Chip Kelly didn’t settle for a one-hour time change when he flew from Boulder, Colo., to Westwood on Saturday night.
After a 45-17 rout of Colorado, the UCLA coach had his players turn their body clocks forward by about 12 hours to prepare for a Friday game against No. 15 Washington at the Rose Bowl. Less than 24 hours after landing in L.A., UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference) already was back on the practice field to prepare for the matchup of unbeaten teams that represents the Bruins’ first major test of the season.
Kelly praised his players’ conditioning after the Bruins improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2015. Including Saturday’s 24-7 second-half advantage, UCLA has outscored its four opponents this season 78-21 after halftime with two second-half shutouts. An upcoming stretch against three consecutive ranked opponents will reveal how prepared the Bruins are for a championship run.
“When you’re playing a team as good as Washington is, your conditioning is going to be tested,” Kelly said.
Under first-year coach Kalen DeBoer, the Huskies (4-0, 1-0) are fifth in the country with 530.8 yards per game and 12th in scoring with 44 points per game.
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is the nation’s top passer with 347 passing yards per game and is “playing as well as any quarterback in the country right now,” Kelly said.
By the time the Huskies wrapped up their late-night 40-22 win over Stanford on Saturday, some UCLA players already were asleep.
After the team kicked off at noon in Boulder, UCLA’s charter plane landed at about 8 p.m. in L.A. The first thing on defensive lineman Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi’s mind was eating. He called his girlfriend, who provided him with healthy snacks. His plan to review the game film went awry when the clips were delayed, so he instead went to bed at 10 to prepare for Sunday, which began with the team’s normal Sunday morning routine of meetings and pool regeneration, followed by a quick shift to practice.
Kelly said NFL experience on the staff gives the Bruins a sound blueprint for a short week as coaches are used to prepping for regular Thursday night games.
“Your game plan might not be as big and expansive, but it depends on your personnel,” Kelly said. “What can the players handle?”
Considering that Havili-Kaufusi already has battled shoulder and knee injuries that kept him sidelined for three years, one less day of practice is “nothing to me,” the redshirt junior said.
The converted fullback said he’s feeling the best he’s felt since coming to UCLA. Kelly’s up-tempo practices that track high-speed bursts for each player have helped him seamlessly acclimate to game speed.
“Especially with the high-tempo practice that we have, it really prepares us for the game and just knowing that we’re supposed to go full speed, every play, every drill,” said Havili-Kaufusi, who recorded two tackles against Colorado. “When it comes to game day, that’s why for me, and I speak for the rest of the guys, it just feels like another practice and if not a practice, it’s probably easier because it’s a slower tempo.”
Havili-Kaufusi could be in line for a larger role this week with UCLA’s defensive tackle rotation thinning.
Already without Martin Andrus Jr., who suffered a season-ending injury, and Gary Smith III on Saturday, the Bruins suffered another injury to sophomore Jay Toia. The 6-foot-3, 325-pound defensive tackle did not participate in Sunday’s practice and was seen sitting in the weight room. Smith, a transfer from Duke, was on the sideline working on individual conditioning drills after not practicing last week.
“It’s next man up,” said defensive lineman Jacob Sykes, who recorded a season-high three tackles against Colorado. “Everyone gets their name called at some point. You stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
Offensive lineman Jon Gaines II was on the field for practice but did not participate in any contact drills during the open-viewing period.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.