This will be an unusual edition of the Sunday Morning Quarterback.
When I started writing this column the morning after a UCLA football game, I did so mostly to vent my frustration at how the Bruins had played the day before under Jim Mora. There were times when it was absolutely maddening. One of the most maddening times were the 2016 loss to Stanford after which I wrote the first SMQB when the Bruins lost to Stanford at the end of the game. There have been times I’ve written an SMQB article after a UCLA Bruins victory.
But, there has NEVER been an SMQB article after a signature win. That says more about the last three years of UCLA football than anything else.
Today, my friends, it is different. Today is the morning after the biggest win of the past three years.
This morning, Joshua Kelley has earned himself a place among the Bruin legends of the Crosstown Rivalry. He’s right up there with John Barnes, 13-9 and Tommy Maddox. But, yesterday’s game wasn’t the culmination of his UCLA career. In fact, it really was more of a coming out party. That’s because Kelley is still only a junior.
While yesterday’s performance was amazing, there’s still another whole season for Bruin fans to watch him run over opposing defenses.
Yesterday’s performance immediately makes him a potential contender for next season’s Heisman trophy and the Athletic Department may want to start planning a Kelley for Heisman campaign for next season so that it’s ready to go next year.
In my mind, the MVAC, Most Valuable Assistant Coach, of this season can only be Justin Frye. Repeat after gBruin: “Line wins games.”
Frye has taken an offensive line that has been maligned for years and turned it into one that allowed Kelley to rush for 289 yards, the most ever by a Bruin against Southern Cal.
Frye’s offensive line has done a good job all season long of opening holes for Kelley, who now has 1,188 yards on the season, which is the most by a Bruin since Paul Perkins in 2015.
This has happened with an offensive line group which looked to be one of the worst units on the team throughout the preseason. In fact, Frye has turned the unit into one of the most productive ones on the team. The progress he’s gotten from these guys bodes well for next season and beyond.
Of course, yesterday’s win makes the entire season for UCLA and Bruin fans. Make no mistake. The surefire way for a head coach to get fired in Westwood is to follow up a bad season with a loss to the Southern Cal Trojans. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying anything like that was even possible if the Bruins had lost yesterday because it wasn’t. I’m simply saying that, by winning yesterday, Chip Kelly has likely recaptured the hearts and faith of Bruin fans whose confidence in him wavered over the course of an otherwise bad season.
So, what exactly can Chip do for an encore? Why, beat Stanford for the first time since 2008, of course! UCLA has lost to the Cardinal ten times in the last nine seasons. While Stanford inadvertently had the day off yesterday, their bye was caused by poor air quality in the Bay Area resulting from the Camp Fire burning near Chico. The postponement wasn’t made until Friday. So, it’s not like the Cardinal could spend all of last week prepping to play the Bruins next Saturday. At best, Stanford may have an extra day or two of rest they may not have otherwise had.
That shouldn’t matter to the Bruins. After all, following yesterday’s game, Chip Kelly called his Bruins “the most scientific team in college football” when asked about giving Josh Kelley the rock 40 times yesterday. Kelly was clearly referencing the fact that they keep track of exactly how much rest a player is getting in order to maximize performance.
So, let’s paint the Victory Bell blue on Monday. Have Chip Kelly show it off at the basketball game on Monday night. Enjoy some turkey on Thursday while watching the men’s basketball team play Michigan State. And, let’s meet back at the Rose Bowl at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning to tailgate before the Bruins look to break their losing streak against the Cardinal that afternoon.
Of course, it’s possible the Bruins may not end that streak. But one thing is for sure. It’s morning again in Los Angeles and it’s mourning again on the Southern Cal campus.
The rightful order has been restored.
Go Bruins!!! Beat Stanford!