Dorian Thompson-Robinson was just half the quarterback some had expected before Saturday.
Arriving at UCLA as a highly touted dual threat who was supposed to beat teams with his arm and his feet, Thompson-Robinson had relied almost exclusively on his passing ability over his first 11 college games.
He became something of a running man against Oklahoma last weekend while also throwing his usual array of passes.
Thompson-Robinson had some success running the ball despite statistics that appeared to indicate otherwise. He finished with minus-six yards rushing after being sacked four times for 54 yards, but he also ran 10 times for 48 yards, including runs of 14, 13 and 10 yards.
Bruins coach Chip Kelly said he incorporated more quarterback runs into his game plan based on Oklahoma’s coverages.
“If the defense tried to take the ball out of the running back’s hands,” Kelly said, “well, then the quarterback has to hurt you in the run game, and we did do that.”
Thompson-Robinson’s yardage on running plays nearly equaled that of tailbacks Demetric Felton (65 yards) and Joshua Kelley (51), illustrating the sophomore quarterback’s ability to make the offense more dynamic.
“When you have a dual-threat guy,” Kelley said, “it keeps the defense on their toes, like, ‘Oh, this dude can run. He can throw. How do we defend this?’ And then all of a sudden, a lot of things can open up, so I think that’s an element to [Thompson-Robinson’s] game that’s really going to help our offense.”
Kelly said Thompson-Robinson could be on the run more in the coming weeks, noting that quarterback runs provide an extra blocker that gives the offense a schematic advantage. But they also put the most important player on the offense in harm’s way, meaning that Kelly doesn’t intend to have his quarterback run inside the tackles where he might get pulverized.
“You have to be mindful that one of the best abilities of a quarterback is durability,” Kelly said, “the ability to get up and play the next snap, because if not then you better have about six or seven of them.”
Kelly said he was pleased with the way Thompson-Robinson avoided crunching hits while getting the needed yards.
“He did a really good job in some of his decision-making,” Kelly said. “You saw him get close to the sideline and instead of lowering the shoulder, he’s got the first down, let’s get out of bounds and play the next snap.”
On the verge?
UCLA’s offensive line has experienced some noticeable regression from its play late last season, giving up nine sacks in three games and failing to open many holes for a running game that has generated just 78 yards per game.
The line expected to have four returning starters before redshirt junior guard Michael Alves sat out the first three games because of a back injury. That forced redshirt freshman Jon Gaines II to start against Cincinnati and redshirt freshman Alec Anderson to start the next two games after returning from a leg injury. True freshman Sean Rhyan has started every game at left tackle.
Kelly said he has seen growth in the young players “from drive to drive,” though they will have to sprout quickly to match the offensive line’s production from late last season.
“Last year, you could tell when people knew what they’re doing. We were playing fast, everybody is flying all over the field,” center Boss Tagaloa said. “Just got to get back to that, but yeah, that’s just due to a lot of young guys having to step in and everything.”
When might the offensive line put everything together?
“If you watch the film,” Tagaloa said, “we’re really close to getting there.”
UCLA radio voice Josh Lewin will miss the Bruins’ game against Washington State on Saturday night because of a scheduling conflict with his work announcing Boston Red Sox games. The Red Sox are playing a weekend series in Tampa, Fla., and it would have forced Lewin to miss games there to call the Bruins’ game in Pullman, Wash.
Nick Koop, who usually handles pregame duties for UCLA, will replace Lewin for the game against the Cougars.
This will be the first football game Lewin has missed with the Bruins since joining their broadcast team before the start of the 2016 season. He has called 137 of 138 football and men’s basketball games, missing only a basketball game in November 2016 because he was calling a Chargers game in Houston.
Safety Quentin Lake was not on the field during the portion of practice open to the media.