UCLA coach Chip Kelly had addressed it last week. So had quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Win the turnover battle. Don’t give Utah additional opportunities. Take care of the ball. Nope.
The Bruins suffered a massive deficit in this essential department Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, a development that presaged their 49-3 loss to No. 7 Utah.
UCLA committed five turnovers to Utah’s one, putting itself in an inescapable bind while trying to pull an upset as three-touchdown underdogs. Compounding the mess was that three of the Bruins’ turnovers came in the red zone.
“To win in this league, minus-four [in turnovers], probably not going to happen unless something bizarre is happening in that game,” Kelly said, “and against a good team like this, the No. 7 team in the country, you can’t lose the turnover battle by four and expect to be in it.”
Thompson-Robinson was responsible for four of his team’s turnovers, losing two fumbles and throwing two interceptions. He has 17 of the Bruins’ 20 turnovers this season.
“I’ve got to protect the ball better,” acknowledged Thompson-Robinson, who said the Utes’ relentless pressure was a factor in his hurried approach while failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
UCLA running back Demetric Felton Jr. added to the turnover tally in maddening fashion early in the fourth quarter when he lost the ball at Utah’s five-yard line.
But the Bruins weren’t done stumbling over themselves. Thompson-Robinson had a pass tipped and intercepted by Utah defensive tackle Pita Tonga.
Thompson-Robinson’s second fumble came late in the third quarter with UCLA threatening for its first touchdown after stopping Utah on a fake punt. But on third and goal from the 10-yard line, Thompson-Robinson lost the ball as he cocked his arm back to throw. The Utes recovered and returned it to the 30.
Thompson-Robinson’s other fumble came late in the second quarter when he was running backward while trying to elude defenders and had the ball stripped. Utah’s Mika Tafua, a 258-pound defensive end, picked up the ball and rumbled for a 68-yard touchdown that gave the Utes a 21-3 lead.
The teams traded turnovers early in the second quarter, UCLA getting the ball back after Thompson-Robinson’s intercepted heave into the end zone was offset by Utah’s Demari Simpkins fumbling on the next play. That gave the Bruins the ball at the Utes’ 28-yard line, but UCLA could not cash in when J.J. Molson’s 42-yard field goal attempt sailed over the right goalpost.
The Guidry Bowl
Big brother won the sibling rivalry. It wasn’t close.
In their first college game against each other, Utah nickel back Javelin Guidry came away happier than UCLA defensive back Elisha Guidry, and not just because his team prevailed.
Javelin broke up a pass on third down in the third quarter, ending a Bruins drive. Elisha was in the midst of a less memorable play, getting badly juked by Utah tight end Brant Kuithe on a 17-yard gain in the first quarter.
A spectacular catch by Phillips
UCLA receiver Kyle Philips made the catch of the game, ignoring the defensive back who was draped over him to pull in an astonishing 39-yard reception late in the first.
Pass interference was called on the play but was happily declined by theBruins, who could not convert on the drive after Thompson-Robinson had his heave into the end zone intercepted when Utah’s Julian Blackmon stepped in front of tight end Devin Asiasi and grabbed the ball.
Safety Quentin Lake (wrist) missed his seventh consecutive game, defensive lineman Elijah Wade (unspecified injury) missed his fifth consecutive game and linebacker Bo Calvert (NCAA suspension) missed his 10th consecutive game.