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UCLA Football: Washington State Post-Game Roundtable

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss UCLA’s wild 67-63 upset of the Washington State Cougars.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
  1. So, first question, what on earth happened?

Shayan Saalabi: I have no idea...I was one of the countless East Coasters who went to bed at halftime, only to wake up to news of the comeback. I’m still kicking myself for going to bed early, but I’m glad that the Bruins finally, finally came alive.

AnteatersandBruins: We were apparently living in an alternate universe. But, as I stated in the offensive preview, Mike Leach had two years to obsess about playing against Chip Kelly, and his fears were apparently validated. It looked like everyone finally woke up and channeled their inner beast.

Dimitri Dorlis: *shakes magic 8-ball* Ask again later.

2. The offense finally showed up to the 2019 season, posting 67 points and erasing a 32 point deficit in the second half. What do you want to highlight here the most?

Shayan Saalabi: Demetric Felton. In the same way Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid uses burner Mecole Hardman to stretch defenses with an endless onslaught of slants and screens, Chip Kelly took advantage of Felton’s speed to gas Washington State defense.

AnteatersandBruins: Key plays on defense. We had so many turnovers I lost count, including a sack and forced fumble by Keisean Lucier-South that ended the game. And the refs actually got the call right to seal the deal.

Dimitri Dorlis: I think the biggest highlight is that Chip Kelly finally abandoned the power sets that were having difficulties and went to a spread formation that created much more space for the Bruin receivers and running backs to operate in. That also made pass blocking easier, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson subsequently had enough time in the pocket to make great reads and throws. Something definitely clicked for the Bruins in those final 20 minutes, and the real question will be if that carries over going forward.

3. The defense was...not good, but it did create 4 turnovers and forced some key punts down the stretch. Talk about their performance.

Shayan Saalabi: Against an air raid offense as effective as Washington State’s, getting torched downfield was, well, expected. What the Bruins lacked in their ability to defend the pass, though, they made up for in their physicality with the ball carrier. Bruins defensive back Krys Barnes ripping the ball loose with only 2:30 to go in the fourth was a game-saver.

AnteatersandBruins: The defensive line needs a lot of work. We get stood up and have no pass rush, thus the 63 points Washington State was able to hang on us. However, key plays by Lucier-South and Krys Barnes kept us in the game. But we can’t have a defense of a few stars. We need a balanced approach so we don’t have to put up 70 points to barely win.

Dimitri Dorlis: Turnover luck is one hell of a thing, and UCLA really benefited from it. That said, the Bruins once again looked lost on defense, had poor tackling, and repeatedly got burned in the secondary. Going to a less-aggressive front end and more players in the secondary seemed to slow the Cougs down a bit in the second half, but it’s another question of why this defensive coaching staff is struggling so much.

4. We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about special teams, who showed up in a big way. A kick return touchdown and a punt return touchdown helped the Bruins immensely. How did you feel they performed?

Shayan Saalabi: Demetric Felton. Demetric Felton. Demetric Felton. If he wasn’t already, he’ll be on NFL draft big boards come springtime after what he accomplished Saturday.

AnteatersandBruins: Let’s not forget Kyle Phillips. He’s really coming into his own and it’s nice to see.

Dimitri Dorlis: If you’re going to pull this kind of upset, you usually need some kind of special teams spark, and the Bruins got that in spades. Felton had a 100 yard kick return touchdown. Phillips had a 69 (nice) yard punt return. J.J. Molson made his kicks. Special teams kept them in the game early, and it became a weapon to bludgeon the Cougars with late.

5. With UCLA finally in the win column, the outlook on the season has shifted once again. How are you feeling going into this next stretch of games?

Shayan Saalabi: It really depends on how Chip Kelly follows up on this performance. If he’s going to lean into his roster’s speed again and open up the playbook against Arizona, then there’s plenty of reason to feel optimistic moving forward.

AnteatersandBruins: Cautiously optimistic. I’d love to see the same team show up week after week and prove us all wrong, but I can’t relax yet. We need to maintain some consistency now and turn these flashes of brilliance into the norm.

Dimitri Dorlis: Honestly, if you told me before the season that UCLA would be 1-3 through its first four games, I would have completely believed you. But the way the 1-3 came about, losing bad games to Cincinnati, San Diego State, and Oklahoma before going on the road and upsetting Washington State, is different than expected. The question now becomes whether UCLA can sustain this kind of offensive brilliance going forward. I don’t have much faith in the defense, but if they can become even below-average, that’d be a victory as well.

6. The Extra Point - Sound off!

Shayan Saalabi: With 14:31 left in the fourth and the Bruins trailing 38-49, Chip Kelly called a play-action on Washington State’s seven-yard line. Bruins tight end Devin Asiasi broke to his left, selling a block before slipping uncovered back to his right. Dorian Thompson-Robinson then hit the wide-open Asiasi for six. It was a beautifully-designed that Washington State had no answer to. Thank you, coach, for drawing it up.

AnteatersandBruins: Dorian Thompson-Robinson took some licks on Saturday but gave it his all to the very end. No doubt he’s a tough kid and fought to the death to bring home the W.

Dimitri Dorlis: That was a euphoric win, no doubt. Now the attention should shift to the question of whether it was a season-defining win. That’s where I’m stuck at, because while getting the win was great and the offense looked amazing, I am unsure of how sustainable that performance was. UCLA could just as easily lay an egg this week against Arizona and the Washington State game would become a weird blip on the season. That’s just the kind of troubled waters Chip Kelly has steered this ship into.