I’m going to be honest, I was not planning on writing this postgame. I’m literally on vacation in Paso Robles (and tweeting throughout the game on the Bruins Nation twitter account for anyone who enjoyed following along) and got the call about doing a postgame article. And honestly? I don’t think I can do what just happened for the UCLA Bruins justice.
At the 6:52 mark of the 3rd quarter, Washington State Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon hit Dezmon Patmon for a six yard strike to put the Cougars up 49-17. By all rights, the game was over. But then something clicked in UCLA. Dorian Thompson-Robinson suddenly was making passes with confidence. The receivers were stepping up. UCLA scored a touchdown. Then the Bruin defense forced a fumble on the ensuing Cougar possession. And then another UCLA touchdown. And another. And another. And suddenly what was a 32 point deficit was a three point game, and suddenly both teams took their foot off the gas pedal and started scoring points as if they were going out of style.
In the end, the UCLA momentum and onslaught was too much, and the Bruins completed their comeback with a 15 yard screen pass to Demetric Felton to take a final lead. A strip-sack by the returning Keisean Lucier-South would seal the deal, and the Bruins left the Palouse with an improbable 67-63 upset victory.
Again, I can’t do this game justice in the moment. That will come in the days to come, but let me start with a negative before getting to the positives. The UCLA defense, for most of this game, was awful. Missed tackles, blown assignments, a lack of skill that was on display from the second drive on. Even with the victory, it’s hard to forget that Anthony Gordon set a new school record with nine touchdown passes on the day, and he was up to seven when the Cougars took their 49-17 lead. The Cougars had over 400 yards at the half, and had 720 yards in total. That’s just a ridiculous number, and the victory shouldn’t make the heat on defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro any less hot.
But the big story is the offense finally showing up in 2019. And show up they did. Something in the second half clicked for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, as he suddenly put all of the brief flashes of brilliance together into a final 20 minutes for the history books. DTR finished with 507 passing yards on 25-38 passing with five touchdowns to only one interception, and he added 57 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It was the kind of complete performance UCLA fans have been dreaming of, and if he can continue this kind of play going forward UCLA may have a puncher’s chance in each game going forward.
There were other heroes. Demetric Felton had 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including a ridiculous play where he took a simple seam route out of the backfield 94 yards for the score. He also added a 100 yard kickoff return touchdown (that also featured UCLA getting a penalty for a coach running into a ref, because the early game was just that kind of bad for the Bruins). Chase Cota had a coming out party, with 147 yards on four catches with one touchdown, and almost added a second one at the end of the first half when he made an incredibly effort play on a Hail Mary only to barely get stopped at the one yard line. Kyle Phillips housed a punt return for a touchdown to take the lead. Devin Asiasi continued his quietly solid play with 50 yards and a touchdown. Joshua Kelley was the workhorse, putting in 90 yards on the ground while adding a touchdown on a pass play early. Then throw in some fumble luck (UCLA forced four fumbles and recovered all four, while the Cougs forced one fumble that UCLA still recovered), and that’s what upsets are made of.
More important than anything, UCLA got the win. In a season that has looked bleak in recent weeks, this could be the spark to reignite UCLA going forward, especially in a conference where no one team looks particularly good (as an aside, the only undefeated team left in the conference is UC Berkeley. Just let that sink in). And not only did the Bruins get the win, they did it on the road against a solid Washington State team. This is big, and UCLA fans should rightly revel in the victory right now.