your son deserves better than the $4.7 million little man.”

UCLA is learning a painful lesson through the season’s early going, as it has committed six turnovers through its first two games.

Fan exasperation appears to be reaching a similar level to the final weeks of the Mora era, if the message board meltdown and near-record-low attendance at the Rose Bowl last weekend are any indication.

Longtime fan Michael Peters, who organized the GoFundMe page that paid for two airplane banners that flew over the Rose Bowl late in the 2017 season, indicated there could be another aerial show of displeasure soon.

“It’s looking like we might have to get the Bruin Luftwaffe off the ground,” Peters wrote in an email to The Times, “and let the AD [athletic director] know as well as Chip we’re not going to stand by and continue to accept mediocrity!”

Kelly continued to plead for patience with his young team, alluding to imperceptible growth that has become one of his mantras.

“You don’t tear up the root of the tree to see if it’s growing. You just keep watering it, you keep growing it and doing what you’re supposed to do,” Kelly said. “I think we all live in a society where we want a quick fix and an instant pill, but it doesn’t exist and it’s never existed in this game, so you just can’t say right now, ‘Hey, let’s run an entirely new defense and an entirely new offense.’

“You do that and you’d probably lose by 1,000, so you’ve got to be consistent and get better at what you do and what we’re good at.”

Two games into the season, for a team that’s been outscored 47-28 by opponents from smaller conferences, it remains unclear what those things are.