No. 13 UCLA stunned by Fresno State

PASADENA (News4usonline) – Just two weeks ago, Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins were the talk of college football when they took down mighty SEC power LSU. Kelly and the Bruins are once again the talk of the college football world, but for the wrong reason. 

This time it has everything thing to do with how the Bruins failed in keeping Fresno State from walking into the Rose Bowl Stadium and coming away with a 40-37 upset victory. 

“Definitely very tough,” UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said after completing 14 of 24 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins’ first loss of the season. “Looking back at the whole game, we made a bunch of mistakes to put ourselves in a bunch. When you play a team like that you’ve got to clean that stuff up.”

Well, so much for that win against LSU. That victory now rings sort of hollow for the Bruins after the Bulldogs pulled off the stunning win. Kelly doesn’t quite see it that way. 

“We’re not the momentum guys,” remarked Kelly in his postgame press conference. “It doesn’t work that way. If it was momentum, then we would have won this game tonight. It’s about going to work on Monday and having a really good week of preparation as we go into league play, and not letting this game define us just like we should have not let the first two games define us.”

Kelly continued, “I thought our guys had a really good approach to practice this week. They knew how good Fresno was, I had said to just put the tape on. This team was really close to playing Oregon, so we knew what this group was. But we did not make enough plays today to win the football game.”

Sept. 18, 2021. Fresno State wide receiver Keric Wheatfall (1) looks to put a move on UCLA defensive back Jay Shaw (1) in the Bulldogs’ 40-37 upset win against the Bruins at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Fresno State was able to beat UCLA, which came into the game ranked No. 13 in the country because in large part the Bruins didn’t have a defensive answer for quarterback Jake Haener. 

From the opening series, Haener served notice on the Bruins that he and the Bulldogs were coming. Unfortunately, he kept coming to the tune of completing 39 of 53 of his throws for 455 passing yards and two touchdowns. 

That’s a pretty remarkable performance considering UCLA kept LSU’s passing in check. After the game, Kelly marveled at the way Fresno State’s offensive line was able to build around Haener.     

“I thought they did a good job of protecting [him],” Kelly said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to Jake. That is as good of a performance as I’ve seen a quarterback make in my career. I’m not sure if he ever threw a bad ball. He had great command of everything we were doing.

“He did a good job, looking at some of the disguises, the protections, knowing to get the ball off,” he added. “I saw him after the game just to congratulate him, and he was really banged up, but that is a heck of a competitor and a heck of a football player, so you’ve got to tip your cap to him.”

Sept. 18, 2021. UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet looks for running room against the Fresno State defense. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Haener and the Fresno State offense came out on fire in the first half, scoring 23 points over the course of the first and second quarters. During that time, UCLA could only mount 10 points before intermission. 

UCLA finally got the lead out of its offense with 20 points in the fourth quarter, even taking the lead with 54 seconds left in the game. But the Bruins slow start eventually cost them the game. 

“I think just not executing and trying to do too much,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Guys trying to play other guys’ positions and not playing their role and getting outside of their role and what they’re supposed to do on each play. I think it bit us in the foot just a little bit as well as just some mistakes and stuff like that too.”

UCLA was not able to overcome its miscues. Thanks to Haener, Fresno State was able to get past its own problems and get the win, Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer said afterward.   

“We know he’s tough,” DeBoer said. “We’ve seen that over the course of last year and this year. He’s tough. He got better when the pressure was greater. I really feel that. I know there are some things that I know he wants back as the game was going on, things you don’t really even know and see from a fan standpoint. When the pressure was great, he was at his best. That’s what’s awesome.”

When Haener and Fresno State were not tossing the wind at UCLA with the passing game, the Bulldogs effectively utilized the run game to beat the Bruins. Ronnie Rivers had a big day at the office, going for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. 

“The heart that this team has is unbelievable,” Rivers said. “Not one time during that game did we not feel that we were going to win. It’s an amazing feeling. This is my first time being in the Rose Bowl, so I’m excited.”