One big hurdle cleared, Dorian Thompson-Robinson wants UCLA to reach much higher

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaves the field after beating Washington 40-32 at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaves the field after the Bruins beat Washington 40-32 on Friday night at the Rose Bowl.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

On a night of greatest hits for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the topper might have been a hit delivered by the UCLA quarterback.

As a tipped pass fluttered into the air, Thompson-Robinson lowered his helmet into a defensive lineman’s abdomen to dislodge the ball so it wasn’t intercepted.

The veteran quarterback celebrated the first pass breakup of his career Friday night by waving his arms horizontally to signal incomplete.


“That was honestly my play of the game,” he said Monday.

There were lots of candidates.

Thompson-Robinson turned the Rose Bowl into his own jukebox during the Bruins’ 40-32 victory over then-No. 15 Washington, hurdling one defender and sidestepping another. The latter defender collided with a Huskies teammate as Thompson-Robinson scooted past them into the end zone, the unfortunate duo falling in a heap like foiled cartoon villains.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins fed off disrespect, beat No. 15 Washington and delivered Chip Kelly’s biggest win.

Oct. 1, 2022

“When I saw the replay, it was like, ‘Ooh,’ ” UCLA safety Stephan Blaylock said. “Like, excuse me!”

A highlight show that included four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) earned Thompson-Robinson the sort of acclaim that had been reserved for other Pac-12 Conference quarterbacks before Friday. Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen delivered a Twitter shout-out. ESPN gave Thompson-Robinson its “Heisman of the week.” The Pac-12 selected him as its offensive player of the week.

More significant was what the performance meant for his team. UCLA’s eighth consecutive victory going back to last season vaulted the Bruins into the national rankings for the first time in 2022 and set up the biggest game of the Chip Kelly era. The No. 18 Bruins (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-12) face No. 11 Utah (4-1, 2-0) on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl in what could be the next step in a march toward the conference title.

“Right now, we’re 5-0,” Thompson-Robinson said, “but 5-0 doesn’t get you a championship ring.”


These are the games that made Thompson-Robinson want to return for a fifth season after being part of teams that posted three losing records and qualified for a bowl game canceled by a COVID-19 outbreak. The Utes were the last team to beat the Bruins, late last October while Thompson-Robinson was sidelined because of a hand injury.

Because the teams did not meet during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Thompson-Robinson last faced Utah in November 2019, when the Bruins arrived in Salt Lake City on a three-game winning streak. They departed following a 49-3 beatdown.

“They kicked my butt around a few times,” Thompson-Robinson said, “so that’s the last memory I have, that’s the last taste I have in my mouth.”

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps over Washington Huskies linebacker Kamren Fabiculanan for extra yardage.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps over Washington Huskies linebacker Kamren Fabiculanan (13) for extra yardage during the second quarter Friday at the Rose Bowl.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Bruins haven’t beaten Utah since 2015, dropping five consecutive games in the series. But they’re only 4½-point underdogs against the defending Pac-12 champions Saturday thanks in large part to the quarterback who’s on the verge of several school records.

Thompson-Robinson needs four touchdown passes to break Brett Hundley’s career record (75), 410 rushing yards to surpass John Sciarra’s career quarterback rushing record (1,813 yards), and 1,957 passing yards to supplant Cade McNown’s career passing record (10,708).


He’s on pace for his best season, completing a career-high 74.3% of his passes while averaging 242.2 passing yards per game and a staggering 7.2 yards per carry. He’s also thrown for 11 touchdowns with only one interception.

His high-hurdling act against the Huskies thrilled fans who remembered him unleashing a similar move last season to cap an epic victory over USC. But it worried the coach who wants his most indispensable player to avoid injury.

“He’s had as many where he’s been tackled as he’s made, so he’s probably batting .500 on the hurdles,” Kelly said. “So I think it’s a feel, some things you can’t take that instinctual thing away from those guys, and they’ve been key plays for him. But he also has to know his best ability is availability, and we need to keep him on the field, so he’s gotta be conscious of that.”

Perhaps it’s just a 20-something expressing his love of the game.

“It reverts back to that, just being a little kid again,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Everybody talks about having fun. Those are the things that make me have fun on the field.”

UCLA makes the big plays in a defeat of the Huskies to improve the Bruins’ record to 5-0. Here’s how they pulled off the upset.

Oct. 1, 2022

There’s been some fire to go with the fun. After the game, the quarterback was Dorian Unfiltered, conceding how he was driven by the media’s disrespect for his unbeaten team.

He chuckled when reminded of his outburst three days later.

“Last game was definitely a little bit of emotions more than others, for sure,” he said.

Might this represent a new version of the quarterback who’s been around seemingly forever?

“We’ll see,” he said. “I guess we’ll have to find out next week.”

It could be one more smash in the collection of greatest hits.