Chip Kelly and the UCLA football team have a chance to take back the Victory Bell for the first time since 2017 when they take on USC on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Bruins returned most of their starts to the Trojans in the Rose Bowl after a 43–38 loss last year. This season the trend of both the shows has been seen in different directions.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who completed 30 of 36 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns against the Trojans last year, is winning over Colorado and showing off the arm injury that cost him the October 30 game against Utah. was kept out. Not an issue now.
Thompson-Robinson was a freshman the last time the Bruins beat the Trojans, but was far from a key player in that meeting. He would be looking for his first win as a start in the rivalry.
“This will be my fourth year playing against USC,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I haven’t had a lot of success in terms of winning over the last three years, so we want to take it home last.”
Quarterback Caydon Slovis set a USC single-game record with 515 passing yards and four touchdowns in his first meeting with the Bruins in 2019. He finished last season with 344 yards and five touchdowns, including two Drake Londons, to defeat the Bruins.
Due to injuries to Slovis and London, none of the players are fit for the Trojans on Saturday. Coach Clay Helton is still not around after losing a Week 2 blow to Stanford.
Trojans interim coach Donnett Williams is joining true freshman quarterback Jackson Dart in his first career, starting Saturday. In three games – subbing for an injured Slovis in one and sharing time with him in the Trojans’ last two games – Dart has completed 81 of 50 passes for 589 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions.
Kelly was aware of the two-quarterback system being used by the Trojans, but says the Bruins’ strategy remains the same.
“His offense doesn’t change, although Jackson is opposed to Caydon,” Kelly said. “They’re very similar. It’s not much different when compared to Jackson’s Caydon, you’re still defending what (USC offensive coordinator) Graham Harrell is running.
The line of scrimmage would be crucial for the Bruins, imposing their will on the Trojan’s struggling defensive line, as well as suppressing any sharp attack and forcing Dart to defeat them.
When UCLA Has the Ball
The Bruins have benefitted from the production of running backs Zach Charbonnett and Briton Brown in the first 10 games of the season. Together they have scored 1,479 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Charbonnet may have to lift the load on Saturday after Brown was out of practice on Wednesday and was seen working in the weight room.
“(Brown) is available,” Kelly said before Wednesday’s practice. “We will have to see how that is available but we are planning for the UK to be available.”
Charbonnet recorded his second three-touchdown performance of the season against Colorado and could have an opportunity to produce a similar effort against the USC defense. The Trojans allowed Arizona State to rush 202 yards to Rachad White and three touchdowns in USC’s 31–16 November 6 loss.
The Bruins have racked up 200 or more yards in all their six wins this season and average 33 points per game in 10 games this season.
Once the Bruins had established the run game, Thompson-Robinson would look for an opportunity to get the ball to receiver Kyle Phillips and get the ball to tight end Greg Dulcich to move the ball and make big plays.
Phillips can also influence the game on special teams as a punt returner.
When USC Has the Ball
If the Bruins can outwit the dart and keep the young quarterback from developing a rhythm, expect the Trojans to drive back Keonte Ingram.
Ingram has three games of 124 or more rushing yards. He ran for a season-high 204 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries against Arizona, but was held for 54 yards on 14 carries at Arizona State.
The Bruins built up a reputation for his ability to stop runs earlier this season, but he began to falter. The defense fared better in a 44-20 win over Colorado last week, restoring some confidence after allowing five quick touchdowns in each of their losses to Oregon and Utah in the previous weeks.
“(Trojans) work in the offense that you express defensively and they counter what you are trying to counter,” Kelly said.
If the Bruins can stop the run, Harrell will have to use the passing game against a secondary who appears shaky on occasion this season.
With London out of the way, receivers Taj Washington and Gary Bryant Jr. have become more involved in the passing game. Ingram can also contribute to catching balls from the backfield to help compensate for lost production.
“I think (Washington and Bryant) have moved a little bit in terms of being the next receivers,” Kelly said. “They’re starting to throw a little more to run. I think it might be because Drake is out.”
USC. in UCLA
When: Saturday at 1 pm
TV/Radio: Fox (Chapter 11)/570 AM