The tipoff came Friday, courtesy of UCLA’s official football Twitter account.
It sent out a graphic showing quarterback Austin Burton holding a football while partially shrouded in smoke in front of a glowing Rose Bowl exterior.
Burton was going to make his first career start.
The news was confirmed Saturday afternoon when quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson walked onto the field in shorts along with his jersey top. Thompson-Robinson did not play because of the leg injury he suffered against Arizona on Sept. 28, though Bruins coach Chip Kelly said this week that the injury was not expected to keep him out long term.
Burton proved to be a capable fill-in but could not overcome UCLA’s horrible start during a 48-31 loss to Oregon State. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and no interception.
Angry fans did not spare Burton from their disdain, booing after he was sacked on the final play of the first half.
Burton had been part of a more memorable moment earlier in the second quarter when he threw his first touchdown pass. It was a seven-yard connection with Kyle Philips in which Philips dragged one of his feet inbounds on the side of the end zone.
Burton also showed off his mobility on a couple of runs, including one in which he picked up the ball after a botched exchange with running back Demetric Felton Jr. and ran for 14 yards.
Burton’s first extended playing time may not have been his biggest moment in the spotlight Saturday.
He received a mention on National Public Radio’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” when host Peter Sagal discussed the new California law that will allow college athletes to earn money from endorsements without losing their amateur status starting in 2023.
“You can imagine all of them running out to do endorsements like, “Hi, I’m Austin Burton, quarterback at UCLA, and I don’t always do Jello shots at Tri Kappa Delta, but when I do, I prefer Popov’s,” Sagal said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
UCLA’s offensive line headed into the Bruins’ game Saturday appearing to have regressed from last season even at the spots where there has been continuity.
Could part of the dropoff in production correlate with the shedding of too many pounds?
Senior center Boss Tagaloa recently said he weighed 295 pounds after dropping about 25 from last season as part of an individual development plan with the team’s strength and conditioning staff.
Kelly said Tagaloa’s slimdown had multiple benefits, including making him more athletic.
“The athleticism of your center kind of dictates some of the schemes that you run,” Kelly said, “but if he can get off a nose and have the guard capture him and then get up, block linebackers at the second level, it’s obviously more beneficial to what you can run from a scheme standpoint, so I think it’s helped Boss. The other part is your ability to play an entire game. I mean, you’re not lugging around an extra just 25-pound weight in your back pocket.”
Kelly said the goal with his players was for “body mass to be muscular in nature,” meaning that some players were asked to pack on pounds and others lose them.
“A guy may have lost 25 pounds of body fat but he gained 12 pounds of muscle so there’s only an exchange of 13 there,” Kelly said. “We’ve had other kids, [guard] Duke Clemens is a kid that lost 12 pounds of body fat but gained 12 pounds of muscle so he weighs the exact same thing—he’s 272, but what’s that 272 look like, you know what I mean?”
UCLA safety Quentin Lake (hand) and receiver Theo Howard (wrist) did not play because of injuries.