'This is what we wanted': UCLA enters November in unfamiliar position
In Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s first season in Westwood, the UCLA Bruins entered November with a 2-7 record. The following season, a win on Nov. 2 gave UCLA three straight victories and a 4-5 record, but it closed out the year with three straight losses.
Last season, UCLA was 5-4 entering November.
Progress, sure, though not exactly what a quarterback like Thompson-Robinson would hope for. Given the offensive talent the Bruins have had at their disposal, these last few seasons have felt underwhelming.
This year, UCLA is making amends. It enters November with a 7-1 record. The path to the Pac-12 title game is still very much open. The door to the College Football Playoff isn’t locked.
“This is what we wanted,” Thompson-Robinson said after Saturday’s 38-13 win over Stanford. “This is what we expected and now that it’s here, it’s time for the real work to start. You know, we haven’t been in this position at least as long as I’ve been here, so we’ve got to find some deep digging to do and really clean some stuff up so we can get this thing done.”
The ‘keep grinding’ approach will no doubt make UCLA’s coaching staff happy. That’s been the message all season.
Coach Chip Kelly on Monday seemed to be unaware that the first set of College Football Playoff rankings drop on Tuesday. He won’t monitor them at this point in time. UCLA players might. That’s fine.
“We’ve just got to keep winning. I know that,” he said. “It’s nice that we’re recognized as the 10th-ranked team in the country (in the AP poll) but you’ve got to keep winning. I know this: from a rankings standpoint, if you lose next week, you’re not 10th anymore. The only way you continue to move up is if you continue to win.
“I think our guys have a really good understanding of that aspect of it. The regular season in college football means everything. You’ve got to win each week. If you want to continue to move up in those rankings, you’ve got to win, and if you don’t win, you can’t complain about the rankings.”
The one loss on the résumé is the fewest for a Bruin team heading into the month of November since 2005. That squad was ranked No. 7 before blowouts at the hands of Arizona and USC in two of its last three games.
This is the month that sets you up to play for trophies.
In that regard, Kelly’s Bruins find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They seem to know it doesn’t matter what happened to get them to this point, only what they do now that they’re here.
The Bruins travel to Tempe this weekend to battle Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. PT on FS1.