UCLA goes five deep at QB in record-setting win over N.C. Central

UCLA quarterback Collin Schlee scores a touchdown in the first quarter of the Bruins' win over North Carolina Central.
UCLA quarterback Collin Schlee scores a touchdown in the first quarter of the Bruins’ 59-7 victory over North Carolina Central at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Its starting quarterback no longer in doubt, UCLA faced a different dilemma Saturday: How far down the depth chart would it have to go to end this game as mercifully as possible?

Starter Dante Moore threw for a 67-yard touchdown on his first pass and exited with 9½ minutes left in the second quarter.

Backup Collin Schlee ran for a 57-yard touchdown on his first play and was in the game for only four drives.


UCLA and coach Chip Kelly improved to 3-0 in nonconference play, capping September with a 59-7 win over North Carolina Central Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

Sept. 16, 2023

Third-stringer Ethan Garbers completed a 13-yard pass on his first play, helping the Bruins roll up a 45-point halftime lead.

Chase Griffin and Justyn Martin both got into the game not long afterward, meaning the Bruins had gone five deep at quarterback before the end of the third quarter. Martin might have momentarily wondered if UCLA might outdo his high school team, which once won a game 106-0.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly likes to say there’s no preseason games in college football, but this one sure felt like it. The No. 24 Bruins needed just 13 minutes to score 35 points, matching their previous season high for a game, on the way to a 59-7 trouncing of North Carolina Central at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA wide receiver Kyle Ford tries to catch a pass over North Carolina Central cornerback Jason Chambers.
UCLA wide receiver Kyle Ford tries to catch a pass over North Carolina Central cornerback Jason Chambers in the second quarter Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Some records were set along the way. UCLA scored its most points in a quarter going back to at least 1958 thanks to its 35-0 lead after the first quarter. That scoring binge earned fans free Fat Sal’s fries as part of a promotion that needlessly gave the Bruins three more quarters to get there.


The 35-point lead also matched a betting line that severely underestimated the Bruins (3-0), who went unbeaten in nonconference play for a second consecutive season. Things figure to get far more dramatic next weekend when UCLA opens Pac-12 play at No. 12 Utah, the two-time defending conference champions.

UCLA running back Carson Steele runs with the ball in the first quarter.
UCLA running back Carson Steele runs with the ball in the first quarter against North Carolina Central.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Getting more reps for that showdown was the only reason Moore came back in for one final drive in the second quarter after the true freshman had yielded two drives to Schlee. Moore’s final drive was his only one that didn’t end in a touchdown, running back T.J. Harden getting stuffed on third down before R.J. Lopez kicked a 24-yard field goal.

Moore was nearly flawless in his second career start, completing eight of 12 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. On his first play, Moore faked a handoff to running back Carson Steele and fired a 67-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kam Brown on a crossing route.

Moore said he had dreamed about the play the previous night after Kelly had drawn it up. Brown’s teammates were so confident in its outcome that they asked him how he would celebrate in the locker room before the game.

UCLA quarterback Dante Moore throws in the second quarter against North Carolina Central.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“I’d say dreams turn to reality,” Moore said after everything went according to script.

UCLA went up 14-0 only 74 seconds into the game after edge rusher Laiatu Latu returned an interception 25 yards to the NCCU one-yard line and Steele bulldozed into the end zone on the next play. The crowd of 38,343 spent the rest of the afternoon trying to entertain themselves besides an energetic halftime performance by the NCCU band.

“Obviously, that first quarter was a little interesting just because of the two one-play drives and one two-play drive,” Kelly said, also referring to a third drive that ended in Moore connecting with wide receiver J.Michael Sturdivant on a 30-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. “It got moving very quickly.”

UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond’s late mother attended North Carolina Central, making Saturday’s Bruins football game against the Eagles special to him.

Sept. 14, 2023

UCLA ran for six touchdowns and outgained the Eagles, 614-245, in total yardage while averaging 11 yards per play against a severely outmanned Football Championship Subdivision opponent. Kelly noted that his team scored more points than the 56 plays it ran.

“That’s not a common occurrence,” Kelly said. “It’s a credit to our guys and their preparation.”

The Bruins also forced two turnovers while holding NCCU scoreless until Chris Mosley plowed ahead for a one-yard touchdown with 6:08 left in the game against a defense filled with backups.

Every Bruins quarterback who played produced a highlight. Schlee showed toughness while warding off tacklers and skirting the sideline on his 57-yard touchdown run. Garbers ran the offense efficiently, completing his only pass. Griffin ran for a gutsy nine yards on his first play. Martin hurdled one defender before getting waylaid.

In a sign of how lopsided the game was, Steele and Harden combined for 149 rushing yards … and were outgained by backups Anthony Adkins and Colson Yankoff, who totaled 157 yards. Adkins showed both speed and power, often dragging defenders with him on the way to a game-high 96 yards and a touchdown in 10 carries.

“I’m not sure we knew how athletic he was when we got him, obviously played a different style of offense at Army,” Kelly said. “He was the fullback in the wishbone, just pounding it between the A gaps. But he’s got a little bit of side to side to him. I think he’s tough to tackle, runs with good body lean.”

The Bruins used eight running backs in all, not counting the quarterbacks involved in running plays.

For almost everyone on the roster, it was a field day practically from the start.