Sep. 23—UCLA Bruins scouting report
Head coach: Chip Kelly, 5th season (21-25; 67-32)
This season: 3-0
Last week: Defeated South Alabama, 32-31, at home
5 Players to Watch
—DB Stephan Blaylock, Sr.: He has started 34 consecutive games and was All-Pac-12 honorable mention in the preseason. In his career, he has 141 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. Tied his career high with 11 tackles against CU in 2021.
—WR Jake Bobo, Sr.: A transfer from Duke, where he caught 74 passes in 2021. This year, he's caught 11 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. In his career, he has caught 137 passes.
—RB Zach Charbonnet, Sr.: Former Michigan transfer had a breakout season with the Bruins last year, rushing for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's played in only two games this year, but had 191 yards and a touchdown.
—LB Darius Mausau, Sr.: He was first-team All-Mountain West with Hawaii in 2020 and 2021. So far this year, he's had 15 tackles, giving him 184 for his career.
—QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Sr.: In his fifth season as the starter, he has completed 72.6% of his passes this year for 662 yards, six TDs and an interception. He's also rushed for 114 yards. In his career, he's thrown for 8,203 yards and 67 touchdowns and rushed for 1,295 yards and 18 touchdowns.
For the second consecutive week, the Buffs will face a veteran starter at quarterback, as Dorian Thompson-Robinson will make his 39th career start. He's a talented dual threat and makes the Bruins dangerous through the air. This offense goes as the run game goes, however. When the Bruins rack up 200 yards on the ground, they usually win. When they don't, they typically lose. It's unclear if starting running back Zach Charbonnet will play, but the Bruins have other good options with Keegan Jones (140 yards, 4.1 per career) and T.J. Harden (80 yards, 6.2 per carry), in addition to Thompson-Robinson's running ability.
Under the direction of new coordinator Bill McGovern, the Bruins have shown some improvement this season — despite having only two returning starters. They're allowing 18.3 points and 290.3 yards per game — both ranking top 40 nationally. They haven't been truly tested, though, and this is their first road trip of the season. South Alabama racked up 162 yards and three touchdowns on the ground last week, so the Bruins' run defense could be vulnerable.
UCLA special teams
Sophomore Nicholas Barr-Mira is off to a good start this season with his placekicking. He's 6-for-8 on field goals, including the game winner against South Alabama, and 13-for-13 on extra points. Barr-Mira also took over punting duties this season, but has averaged only 36.8 yards per kick. UCLA's net punting average of 29.2 ranks 129th nationally. Kazmeir Allen has been solid on kickoff returns and he has some explosiveness, as he took a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown last year.
How UCLA can win
Get the run game going and build an early lead. All three of CU's opponents have racked up a lot of rushing yards this season and UCLA has the ability to do the same. If they're able to pick up big yards on the ground, they've got a veteran quarterback in Thompson-Robinson who can then pick the Buffs apart with his arm. With CU emphasizing a strong start this week, UCLA could bury the Buffs with a big first quarter of its own. The Bruins have to avoid turnovers and can't let the Buffs hang around into the fourth quarter.
—UCLA has won since six in a row, dating back to last season. The last time the Bruins won seven in a row was during an 8-0 start to the 2005 season, when Karl Dorrell was head coach. The Bruins' current streak began with a 44-20 win against CU last year.
—This is the 10th time in 12 seasons that the Bruins have opened the Pac-12 schedule on the road. It will also be UCLA's sixth consecutive conference opener on the road, with three of those in Boulder (2018, 2020, 2022).
—In coach Chip Kelly's tenure, UCLA is 17-4 when rushing for at least 200 yards and 4-21 when finishing with less than 200 yards.
—Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is set to make this 39th career start, which would rank third in UCLA history (Cade McNown had 44, Brett Hundley had 40). Thompson-Robinson is also tied for third in career TD passes, with 67. With two more, he will pass Drew Olsen and McNown for second.
—Defensive lineman Martin Andrus Jr. suffered a season-ending injury last week against South Alabama. Andrus, who had two previous ACL tears, had started each of the first three games.