The streak is over? What streak?
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said he didn’t know the Bruins were 0-11 against Stanford over the previous decade, including a loss in the Pac-12 Conference championship, when he started the game Thursday against the Cardinal.
“I had no clue until after the game,” Thompson-Robinson said upon finally getting clued in following UCLA’s 34-16 victory at Stanford Stadium.
Obliviousness worked just fine for the sophomore in his return from a leg injury that had sidelined him since the third quarter of UCLA’s loss to Arizona on Sept. 28. He calmly led the Bruins to touchdowns on each of their first two drives, the first time they had done that this season.
Thompson-Robinson connected with receiver Kyle Philips on both touchdown passes, the first going for 19 yards and the second for three. Remarkably, UCLA’s resulting 14-3 lead marked the first time this season the Bruins had led by more than seven points in a game.
Thompson-Robinson gave his team all the points it would need in the second quarter when he cut outside for a one-yard touchdown run. He had earlier flashed his speed on a 39-yard run down the sideline, the sort of play he previously discussed with coach Chip Kelly.
“If they’re going to be in man-match coverage and turn their back to you,” Kelly said, “then you’ve got to make them pay with your legs and I think that’s something he can do.”
Besides a pass that he floated into coverage for an interception late in the first half, Thompson-Robinson played one of his best games. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 192 yards and ran for 66 yards, including the yardage he lost on three sacks.
It wasn’t a performance that surprised his coach.
“I have all the confidence in the world in him,” Kelly said, “and I was really excited because he played really well against Washington State and I thought he played well against Arizona until he got hurt.”
In an absurd development based largely on the caliber of its conference counterparts, UCLA remains a longshot for a bowl game but a contender in the Pac-12 South. The Bruins (2-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) will enter the weekend only half a game out of first place in the division, though they’ll end it a full game back. USC faces Arizona on Saturday at the Coliseum in a matchup of teams tied with Utah and Arizona State atop the division standings, all with 2-1 conference records.
Give that ‘D’ an ‘A’
UCLA’s best defensive effort of the Kelly era was largely a function of getting pressure from its edge pass rushers, which prevented Stanford from being able to use double-teams on the Bruins’ interior defensive linemen.
“I thought our defensive coaches did a good job of getting our guys one-on-one situations in the pass rush,” Kelly said, “and then when you get a one-on-one situation you have to exploit that and I thought our guys did a good job of that.”
The Bruins’ seven sacks were their most since they totaled that number against Kansas State in the 2015 Alamo Bowl. Eight players were credited with at least half a sack, led by linebackers Josh Woods and Odua Isibor each recording 1½ sacks. Linebackers Carl Jones and Jason Harris each had one sack and defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa and linebackers Krys Barnes, Keisean Lucier-South and Leni Toailoa each had half a sack.
“I think we really just dialed it up and just executed,” Woods said of the pass rush. “We’ve just been working all week on our stunts. Especially guys like Osa winning his one on ones and just being really aggressive and making an emphasis of getting after the quarterback and not being so static.”
Stanford’s 198 yards of offense were the fewest UCLA has allowed since it gave up 181 against Washington State in 2009. The Cardinal’s 55 rushing yards were the fewest the Bruins had given up since Brigham Young managed 23 in 2016.
Kelly said his players would enjoy going to class Friday after beating Stanford, though a few noted that was not the case. “Do you have a class?” Woods said in the postgame interview room, turning toward running back Joshua Kelley, a fellow senior, “I don’t have a class tomorrow. … We know better than to schedule Friday classes.” … UCLA will play No. 17 Arizona State at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Rose Bowl in a game televised by Pac-12 Networks.