Virtually no one — least of all the bettors in Las Vegas — expected the UCLA Bruins to put up a competitive fight against the Washington Huskies. Yet despite that conventional wisdom, tonight’s game came down to the final minutes thanks to Washington’s inability to capitalize on a three-score halftime lead and deliver a knockout blow during a third quarter in which the Bruins ran 28 plays. Thanks to a clutch Washington recovery on UCLA’s onside kick with 1:40 left to play, the Huskies secured a 31–24 final score and escaped from L.A. with a victory over the winless Bruins.
As you might guess, Washington didn’t start the game nearly as well as they would have liked. After punting their first drive, Jake Browning threw a head-scratching interception that sailed over the head of Aaron Fuller, despite the offensive line giving him a remarkably clean pocket from which to throw it. Two plays later, Ben Burr-Kirven and Taylor Rapp engineered a tip-drill interception of their own to give the Huskies back the ball, and the Huskies responded by driving 62 yards in five plays for the touchdown.
Washington and UCLA traded blows for much of the rest of the first half before the Huskies defense forced a three-and-out with 3:38 left to play. Thanks to an efficient 10-play, 77-yard drive predicated upon Myles Gaskin’s running ability, the offensive line pushed their way into the end zone for a Jake Browning sneak TD and a 24–7 halftime lead.
Whatever Chip Kelly said to his team at halftime clearly did the trick, as the Bruins went on to own the third quarter. During the 15-minute frame, UCLA ran a 12-play field goal drive and a 17-play drive that culminated in a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Washington’s offense was sidelined virtually the entire period, running just seven plays for 25 yards and 3:52 of game time.
With the Bruins down seven points with 14:53 left to play, UCLA and Washington traded punts before the Huskies found themselves with a third-and-six from the UW 23. On that play, Browning threw a jump-ball corner route to Ty Jones, who high-pointed the pass and earned a 34-yard gain.
A handful of Gaskin runs and Browning scrambles later, No. 9 found the end zone to deliver Washington a 14-point lead with 3:42 left to play.
Someone, however, forgot to tell UCLA that they were supposed to roll over and die at that point. The Bruins answered Washington’s score with a touchdown drive of their own, capped by a Joshua Kelley run from two yards out to pull back within seven points with 1:38 remaining in regulation. Fortunately for Washington, Drew Sample recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Huskies were able to run out the clock and secure a one-possession victory.
- Race Porter got the first crack at punting today, despite Joel Whitford being present and in uniform. It seems that the Washington coaches prefer his pooch-punt style when trying to pin opponents deep in their own territory. (Or maybe Whitford was late to a meeting this week and was docked the day’s first punt as punishment. Who knows?)
- Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s second-quarter touchdown pass to Theo Howard broke a Washington streak of more than 300 minutes of not yielding a score through the air, per Adam Jude.
- At the half, Washington dominated the time of possession battle 22:17 to UCLA’s 7:43. The final TOP was UW 38:09, UCLA 21:50.
- On Washington’s final scoring drive, Gaskin looked noticeably hurt in favoring his right arm and shoulder. Gaskin has been incredibly fortunate to not miss any serious stretch of time during his college career, and we can only hope that he continues to heal like the Wolverine going forward.
- Joshua Kelley’s 125 rushing yards are the second-most that the Huskies defense has given up this year to an individual player. (No. 1 was North Dakota’s John Santiago, who earned 139.)
- We can use two words to describe the Huskies pass defense tonight that almost never come into play: busted coverage. Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed six passes for 16 yards or longer, including a 31-yarder to advance into the red zone with under three minutes to play.
- I don’t care that it came against a reubuilding UCLA team — it feels damn good to beat Chip Kelly.