Ground game helps UCLA football win on road against Arizona
Whether out of necessity or on purpose, the Bruins have pledged to pound the rock on Saturday night.
UCLA football (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) rushed for 329 yards in their 34-16 win over Arizona (0-5, 0-2), running the ball close three times more often than they spent. Running backs Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet both crossed the 100-yard mark and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson added two rushing touchdowns.
Thompson-Robinson had just 3 passing yards in the first two quarters, finishing the first 30 minutes 1 for 8 in the air. It was the fewest passing yards UCLA had in a half since 2007. On top of that, their last first-half attempt was a wobbly interception in the middle.
With Thompson-Robinson struggling in the air, his Bruins only led the Wildcats without a win 14-13 at halftime.
Thompson-Robinson rebounded and went 7 for 11 for 79 yards in the second half, saving what was set to be the worst outing of his career. As he recovered as a passer down the stretch, it was the running game that ultimately gave UCLA the split they hadn’t been able to grab in three quarters.
It didn’t look like it was going to be the case as the third quarter moved on to the fourth.
With the Bruins ahead 24-16, Kelly opted to play one last game before the period was up instead of letting the clock tick. Brown rushed for the first down in the Wildcats’ red zone, but then hit the ball as he tried to stay upright.
Arizona suddenly had the ball and a chance to tie things up to open the fourth, when moments earlier UCLA had a real chance to put things away.
Three games later, the pocket collapsed around Wildcats quarterback Jordan McCloud and the Bruins first fired him all night. Defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia also forced a fumble on the play, and his team regained the upper hand in Arizona territory.
Even though UCLA had to fend him off, McCloud was injured and Arizona was unable to move the ball with Gunner Cruz replacing McCloud.
That’s when the Bruins got the upper hand and returned to the running game when the stakes were highest.
Charbonnet had 18 yards on four carries, then Brown came in to replace him. On his first carry since his untimely fumble, Brown broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and traveled 48 yards home to make it 31-16 UCLA.
The former Duke transfer finished the night with 146 yards on 12 carries and former Michigan transfer Charbonnet turned his 21 carries into 117 yards. Even Keegan Jones and Kazmeir Allen joined in the fun, combining 38 yards on eight carries, and Thompson-Robinson himself has 28 rushing yards.
A late field goal took the Bruins to 34-16, and what once seemed like a game that would end with the wire suddenly became a one-sided affair. Arizona had two giveaways and two punters in the second half, scoring just one basket early in the third.
A week after UCLA was shut out by Arizona State 18-0 in the second half in a surprise loss, they beat Arizona 20-3 in the second half on Saturday to walk away with the win.
UCLA will stay on the road and face Washington in Seattle next week.
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