PASADENA, CA- More than 20-point underdogs heading into Saturday’s clash with 10th-ranked Washington, UCLA climbed out of a 24-7 halftime deficit and pulled within one score twice throughout the fourth quarter. The Bruins (0-5 overall) fell just short, 31-24, after Washington (5-1 overall) recovered an onside kick attempt with under two minutes remaining.
“You’ve got to win,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said. “We’re not into moral victories.”
Washington senior quarterback Jake Browning showcased his composure down the stretch, sealing the victory on a final 12-play, 81-yard drive. The Huskies faced a critical third and six, leading 24-17 midway through the fourth quarter. Browning completed a 34-yard back shoulder throw to Ty Jones, setting up Washington in UCLA territory.
Four plays later, Browning turned another third and six into a first down with a 14-yard carry. Senior running back Myles Gaskin scored his second touchdown of the game to cap off the drive, via direct snap with four minutes left.
Running back Joshua Kelley scored from two yards out for the Bruins with just over two minutes left, but failure to recover the onside kick cost UCLA a final shot at winning or sending the game to overtime.
Browning finished with 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception through the air. Gaskin gained 116 yards on 27 carries, while Browning added 49 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground. Junior wide receiver Aaron Fuller caught five passes for 100 yards and one touchdown for the Huskies.
True freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson continues to show week-to-week improvement for UCLA. He completed 27 of his 38 passing attempts, threw for 272 yards and scored two touchdowns against Washington. “I’m trusting in my (offensive line) more,” Thompson-Robinson said of his recent improvements.
Joshua Kelley ran 20 times for 125 yards and one score. “It feels good to always get the run game going because that opens up the pass game,” Kelley said. He added, “Whenever my number gets called I’ve got to execute and play hard every down.” Tight end Caleb Wilson led the Bruins with eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Neither the Huskies or Bruins were able to gain momentum to start. The teams traded punts and interceptions on consecutive first quarter drives. Starting at their own 27, Browning led Washington inside the UCLA 40 yard-line. On a third and eight, Bruin defensive back Adarius Pickett intercepted Browning’s pass and returned it 12 yards.
Two plays later, Thompson-Robinson’s pass was tipped and then intercepted by junior defensive back Taylor Rapp. Washington took over at their own 38 yard-line and capitalized on the turnover six plays later. Browning lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to Fuller, who made a highlight-reel one-handed grab near the right corner of the pylone. The five play, 62-yard drive put Washington up 7-0 with 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.
UCLA responded by showing life offensively. Two plays into the drive, Kelley broke out for a 39-yard gain down inside the Washington 35 yard-line. The Bruins struggled to move the ball once in Husky territory, however, and attempted a 47-yard field goal on fourth and eight. JJ Molson missed wide left, leaving the Bruins scoreless.
Facing third and 20 on the next possession, Browning tossed a 16-yard pass to Baccellia, putting Washington in chip shot field goal range. Peyton Henry netted a 26 yarder to give Washington a 10-0 advantage. Thompson-Robinson stayed composed for the Bruins and led a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive- capped off by a nine yard touchdown pass to Theo Howard- to keep the Bruins within striking distance.
Unfortunately for UCLA, the Washington offense couldn’t be stopped. Browning and Gaskin took another drive starting deep inside their own territory and turned it into points. “You can’t give him extra snaps, and that’s what we did in the first half,” Kelly said of Browning.
Inside the UCLA 10 yard-line, an eight-yard Chico McClatcher jet sweep run set Washington up one yard out. Gaskin took a direct snap to finish the drive moments later, giving Washington a 17-7 lead five minutes from halftime.
The Huskies scored again just before the half, after Browning carried for a one-yard touchdown to finish off the 10-play, 77-yard drive. Washington took a 24-7 lead into halftime, out-gaining the Bruins 17 to eight in first downs.
To end the third quarter, UCLA steadily moved the ball and capitalized on a 17-play, 90-yard drive. Thompson-Robinson took just over six minutes off the clock and threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Wilson, cutting Washington’s lead to 24-17 with 14:53 left in the game.
Washington edged UCLA in total offensive yards with 462. The Bruins gained total 422 yards and outgained Washington through the air, 272 to 265. The Huskies rushed for 197 yards and earned 26 first downs. UCLA travels to undefeated Colorado next week, still searching for their first win of the Chip Kelly era. Washington heads to 18th-ranked Oregon, and has two more games after next weekend against currently ranked opponents (Colorado and Stanford).