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UCLA’s preparation for home opener uncertain after Utah’s coronavirus cancellation

UCLA coach Chip Kelly argues for a call in the second half against Colorado on Nov. 7, 2020.
Coach Chip Kelly argues for a call during UCLA’s 48-42 loss at Colorado. The Bruins’ home opener Friday against Utah has been jeopardized by the Utes canceling their opening game against Arizona because of COVID-19 issues.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Did you hear the joke about the team that captured a Pac-12 championship after winning its season opener?

It was going around on social media over the last day after the cancellation of two Pac-12 games endangered at least two weekends’ worth of games and revealed the challenges of staging a season amid a pandemic.

UCLA’s home opener against Utah on Friday at the Rose Bowl was jeopardized by the Utes canceling their opening game against Arizona because of a roster ravaged by COVID-19 issues, potentially leaving them shorthanded for at least another week with players stuck in quarantine.

“Our league and everyone is trying to come to a resolution,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said after the Bruins’ 48-42 loss to Colorado on Saturday night at Folsom Field. “Utah’s working very hard from their end, but we haven’t gotten the final clarification on that so we’ll wait to see what will go on with that.”

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UCLA’s struggles with turnovers in the first half creates a deficit too big for a second-half rally to conquer in a 48-42 loss to Colorado.

The Bruins avoided a crisis after one defensive player tested positive for the novel coronavirus this week, one person close to the team said, because the team did not require the quarantining of additional players. Kelly would not comment on the player or contact tracing situation.

Kelly had initially said his team would practice Sunday as part of accelerated preparations in a shortened week but said he was awaiting clarity on how the team should proceed.

“We don’t have anything definitive,” Kelly said. “If they say we’re playing Friday, then we’ll have to practice [Sunday]. If they tell us something different, then we’ll make an adjustment in that way.”

Moving up

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson moved up several all-time school lists after completing 20 of 40 passes for 303 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

He is now 11th on the school’s career passing list with 4,315 yards, surpassing both Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban and Kevin Prince. His 348 completions put him 10th all-time and his 412 yards of total offense (including 109 rushing yards) move him up to 11th on the career total offense list with 4,690.

Thompson-Robinson’s 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest run of his career.

UCLA ran a new defensive scheme against the Colorado, but the Bruins still gave up 525 total yards and six touchdowns in a 48-42 loss to Colorado.

A fresh look

The Bruins took a three-pronged approach to their kicking game.

Freshman R.J. Lopez handled kickoffs, freshman Luke Akers punts and redshirt freshman Nicholas Barr-Mira field goals and extra points.

Akers averaged 47.7 yards on his three punts and Barr-Mira made all six extra points while not attempting a field goal. Akers was the busiest of the bunch, kicking off seven times and limiting the Buffaloes to an average of 17 yards on their four returns.

Something special

UCLA pulled off a rarity by blocking a punt and a field goal in the same game.

Jay Shaw’s blocked punt in the third quarter was the team’s first since 2016 and Quentin Lake’s blocked field goal in the fourth quarter was the team’s first since 2017.

Etc.

UCLA defensive back Obi Eboh was hurt after a violent collision with Colorado quarterback Sam Noyer midway through the third quarter. … UCLA had nine penalties for 69 yards, including a 15-yard roughing the passer call on defensive lineman Tyler Manoa midway through the third quarter that gave Colorado at first down at the Bruins’ 15-yard line. “We need to be able to stay away from what we call the SWIs, the self-inflicted wounds,” Kelly said, “the offsides on the defense to keep drives alive and stuff like that.” … Seven players made their first career starts for UCLA: left guard Paul Grattan Jr., center Sam Marrazzo, outside linebackers Damian Sellers and Mitchell Agude, inside linebacker Caleb Johnson, nickelback Qwuantrezz Knight and Eboh.


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