There were times at Oregon where it felt like head coach Chip Kelly would never lose. Now at UCLA, it seems like that’s all he’s doing.
The Bruins big offseason addition remains winless in Westwood as his team dropped their Pac-12 opener at Colorado 38-16 on Friday night as the powder blues’ offense once again sputtered out on the road.
True freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson got the start at quarterback just over a week after his father made critical comments of the UCLA coaching staff but had a rough outing, throwing for only 138 yards and a touchdown on 35 attempts. Protection up front was once again an issue for the team as the signal-caller was sacked three times and had to scramble around in the pocket several other times to avoid getting tackled.
The Bruins actually held the third quarter lead at one point thanks in part to a trio of long field goals from kicker J.J. Molson but three straight three-and-outs by the offense allowed the Buffs to open things up and win this one going away. If there was a silver lining to the effort it was that Joshua Kelley did manage to crack the century mark with 124 yards rushing and Michael Ezeike snagged a pretty impressive touchdown catch in the first quarter right over the helmet of a defensive back.
Though Colorado did get off to a slow start in the game following a week off, they eventually found their groove in the second half and sent the crowd home quite happy. Leading the way once again for the Buffs was budding all-purpose star Laviska Shenault, who rushed for a touchdown and recorded 126 yards and another score as a receiver. He’s now scored in every game this year for the team and should be a legitimate contender to make several midseason All-America lists given how much of a boost he’s provided to the offense.
Of course, Shenault isn’t doing things alone as quarterback Steven Montez was nearly perfect against a lackluster defense that allowed several big plays after missed assignments. All told he went 22-of-26 passing with 237 yards and a touchdown while also showcasing his legs with 81 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground.
Defensively, linebackers Drew Lewis (two sacks), Nate Landman (nine tackles) and Rick Gamboa were all over the place for CU.
While the story nationally will likely remain focused on the bad start for Kelly and company, the way UCLA is struggling it might be awhile before the Bruins are able to secure a win the way they are playing. Of course, the schedule does them no favors either as they will return to the Rose Bowl to face Pac-12 favorite Washington and then follow that up with a game against a Cal team that’s currently in the top 25. Add in the rest of their division slate and a crossover game against rival Stanford to close the season and it could be a while — if at all — before finding the win column.
Meanwhile, the Buffs increasingly look like they’re more and more of a threat to win the South division. They remain a perfect 4-0 for the first time in three decades heading into the meat of their schedule and host Arizona State next week in a game that very well could determine who makes it to Santa Clara for the conference title game. Trips to USC and Washington after that could determine national relevance too but it certainly appears as though Mike MacIntyre is in the middle of another turnaround season up in Boulder while his latest