The fans’ displeasure started barely four minutes into the game and only intensified. There was nothing to like.
UCLA gave up a touchdown pass, failed on a fourth and one, gave up a touchdown run, failed to recover a short, jump-ball kickoff and gave up another touchdown pass, this time to a wide-open tight end.
The Bruins trailed by 21 points Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl and it wasn’t even the midpoint of the first quarter.
Things leaned so heavily in Oregon State’s direction that even the scoreboard operator seemed to sense what was coming, momentarily bestowing the Beavers with a 20-point lead after they had scored only their second touchdown. The third one would come soon enough.
UCLA prettied things up a bit but couldn’t overcome the stinker of a start during a 48-31 loss that put the Bruins to an unfathomable low 1½ seasons into the Chip Kelly era.
“There’s no one more disappointed than we are right now,” Kelly said, “so that’s part of the process and we have to work through it and when you’re a young team you’re going to make mistakes but we don’t make excuses for it.”
UCLA (1-5 overall, 1-2 Pac-12 Conference) holds the same record it did at this point last season, but all the similarities between Kelly’s first team and his second end there. The 2018 Bruins had just logged their first victory of the season and were trending upward. These Bruins look like a middling Mountain West Conference team after a second consecutive loss amid a largely lifeless showing.
Their defense continues to give up huge chunks of yardage, Oregon State (2-3, 1-1) gouging it for 7.7 yards per play while capitalizing on more missed tackles and puzzling coverage that repeatedly left receivers with wide swaths of open territory.
The only record low UCLA may have dodged was in attendance. An announced crowd of 48,532 included 3,000 high school band members, several thousand other students on hand as part of a going-to-college promotion and a sizable chunk of UCLA students attending their first game of the season with school back in session.
There wasn’t much to entice any of them back.
Bruins quarterback Austin Burton played admirably in his first start while filling in for the injured Dorian Thompson-Robinson, completing 27 of 41 passes for 236 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, but he was in comeback mode from his opening drive.
“You could say it was an uphill battle,” Burton said, “but we had enough opportunities to get the job done and we didn’t do it.”
Oregon State’s Jake Luton threw the first of his career-high five touchdown passes on the game’s first possession before things started to quickly snowball on UCLA. Kelly went for it on fourth and one at the Bruins 34, but running back Joshua Kelley slammed into a wall of defenders and was dropped for a five-yard loss.
The Beavers needed only five plays to double their advantage to 14-0 and got a little cheeky afterward, trying an unusual onside kick that they recovered at the UCLA 29.
“You don’t see that very often and I think we’ve shown it before but we didn’t show it this week to our guys, so that’s on us,” Kelly said of the ball sailing high into the air. “We’ve just got to fair-catch that and get out of that.”
On the next play, Luton connected with wide-open tight end Teagan Quitoriano to fulfill the scoreboard operator’s 20-0 premonition.
The Bruins registered their first points early in the second quarter when receiver Kyle Philips caught a seven-yard pass from Burton and dragged his foot inbounds on the side of the end zone.
But Oregon State answered on its next drive when receiver Isaiah Hodgins hauled in a five-yard pass and hit the end-zone pylon with his body, extending the Beavers’ lead to 27-7. Hodgins finished with 10 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns.
UCLA pulled to within 10 points three times, including late in the third quarter when running back Demetric Felton Jr. burst through the line of scrimmage and delivered a nasty stiff-arm on the way to a 75-yard touchdown run. Felton finished with a career-high 111 yards rushing to go with 55 yards receiving.
The Bruins were within 41-31 with 8 minutes 39 seconds left after Burton kept the ball and ran for a six-yard touchdown.
Luton, who completed 18 of 26 passes for 285 yards, one-upped his counterpart on Oregon State’s next drive when he ran for a 19-yard score, holding the ball out in triumph as he crossed the goal line.
Oregon State, the team that has been widely considered the worst in the Pac-12 for several years, may have officially handed over that designation to UCLA after the Bruins fell to 4-14 under Kelly.
“Losing sucks no matter what it is,” linebacker Lokeni Toailoa said, “but this game doesn’t define us, our record doesn’t define us.”
The Bruins outgained the Beavers 492 to 448 in total yardage but it didn’t matter on a night their horrible start gave them essentially no chance.
In the final moments, the boos were replaced by eerie quiet, the smattering of fans who remained bathing in uneasy resignation.