‘This is what we wanted.’ Four takeaways from UCLA’s win over Stanford

Jake Bobo and Dorian Thompson-Robinson run after scoring a touchdown for UCLA.
UCLA receiver Jake Bobo (9) and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) celebrate after scoring a touchdown against Stanford Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Don’t call it a bounce back.

UCLA rebounded from its first loss of the year with a comprehensive 38-13 win over Stanford on Saturday but didn’t entertain ideas that the victory exorcised any ghosts from last week’s loss to Oregon.

“We don’t live our life in the past,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “We don’t have a rearview mirror in our office. We don’t have a rearview mirror on our practice field. We’re always looking to our next opponent and who we got next. And it’s the same thing with these guys. They can enjoy this win as much as they want tomorrow, but when we come back in Monday morning, we got to set our sights on Arizona State.”

Zach Charbonnet was too much for Stanford to handle, rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns in No. 12 UCLA’s 38-13 victory at the Rose Bowl.

Oct. 30, 2022


UCLA’s game at Arizona State on Saturday is set for a 7:30 p.m. kick on FS1, the conference announced Sunday.

Entering the final month of the season, the No. 10 Bruins (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) are still in control of their Pac-12 championship destiny, locked in a tight four-team race for two conference title game berths. UCLA’s last Pac-12 title game appearance was in 2012, and the Bruins haven’t won a conference championship since 1998.

“This is what we wanted,” quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said. “This is what we expected and now that it’s here, it’s time for the real work to start.”

Here are four takeaways from UCLA’s win:


Defense answers the call

Darius Muasau makes an interception for UCLA.
UCLA linebacker Darius Muasau intercepts a pass by Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee at the Rose Bowl.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

They gave up a season-high 545 yards to Oregon. Skeptical questions about whether this was the same-old underachieving UCLA defense crept up again.

The Bruins had no problem putting those concerns to rest against a Stanford offense that went 11 consecutive quarters without a touchdown before a two-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter Saturday. The Bruins held Stanford to 270 yards and limited Tanner McKee, one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft class, to 115 yards on 44.8% completions, both season lows.


“I feel like we’re walking in with a big chip on our shoulder,” said middle linebacker Darius Muasau, who had six tackles, including four solo stops, and an interception. “We had to. We knew we had to show up. Our offense was keeping us in the game throughout the whole week last week. So we knew we had to carry our weight for the team.”

Two days after UCLA’s loss to Oregon, the Bruins are working to earn a spot in the Pac-12 title game and earn other lofty milestones.

Oct. 24, 2022

The defense stepped up without coordinator Bill McGovern, who missed the game because of an illness. He was still well enough to celebrate after the game via FaceTime. Kelly joked that McGovern participated in UCLA’s traditional water-throwing celebration by dumping water on himself at home.

With analyst Clancy Pendergast in McGovern’s spot in the booth and the defensive coaches collaborating on play calls, the defense didn’t miss a beat. It was “just like nothing happened,” Muasau said.


Dorian Thompson-Robinson shakes off big hits

Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs from a leaping Stanford player
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) is tackled by Stanford linebacker Levani Damuni (3) at the Rose Bowl.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)


With about four minutes remaining and a win in hand, Dorian Thompson-Robinson finally got to rest. He needed it.

Thompson-Robinson was sacked only twice Saturday, but small plays appeared to add up for the quarterback who looked to labor after absorbing a big hit on a keeper in the second quarter. He was walking slowly between plays and kept his head bowed after handing the ball off or throwing it down field, even as the crowd erupted to cheer a broken tackle or long gain.

Thompson-Robinson, who threw for 199 yards on 18-for-29 passing and rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown before getting replaced by Ethan Garbers, assured reporters afterward that it was “nothing serious.” The victory soothed the sting caused by big hits.

“The kid’s a warrior,” Kelly said, “and I think our team thrives off what he does.”


Offensive arsenal

Zach Charbonnet runs past Stanford's defense.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet gets a big gain against Stanford at the Rose Bowl Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Against the team that once had the most famous and physical rushing game in the Pac-12, UCLA showed its ground dominance with 324 rushing yards. Led by a career-high-tying 198 yards from Zach Charbonnet, UCLA rushed for the second-best rushing total in the Kelly era. It’s no wonder Thompson-Robinson was happy to take a relatively quiet Saturday.

“All of our offensive weapons, it’s a blessing and a blast to be out there with those boys,” Thompson-Robinson said.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet shares a special bond with his sister, Bella, who has special needs. She helped inspire him to transfer from Michigan to UCLA.

Oct. 19, 2022


UCLA got a boost from Kazmeir Allen, as the one-time running back who shifted to receiver reclaimed his spot in the backfield and rushed untouched for a 72-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

The Bruins reached 329 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, which matched the high rushing mark in the Kelly era, but Garbers was sacked for a five-yard loss before a UCLA punt and lowered the final rushing tally.


Man in the middle

UCLA players cheer.
UCLA linebacker Darius Muasau (53) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass by Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Muasau delivered a key play early with an interception on the first play of Stanford’s second drive, which set Charbonnet up for a 23-yard touchdown on the next snap to put UCLA ahead 14-3.

The middle linebacker said he picked up on the play after watching it on film during the bus ride to the stadium. He saw that Stanford ran it against Arizona State last week, trying to get linebackers to bite on the run. Muasau didn’t take the bait.

“He’s a really instinctive football player,” Kelly said. “He’s one of those guys that’s calling out plays before they happen because he studies tape so much.”


Muasau transferred to UCLA after back-to-back 100-tackle seasons at Hawaii. He is now UCLA’s second-leading tackler with 52 stops and leads the team with two interceptions. Kelly called him “the rock that we build everything around,” on defense.

UCLA churned out elite linebacker talent for years under the previous coaching staff but struggled to find stability at the position under Kelly, who has relied mostly in transfers such as Muasau to plug the critical defensive role.

“It means a lot to me, taking this role,” Muasau said. “The mike ‘backer, I see it as the quarterback role on the defense. I take a lot of pride in that. I lead this defense. They call on me and I call on them. … I really try to show up every game for them. Not just for myself, for my teammates.”