PASADENA, CA – The running game could be a very effective game plan that can wear down any defense if it’s executed properly. The hard-nosed running style has been a staple of the sport since its birth. The UCLA Bruins have been leaning on a strong running game led by Demetric Felton Jr. all season. Saturday night proved to be no different.
The Bruins brought back that old-school football mentality when they faced the Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, running the ball 56 times for a total of 281 yards and one touchdown en route to a 27-10 victory. Felton led the rushing attack for the Bruins, accounting for 206 yards and 32 carries and one score. Felton becomes just the 22nd running back in school history to rush for over 200 yards in a single game.
“I was really happy for Felton because he’s worked extremely hard,” said Bruins head coach Chip Kelly after the game. “He’s really turned himself into a quality back. He’s got great vision and I thought our offensive line did a really nice job.”
Felton has been running well for the Bruins, posting 100-yard games against the Oregon Ducks and Cal Bears in his last two outings. He looked dominant from the start, breaking off on a big 35-yard run and scoring his lone touchdown of the game in the first half. With that said, UCLA used a balanced offensive scheme to defeat the Wildcats. Kelly was content with the all-around performance by the Bruins.
“I think the unsung group that I don’t think gets enough credit is how well our receivers block and how well our tight ends block,” Kelly said. “It was a good team effort.”
When Felton would take a play off just to catch his breath, Brittain Brown served as a change-of-pace back who continued to run the football hard for the Bruins. Brown finished with 72 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while adding another 26 yards in receiving yards. Browm also caught a touchdown for the Bruins as well. The combination of Felton and Brown worked effectively for the Bruins against Arizona as the duo averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the ground.
“It’s a lot of fun being a one-two punch because you know you have a teammate that can help you up if you’re feeling down,” Brown said. “You saw what he can do in the running game and you saw what I can do in the running game. It’s just good to have a one-two punch with our offensive line doing the work and creating the holes for us, it’s just a really good thing for our offense.”
The Bruins defense protected its home turf and put out a strong performance against Arizona, who lost starting quarterback Grant Gunnell on the Wildcats’ first drive due to injury. True freshman quarterback Will Plummer stepped up in his place to run the Wildcats offense but he was in trouble all night by the Bruins pass rush. The pocket was constantly collapsing, forcing Plummer to roll out of the pocket and make throws on the run. He finished with just 151 passing yards and two interceptions.
UCLA defensive back Obi Eboh gave Arizona problems all night with his constant disruption, sacking Plummer once while also getting two tackles for loss. Eboh credits the game plan by his defensive coaches which allowed him to impact the game in a big way.
“The defense has been coming really aggressively and we’re getting to the quarterback a lot more often as everyone has seen the last couple of games,” Eboh said. “I have to give credit to the coaches in developing a very sound game plan and the rest of our defense for executing it.”
With the win, UCLA moves back to .500 with a 2-2 record. Arizona remains winless at 0-3. If the game goes on as scheduled, the Bruins will be traveling to Tempe next week to face the Arizona State Sun Devils, who have only played one game this season due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team. ASU lost their lone game, 28-27, to the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 Conference season opener.