Posted on November 23, 2020
With just a few seconds remaining in the first half, coach Chip Kelly—sporting a 21-17 lead over the No. 11-ranked team in the nation—decided to try a Hail Mary with his backup quarterback and multiple skill players missing due to contact tracing protocols.
The end result was a pick-six that gave Oregon a three-point lead over UCLA football. A lead that would not be relinquished.
While Kelly was flamed on Twitter for the bold choice, this was exactly what Bruin fans should be looking for in our head coach, even if it leads to mistakes.
UCLA needs to be aggressive in scenarios like this and others during this campaign. In a year where people are saying the games don’t matter, Kelly should be taking this opportunity to make mistakes to find a winning formula that has eluded him since he returned to the college scene.
In the loss against Colorado to open the season, it looked like it would be the same old story. Kelly’s team tried to run a pro-style offense that was exposed in the first half. While the Bruins came back to within six, it felt like the beginning of another long losing season.
To Kelly’s credit, he did adjust. In a dominant win over California, his team came out aggressive with a new fast-paced offense reminiscent of his Oregon days, and the Bruins ran all over the Golden Bears by taking the game to them.
The next week was more of the same story, albeit in a loss. UCLA was not afraid of Oregon, and Kelly’s play-calling consistently showed that.
Yes there were more turnovers from the offense. The Bruins are last in the nation in turnover margin, and they gifted a Ducks team that had not forced a turnover in two games the ball four times.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Griffin had three of them, but it was his first college start. At least Kelly was willing to give Griffin the chance to make the big plays, even if some backfired.
And this new aggressive outlook has not just shaped the offense.
To say the defense struggled last year is a bit of an understatement. The unit was 112th in total yards allowed per game and 129th in passing yards per game in 2019. In the fall training camp, players talked about attacking the ball this season.
So far, it’s been working well. The team is in the top-50 in both rushing yards allowed and total yards allowed. A lot of this stems from the Cal game where the Golden Bears had under 200 total yards of offense, but the Bruins were also able to stymie a good Duck running game.
The big step up has come in the sacks and tackles for loss departments. UCLA is averaging 3.3 sacks and nine tackles for loss per game – both up from last year where it averaged 2.2 and six in those same categories.
Maybe the Bruins don’t get to .500 this year. There are winnable games, but with two losses already in the bag, it is going to take some good moments from a roster dealing with more possible missed games due to COVID-19.
But if he wants to re-energize this fanbase and at least play attractive football, Kelly needs to take lessons from the Oregon game and trust his team to be more aggressive because it at least makes UCLA competitive again.
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Perez: Chip Kelly’s Bold and Risky Play-Calling Just What the Bruins NeededBetter to be aggressive and make mistakes than to settle for the safety of what doesn't work - November 23, 2020
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