Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet carry UCLA to victory over Arizona

Zach Charbonnet gains yards against Arizona.
Zach Charbonnet gains yards against Arizona in the first half of a 34-16 win Saturday. Charbonnet finished with 117 yards in 21 carries.
(Chris Coduto / Associated Press)

UCLA rediscovered a familiar, comforting friend in its time of need. It found its running game.

On a night when the defense largely faltered and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson failed to find a passing rhythm, the Bruins made a successful run for it.

Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet churned out yard after yard to help UCLA persevere for a 34-16 victory over Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, avoiding potential embarrassment against a team that extended its school-record losing streak to 17 games.


Brown’s 48-yard touchdown run on a burst up the middle midway through the fourth quarter gave UCLA a 31-16 advantage and removed all remaining drama as the Bruins improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 Conference.

Brown finished with 146 yards rushing and Charbonnet had 117 to help UCLA pile up a season-high 329 yards on the ground, averaging seven yards per carry.

Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown rushed for more than 100 yards apiece, helping UCLA pull away during a 34-16 road win over Arizona on Saturday night.

Oct. 9, 2021

“That was the plan all week,” Brown said with a smile when asked about having two running backs top 100 yards.

It was the Bruins’ most rushing yards in a game since they piled up 345 against Nevada in the 2013 season opener.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly said his team’s run-heavy offense was a result of coverages by Arizona (0-5, 0-2) designed to take away the passing game. The Wildcats succeeded on that front, holding Thompson-Robinson to one of his worst performances as a Bruin.

Thompson-Robinson completed eight of 19 passes for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception, somewhat salvaging an atrocious first half in which he completed one of eight passes for three yards. He also ran for two short touchdowns while collecting 28 yards on the ground.

After acknowledging earlier in the week that he was “not really even close to 100%” because of various aches and pains, Thompson-Robinson said his struggles throwing the ball weren’t attributable to injury. Kelly said the passing inefficiency could be pinned on Arizona’s pressure.

“Some of it was coverage-wise and some of it was their blitz scheme; they bring a lot of different guys and we missed a couple of protections,” Kelly said, “so Dorian was forced to throw hot and we shouldn’t have been throwing hot.”


The rushing efficiency UCLA found against Arizona had been missing in losses to Fresno State and Arizona State, when the Bruins averaged 157.5 yards on the ground and 3.9 yards per carry.

They needed a breakthrough Saturday after their defense surrendered 362 yards and continually extended drives with penalties, requiring Arizona mistakes to mitigate the damage. The Wildcats kicked field goals in the first half after having one drive that reached the UCLA nine-yard line sabotaged by a false start and another that reached the Bruins’ 20-yard line disrupted by a bad snap.

UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson throws a pass.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson throws a pass in the first half against Arizona on Saturday.
(Chris Coduto / Associated Press)

As has often been the case this season, the Bruins made things more difficult than necessary.

UCLA appeared to be taking command deep in Arizona territory while leading 24-16 late in the third quarter. On third and six, Brown ran for 11 yards … only to have the ball ripped out for a fumble at Arizona’s 18-yard line.

But the Bruins defense finally tightened, lineman Otito Ogbonnia forcing a fumble that he recovered early in the fourth quarter after sacking Jordan McCloud.

“Big turning point,” Ogbonnia said, “big momentum shift.”

McCloud was injured on the play and had to be helped off the field before being replaced by Gunner Cruz.

On Brown’s next carry after his fumble, he found an opening and nearly stumbled before placing a hand on the ground to keep his footing. He kept running until he reached the end zone.

“Coming off of the bad play I had, I was just feeling some type of way about that,” Brown said, “so I knew as soon as I got the ball I was just going to punch it.”

Brown and Charbonnet became the first UCLA duo to top 100 yards rushing in a game since running back Paul Perkins and quarterback Brett Hundley did it against Colorado in 2014.

“Me and Zach, we feed off of each other,” said Brown, who ceded the starting role to his counterpart the last two games. “It’s good competition; we love competing against each other while going against the other team.”

Said Kelly: “We have two guys back there that I think anybody in the country would wanna have one of them. We’re fortunate that we have two of them.”

The way things were going Saturday, the Bruins needed them both.