UCLA players went down to a knee as they stretched in a U-shaped formation at Spaulding Field. Dorian Thompson-Robinson weaved through the lines handing out high-fives. The quarterbacks retreated to a distant field and started warming up. Thompson-Robinson, with no helmet on to blend in with his teammates, doled out underhanded tosses while teammates threw deep passes.
After what coach Chip Kelly called his “best game since he’s been a Bruin,” the sophomore quarterback didn’t appear to practice during the open viewing period Monday as UCLA (4-7, 4-4 Pac-12 Conference) prepares for its season finale Saturday night against California (6-5, 3-5) at the Rose Bowl.
Thompson-Robinson, who missed UCLA’s loss to Oregon State on Oct. 5 with an ankle injury, was sacked in the fourth quarter against USC on Saturday. He grimaced as he hobbled off the field, limping as he had done through most of the 52-35 loss. He still passed for 367 yards and three touchdowns against one interception and rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown. His 431 yards of total offense were the second most for a UCLA player against USC behind Tommy Maddox’s 445-yard effort in 1990.
Without the 29 rushing yards lost on three sacks, Thompson-Robinson would have had 93 yards on the ground. He ran for first downs six times, including three conversions in the fourth quarter.
“How Coach Kelly says, ‘Play fast, play loose and play for each other,’ that’s what we did this past Saturday,” said tight end Devin Asiasi, who had a career-high 141 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches.
Thompson-Robinson’s gusty performance was nullified by UCLA’s struggling defense that gave up 643 yards. It was the fourth time this season the Bruins have allowed 500 or more yards in a game and the first time since 2000 that a team scored 30 or more points in the crosstown rivalry game and lost.
After the loss, Kelly said the defensive coaching staff has “done a good job considering what we have right now.”
The second-year Bruins coach clarified the comments Monday by adding that in-game injuries to senior inside linebackers Krys Barnes and Lokeni Toailoa limited the defense’s play-calling options.
Barnes’ injury, which he suffered on the first drive of the third quarter, was especially detrimental, Kelly said. The player whom Kelly called the “quarterback of the defense” had nine tackles, one sack and two pass breakups before injuring his knee. Kelly said many calls are determined by the person in Barnes’ inside linebacker position.
“We gotta change coverages because we can’t leave a guy isolated in one-on-one things that Krys can do,” Kelly said. “You’re trying to play to Krys’ strengths.”
Barnes — who has 74 tackles, including 10 for a loss, this season — wore a brace on his left knee while stretching and conditioning on the sideline Monday. After Toailoa suffered a leg injury later in Saturday’s game, Barnes helped Toailoa off the field.
Both players are questionable to play Saturday for the final game of their careers. The only inside linebackers dressed in non-scout-team jerseys Monday were junior Leni Toailoa, sophomore Bo Calvert, and freshmen Carl Jones and John Ward.
“We have a little bit of growing up to do inside,” senior outside linebacker Josh Woods said. “But I know that [the young players] assume the role.”
In a well-timed return, Calvert will make his season debut Saturday after a long suspension because of an NCAA violation, Kelly said Monday. Calvert had nine tackles in five games last year and is not eligible for a redshirt this season despite his limited playing time.
Safety Quentin Lake did not wear a scout-team jersey at practice for the first time since sustaining a wrist injury in September. The junior, who has appeared in three games this year, still wore a cast on his right hand. … Defensive back Shamar Martin and linebacker Tyree Thompson (foot) worked on the sideline with trainers during practice. … Safety Kenny Churchwell, who sustained an undisclosed injury against USC, was not seen on the field Monday.