It was a tough loss to the Oregon Ducks last weekend. The Bruins had a handful of players sitting home due to COVID protocols. Yet, they were within a few plays of beating the Ducks. Now UCLA needs to regroup quickly before this weekend’s home game against Arizona. The Bruins head into the game 1-2 with their season completely defined by how many turnovers they have per game. Four in the loss to Colorado; one in the win over Cal; and four in the loss to Oregon.
UCLA Tries To Regroup Again
UCLA’s loss to Oregon can be taken one of two ways from the Bruins’ side of the field. Oregon was a heavy favorite and UCLA went toe to toe with them, losing their last gasp chance in the closing moments of the game. They were right there with a highly ranked team. The challenge with that idea is that a loss is a loss is a loss.
Another angle would be, if only UCLA had not committed four turnovers, they would have/could have won. Even with quarterback Chase Griffin committing three of the turnovers in his starting debut. The flip side of that is sports don’t work that way. They DID commit the turnovers, and that is how the game is played. Don’t take care of the ball and you don’t win the game. There is no “if only” in the game.
It’s About The Numbers
UCLA out-performed Oregon statistically throughout the game, except on the scoreboard. Because the one stat where the Bruins had a higher number than what they wanted was the turnover line. Head coach Chip Kelly has been talking all season about what happens when you are upside down in turnovers. “Those statistics usually bear out,” Kelly said Monday. “We gave up 28 points off of turnovers and they gave up seven off of turnovers. Obviously, that was the difference in the football game.” That is why there is no such thing as a moral victory in DI football.
Griffin was admirable in his first college start. But the difference between he and Oregon’s Tyler Shough was glaring where the numbers don’t lie. Griffin was 19 of 31 for 195 yards with a touchdown pass but had the two interceptions and the fumble. Shough is not exactly a wily veteran. He was starting for only the third time in his career. But he went 19 of 30 for 334 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.
Of course, no one with any football IQ would think to point a blame finger at Griffin. When he was on, he looked really good and ran the option plays quite well. And frankly the stat line is comparable to many games for starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Whose Ready To Go?
His absence Saturday was of note, not because the outcome would have been guaranteed to be different, but because of the COVID protocols that kept him from making the trip. Thompson-Robinson made it clear Friday night, via Twitter, that he did not have COVID. He was, however sidelined for being in what is essentially first-degree contact with someone who did. That was enough, per Pac 12 protocols, to keep him from traveling, along with at least nine other players.
In terms of who will be back this weekend for the Arizona game, and who will not…well ,it is anyone’s guess right now, per Kelly. “I don’t have a say,” Kelly said in reference to who is cleared and who is not. He told the media gaggle they can try to figure out who is available and who is not, since he is not authorized, per UCLA, to comment on anything COVID-related with regards to any individual player. “You guys can play Columbo, and investigate but I am not allowed to say anything other than a player is available or unavailable.”
All who are available have their work cut out for them in getting ready for Arizona. The Wildcats are 0-2 with a narrow loss to USC in their first week, and a pretty resounding defeat to Washington last weekend. Still, Kelly warns no one should be overlooking Arizona. Quarterback Grant Gunnell is completing 68% of his passes through the first two games. He has six touchdowns with just one interception. “He’s obviously a really explosive kid,” Kelly said of Gunnell. Last year in the game in Tucson, he ripped off 352 yards passing and a touchdown in the win over UCLA. “We’ve got our hands full this week,” said Kelly.
Kelly said he does not see a problem with his team bouncing back after a tough-to-swallow loss. He characterized his team as, “fired up” for the task at hand this week. “I think our kids are really excited about the opportunity. You know, 2020 is a very unique year for everybody in this world. So, we are grateful to still get to do something that we love.”
Suffice to say UCLA fans will love seeing the Bruins take better care of the ball.