Bruins Knock Off Washington, 24-17

Bruins Knock Off Washington
Spread the love

UCLA got a much-needed win in the first of its three game critical stretch, as the Bruins knock off Washington, 24-17 in Seattle. UCLA moves to 5-2 overall on the season and 3-1 in conference play. The Huskies dropped to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play. As quality wins go, this was UCLA’s biggest of the season.

Husky Stadium can be a daunting place to play. And while the stadium was far from being at capacity, the crowd noise was still ramped up considerably for the Bruins. Still, UCLA took a first quarter lead and then hung on through momentum swings for the win.

Washington opened the scoring with a 25-yard field goal from Peyton Henry. UCLA responded with its ground game. It had been suggested to UCLA head coach Chip Kelly this week that the Huskies were particularly vulnerable on the ground. While he previously dismissed the premise, the proof was there before the game and subsequently after the game. Washington came into Saturday 99th in the country stopping the run. Zach Charbonnet picked up 40 yards of rushing after the Washington Field goal. Dorian Thompson-Robinson finished the drive with a pass in the left flat to Kam Brown who took it the rest of the way for the touchdown and the 7-3 lead.

The running game for UCLA was decisive. The Bruins finished with 237 rushing yards, which surpassed the 181 per game the Huskies had been giving up going into Saturday. Charbonnet had 23 carries for 131 yards. Thompson-Robinson added another 87 yards on the ground, mostly on designed runs. He also rushed for a touchdown.

The Bruins added a 39-yard Nicholas Barr-Mira field goal early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 10-3.

They took the lead to 17-3 midway in the second quarter. Thompson-Robinson scrambled for 22 yards. He connected with Chase Cota for another 27 yards to the Huskies seven-yard line. From the one, Thompson-Robinson rammed the ball up the middle. He got an assist from running back Brittain Brown shoving him from behind. The side judged originally signaled the ball was down inside the one-yard line. But as the players unpiled, Thompson-Robinson was over the goal line for the touchdown.

Washington had one more answer before the half going 69 yards in about two-and-a-half minutes. Quarterback Dylan Morris found Rome Odunze in the left corner of the back of the end zone, right over defensive back Cam Johnson.

It was 17-10 at the half, but the numbers were not as close as the score UCLA had a net 133 yards rushing to four for Washington. Thompson-Robinson did not have the yardage that Morris had but he was an efficient 12 of 15 for 117 yards.

The game swung wildly back to the Washington side in the third quarter. The Huskies started relying on their own ground game. Kamari Pleasant had 37 yards rushing on their opening drive. Sean McGrew added another six yards of his own to get it down to the UCLA one-yard line. From there, Morris ran it and the Huskies had scored 14 unanswered points to tie the game at 17 all.

UCLA’s answer was simple. Charbonnet rushing for 16 yards. Charbonnet rushing for 14 yards. A pass to Charbonnet in the flat for a gain of seven. Thompson-Robinson then tossed a shovel pass to tight end Greg Dulcich for 16 yards. It was the first time the play had been used all season. “It was something we felt fit for what Washington did,” Kelly said after the game. Kelly joked that that the play looked a lot, “Prettier in practice.” But it was effective. Thompson-Robinson connected with a wide open Dulcich in the middle of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown completion and a 24-17 lead.

The entire passing game Saturday required less of Thompson-Robinson going downfield, and instead relied more on high percentage passes. There were several screen passes, the shovel pass, and there were even three jet sweep pitches, which count as passing completions. The passing game plan was more pragmatic than in previous weeks. It allowed for players to operate in space instead of demanding precision from Thomspon-Robinson downfield.

The offense was also missing leading receiver Kyle Philips who did not make the trip for undisclosed physical reasons. So, Thompson-Robinson spread the ball around to eight receivers, including his two running backs.

Washington had one last shot at tying the game. On first and 10 at midfield, Morris went deep to for Odunze. But freshman defensive back Devin Kirkwood was step for step with the receiver and intercepted the ball at the four-yard line with 5:28 to go. From there, it was mostly a matter of UCLA burning the clock out.

Senior defensive back Quentin Lake was all smiles when it came to discussing the newcomer’s big play. “That was probably the biggest play of the game,” Lake said afterwards. “You’re in big games and you kind of see the whole play playing in slow motion,” Lake said. “That was a huge stop. It changed the whole momentum of the game.”

Thompson-Robinson talked about the difference in the offensive production this week. “All around, everybody did their job. We kept the game real simple. And everybody just executed. So, I was really proud of my guys on offense.”

Kelly gave credit to the offensive line for the production in the run game. “It starts upfront,” Kelly said. “I think this may have been Greg Dulcich’s best game blocking.”

Lake was still smiling well into the post-game press conference. He admitted this win felt different. “it was just fun,” he said. “You have a loud stadium; everything is hectic, and you are on the road.” He said, “These are the ones you kind of remember over the course of your career.”

The Bruins 5-2 record is meaningful. It is the first UCLA had posted five wins by mid-October since 2013, when it started 5-0. The run game and the altering of the offense to a more “simplified” scheme that includes the running backs in the short passing game is also something that was clearly long overdue. The Bruins have now had a 100-yard rusher in each of the five wins. That is far from being a coincidence when you have the running backs they have. It matters more and more as the season goes on. Next week UCLA hosts an Oregon team, that while hit very hard with injuries still possesses one of the toughest defenses in the country.

Embed from Getty Images