The late show with UCLA’s Chip Kelly is a real hit once more
Since Chip Kelly arrived at UCLA, fans have been seeking signs that the coach would replicate his success at Oregon.
Would the Bruins wear shiny helmets? (No.) Would they play fast? (Sometimes.) Would they get back to the Rose Bowl game? (Not yet.)
For the first time, however, Kelly’s Bruins resemble his Ducks in one important way: They’re dominating the fourth quarters. UCLA has outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter this season by a combined 36-9 margin, the widest in the Pac-12 Conference. Every fourth quarter has gone the Bruins’ way, the team outscoring Colorado 7-3, California 7-0, Oregon 7-0, Arizona 7-0 and Arizona State 8-6.
It feels like a throwback to Kelly’s Oregon teams that thrashed their opponents in fourth quarters in each of his four seasons as the head coach, including by a 123-27 margin in 2010, when the Ducks reached the Bowl Championship Series title game and lost to Auburn on a last-second field goal.
Without fans at Rose Bowl, Quentin Lake said UCLA can’t feed off the crowd, but the Bruins should be able to focus more on defeating USC.
UCLA’s late success is all the more impressive considering that just a year ago, the Bruins were clobbered by a combined 115-57 margin in the fourth quarter.
Theories abound as to Bruins’ newfound edge late in games. Could it be a function of Kelly’s fastidious approach to training that includes hydration testing, GPS tracking devices that monitor their workload and a $5.4-million food budget that includes dishes such as grilled flat-iron steak in a balsamic reduction?
“I don’t know,” Kelly said this week when asked how much his team’s conditioning and nutrition programs contributed to the fourth-quarter margin. “I mean, we’ve always prided ourselves on how we train our players and that could be a byproduct of it.”
“They make sure our bodies are well-trained and well-fueled, and we get a great food system here too,” said Thompson-Robinson, who directed the Bruins on a game-winning 11-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter against Arizona State that he capped with a two-point conversion pass to Chase Cota. “So I think everything that goes into Chip’s system and what he likes to bring here is all working. It’s all showing on the field right now.”
Kelly said his players’ resiliency was another factor, the Bruins (3-2) fighting back to win the fourth quarters even in games they lost against Colorado and Oregon. It’s all part of a process that seems to be finally paying some dividends in Kelly’s third season.
“We want to play fast, we want to play hard and we want to finish,” Kelly said, “and it’s always been like that.”
Thompson-Robinson spent part of his time in quarantine tossing a ball to himself, nearly grazing the ceiling.
He couldn’t run for two weeks while stuck in an isolation room because of COVID-19 contact tracing protocols. But he watched practices on an iPad and called quarterbacks coach Dana Bible and graduate assistant Jerry Neuheisel whenever he had any questions for the game plan UCLA was installing for Arizona State.
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Thompson-Robinson said he felt well prepared mentally but less so physically.
“My body was kind of hurting a little bit here and there, obviously, being out two weeks and not having a full training session,” said Thompson-Robinson, who threw for 192 yards and a touchdown while also running for 49 yards and another score. “So I’d say just getting my legs back under me and stuff like that, being able to run full speed actually, being out for two weeks is kind of hard.”
UCLA lost another player Wednesday when Devin Aupiu, a linebacker from Oxnard Pacifica High, announced on Twitter that he was switching his commitment to Notre Dame. Gardena Serra High receiver and defensive back Devin Kirkwood and Centreville (Ala.) Bibb County High running back Deshun Murrell previously announced that they were reopening their recruitment.
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