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UCLA Football: Mediocre Offense in Home Opener Was Disappointing

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The Bruins only managed 306 yards of total offense against Cincinnati. It certainly was not a great debut for head coach Chip Kelly.

Cincinnati v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After a disappointing 26-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats in Chip Kelly’s UCLA debut, the Bruins head into a week of preparation for a date with the 7th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in Norman on Saturday.

Quarterbacks

Michigan transfer, WIlton Speight started the game under center for the Bruins, but that did not last very long. The QB got injured after taking a big hit in the second quarter. Up until the injury, Speight was terrible. He completed 8/12 passes for 45 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. For those counting at home, he averaged only 3.8 yards per completion. Yikes.

The injury thrust true freshman quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson into action. With UCLA already down 14-10 when he took over for the injured Speight, I’m sure this wasn’t the most optimal scenario to throw DTR into the fire for his UCLA debut.

Thompson-Robinson went on to finish the game completing 15-25 passes for only 117 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was clear that he and his wide receivers were not on the same page throughout the game. This certainly wasn’t the greatest throwing performance, especially since he only averaged a paltry 4.7 yards per completion. His inexperience showed. He did show glimpses of his athleticism, evading a few sacks, but, ultimately, he was not that big of a factor offensively. However, a large part of his ineffectiveness was due to the vanilla play-calling by head coach Chip Kelly. It would’ve been nice to see him involved in some zone-read plays to try and make plays with his feet.

The only way a young quarterback is going to learn, is to just keep throwing him out there.

Running Backs

A positive development for UCLA in this loss, though, was the emergence of speedy running back, Kazmeir Allen. His athleticism was on full display yesterday afternoon, and his speed was as good as advertised. The high point for the Bruins on Saturday was Allen’s 74-yard scamper into the end zone for his first touchdown as a UCLA Bruin. He piled up 103 rushing yards on only 5 attempts (!!!). He’s only a freshman, folks.

The coming out party for freshman Kazmeir Allen spells bad news for fellow tailback, Bolu Olorunfunmi. Bolu was largely ineffective yesterday, rushing for only 13 yards on 9 carries. Ouch. He looked a step slow, and was not elusive whatsoever. His style of running does not profile well for a Chip Kelly offense, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kazmeir Allen take over as the workhorse at running back for UCLA.

Wide Receivers/Tight End

UCLA’s wide receivers weren’t able to get much going because the Bruins didn’t take many shots down field at all. Junior Theo Howard led all UCLA receivers with 5 catches for 52 yards (10.4 ypc), and even caught DTR’s first pass. I doubt that’ll be the last time we see that duo link up through the air.

Junior tight end, Caleb Wilson looked great in his first game back from nursing a broken foot. Wilson hauled in 4 catches for 36 yards, including a slick one handed grab. He’s a big weapon for UCLA in the passing game, and his wide frame makes it very easy for him to win 50-50 balls. Although the quarterback situation is murky, you can count on Caleb Wilson to produce.

Thoughts

The Bruins only managed 306 total yards of offense against a very shoddy Cincinnati defense. Yes, losing to Cincinnati at home is embarrassing. Is it the end of the world? No. We have to remember that 71.4% of the players on UCLA’s football roster are underclassmen. The offensive play calling left a lot to be desired, but it’s going to be hard to find consistent success with a group of guys this young. There will be peaks and there will certainly be valleys.