UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson circled game against Utah before the season began
After a statement win over Washington last Friday, all eyes are on the Rose Bowl this Saturday when No. 11 Utah comes to Pasadena for a battle with No. 18 UCLA.
The Bruins are welcoming the highest-ranked one-loss team in college football at the moment, the defending Pac-12 champions, a team that fancies itself a legitimate College Football Playoff contender. All those things Utah has? All that respect the Utes’ program has garnered? UCLA wants that.
A step towards getting it? Beat Utah for the first time since 2015.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is aware of the five straight losses. He knows he hasn’t yet beaten the Utes. He’s had this game circled for a while.
“I’m very aware of all of it,” he told reporters this week. “I’ve circled about three or four games before the start of the season, Utah being one of them. I have yet to beat Utah. The only thing I remember is 2019 when we came into their place and they kicked my butt around a few times, so that’s the last memory I have, that’s the last taste I have in my mouth.
“They’re a really good team this year, they’re really well-coached, they have a really good secondary. … We’ve got our work cut out for us — giving them all the respect that they deserve because they’ve earned it.
Thompson-Robinson didn’t play in the 2021 loss the Bruins suffered in Salt Lake City. He had to watch as the Bruins fell down 28-10 in the first half before ultimately losing 44-20.
The two teams didn’t play in 2020.
Both sides didn’t really play in 2019 either. UCLA was battered by the Utes 49-3, turning it over five times while allowing five sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Thompson-Robinson isn’t the same player now that he was then.
“You can see him getting better and better,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham this week. “He’s playing his best football right now, from my vantage point. Chip (Kelly) has done a great job of developing him. Not that he was not good before, but he’s really taken his game to another level. Seems to be very poised. Makes plays, takes care of the ball, and he’s a dual-threat, which is the biggest issue for us — his ability to run as well as throw the football. That’s always a tough calling for your defensive coordinator and a tough situation for your defense when you’ve got a guy that can extend plays like he can.”
And UCLA is really rolling.
The 5-0 Bruins are 14th nationally in scoring offense. Winners of eight straight games dating back to last season, UCLA is averaging 44 a game over that span.
“It’s great to see plays being made, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” said Thompson-Robinson. “Guys are hungry to get the ball. I say this jokingly but everybody in the receiver room is kind of pissed about (Jake) Bobo getting six catches. Guys want more catches, guys want more plays, and so that’s what you want as a quarterback. You want guys around you that are hungry for the ball, the same thing with the running back room, tight ends, everybody involved. O-line’s blocking their tails off right now, giving me time to make my reads and get the guys the ball in the right situation. I’m very happy with where we’re at right now but we have a lot more to go.”
Another possible statement game on tap. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. PT on FOX. Expect DTR to be just as amped as he was a week ago.