Concluding a rough Saturday for the Pac-12, the league received the boost it needed as UCLA pulled off a 38-27 takedown of No. 16 LSU in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins entered as slight underdogs but outmatched the Tigers physically by pressuring quarterback Max Johnson all night on their way to a marquee victory. It’s the biggest win for the Bruins since 2015 when they beat then-No. 13 Utah 17-9.
UCLA’s defense sacked Johnson four times and knocked him down repeatedly while thriving behind a stout defense that held LSU to just 48 yards rushing. UCLA’s offense wasn’t bad, either, as Zach Charbonnet ran for 117 yards and a touchdowns on 11 carries. The Michigan transfer also hauled in a 35-yard reception in the second quarter to help set up a touchdown that put the Bruins up 14-7.
UCLA never relinquished the lead from there and put the game out of reach with 6:31 remaining when quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson found receiver Kyle Phillips for a 45-yard touchdown strike. The win improves UCLA to 2-0 under fourth-year coach Chip Kelly, who picked up his second win over a ranked opponent Saturday.
LSU will return to the drawing board with plenty to work on as it hosts McNeese State next week. UCLA is off in Week 2 before hosting Fresno State on Sept. 18. The Bruins have started 2-0 with wins by a combined 45 points over LSU and Hawaii in Week 0.
1. UCLA puts the Pac-12 on notice
This will be a tough reality for some to comprehend, but a Pac-12 team that hasn’t recruited at an elite level dominated an SEC team that is loaded with talent up front. The Bruins are a veteran squad, and their offensive line helped open some big holes at timely moments for Charbonnet and Brittain Brown. Conversely, the LSU offensive line could not hold off UCLA’s pass rush nor generate holes in the running game.
Unlike Kelly’s Oregon teams that were built on perimeter speed, this team is built on physicality and legitimate veteran leadership. If Thompson-Robinson can play within himself, as he did most of the way Saturday, the Bruins will be a tough out in the Pac-12. Their schedule is tough as they must play Oregon and Washington out of the Pac-12 North. But the No. 11 Ducks struggled against Fresno State on Saturday, and the No. 20 Huskies fell to Montana from the FCS. If this game proves to be an accurate representation of who the Bruins are, don’t be surprised if their game at USC on Nov. 20 has implications in the Pac-12 South title race.
2. Chip Kelly’s big win
Regarded as a slam-dunk hire in November of 2017 because of his prior success at Oregon, Kelly had yet to find a winning formula at UCLA entering this season. After last season’s 3-4 finish, in which all four losses came by a combined 15 points, he entered the 2021 season with only a 10-21 record with the Bruins.
It took longer than expected, but he finally has UCLA back to competing at a high level. In fact, Kelly’s tenure now looks promising compared to many who were hired during the 2017-18 coaching carousel. He has outlasted Kevin Sumlin (Arizona), Chad Morris (Arkansas), Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee), Willie Taggart (Florida State) and Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State), and has his program trending up.
3. Greg Dulcich is a weapon
UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich’s breakout 2020 season flew under the radar because of the Pac-12’s abbreviated slate, but the former walk-on showed the conference he could play last season. On Saturday, he showed the country as well. Dulcich’s three receptions went for 117 yards, including a 75-yard score that got the Bruins on the board. His other two receptions went for first downs and help set up UCLA scores.
4. Kayshon Boutte is special
LSU’s speed on the perimeter showed up at times and was evident in the play of receiver Kayshon Boutte. The sophomore speedster finished the 2020 season with a 300-yard, three touchdown receiving effort against Ole Miss, and he picked up where he left off against the Bruins. Boutte again racked up three touchdown catches among his nine total receptions for 148 yards. It may not be much solace for Tigers fans in the moment, but they have a special talent in Boutte, and he clearly has chemistry with Johnson. He won’t be eligible for the NFL Draft until 2023, but when he is, you can expect his name to be called in the first round. Junior receiver Trey Palmer also flashed breakout potential for the Tigers as he finished with seven catches after entering the game with just 11 for his career.