UCLA at Oklahoma

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 7:46 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
SITE: Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
SERIES: Oklahoma leads 3-1
RANKINGS: Oklahoma No. 6


–RB Kazmeir Allen provided a spark to a UCLA run game that lacked punch each of the previous two seasons. His 74-yard touchdown run in the second half against Cincinnati highlighted a 103-yard performance on just five carries for the debuting freshman.

–QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson stepped in earlier than anticipated after Michigan transfer Wilton Speight was named Week 1 starter. Speight went out with an injury in the second quarter, sending the highly touted true freshman Thompson-Robinson into the lineup — perhaps prematurely. He finished 15-of-25 passing for 117 yards and totaled minus-4 rushing yards under Cincinnati’s consistent pass-rush pressure. “It needs work. My first college game, and it wasn’t up to par, up to my standards,” Thompson-Robinson said.

–SS Quentin Lake made an impact as a surprise key figure in the UCLA secondary Week 1. Lake tallied nine tackles, a tackle for loss and had a quarterback hurry, capably manning the spot Jaleel Wadood manned for the Bruins a season ago.


–LB Curtis Bolton, a redshirt senior, made his first career start in last week’s win over Florida Atlantic. Bolton recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown and had six tackles to earn Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. Bolton beat out Caleb Kelly, who has started 19 games over the previous two seasons, for the job at weakside linebacker.

–WR Marquise Brown once again showed off his speed last week, with six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. Brown spent part of the offseason back home in Hollywood, Florida, including working out with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to improve what was already speed that was among the best in college football.

–DE/LB Mark Jackson Jr. will be an even bigger key to the Sooners’ defensive front after the season-ending injury to Addison Gumbs just a day before the Florida Atlantic game. The start in that game was Jackson’s first in three seasons at the school. The “jack” linebacker/defensive end spot has been the source of most of Oklahoma’s quarterback pressure over the last few years, and while the Sooners are concentrating on bringing pressure from different angles this year, Mike Stoops’ defense still expects Jackson to be plenty disruptive himself.

–OT Bobby Evans made his first start at left tackle last week after starting every game at right tackle in the previous two seasons. Sooners’ offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said before the season that Evans was Oklahoma’s most consistent offensive lineman last season, even on a group that included Orlando Brown on the left side.


Oklahoma’s offense under Lincoln Riley is chugging right along even without Baker Mayfield, that much was apparent in a season-opening 63-14 win over Florida Atlantic.

UCLA’s offense, led by Chip Kelly, is very much a work in progress as Kelly works to implement his spread principles during his first season in Westwood.

Saturday, one of the current hotshots among offensive coaches faces off against a coach who innovated the up-tempo spread when the No. 6 Sooners host the Bruins.

Riley understands the growing pains Kelly is going through with his group, as he experienced similar challenges when he brought his Air Raid offense to East Carolina in 2010. The transition was a bit smoother when he brought his much more modified version of the system pioneered by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach to Oklahoma four years ago.

“Getting ’em to believe it,” Riley said when asked the biggest challenge of installing a completely new offense. “They figure out the scheme stuff, probably the small nuances of the scheme is part of it, but I think just building confidence.

“It takes some success to do that … I do think there’s a little bit of a breakthrough that’s got to happen mentally. He (Kelly) has done it more than me, so he would probably know more than me.”

Riley and Kelly have yet to meet, but his fingerprints are on not only the Sooners’ offense, but also in the way Oklahoma prepares.

Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said when his brother, Bob, was the head coach, that Oklahoma used some of Kelly’s late-week practice format. They’ve continued to do some of that under Riley.

Mike Stoops and Chip Kelly have coached against each other before, with Stoops only losing once to Kelly’s Oregon squads, both when Kelly was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator and when he moved to the head coaching role.

“He’s adapted as he’s moved the last two or three places,” Mike Stoops said. “I think you have to adapt to your players and your quarterback and do that they do.”

While most up-and-coming offensive-minded coaches have taken some ideas from Kelly’s offensive schemes, Kelly said he’s also paid plenty of attention to Riley’s quick ride from coordinator at East Carolina and then Oklahoma to head coach.

“We all have great respect for Lincoln and the job that he’s done,” Kelly said. “He’s a fun-to-watch coach.”

The Bruins were short in the season opener as six players were suspended for a violation of athletic department policies. They’ll get some back but others still have more suspension to go.

Defensive back Mo Osling and defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Moses Robinson-Carr will return after missing the opener while tailback Soso Jamabo, tight end Devin Asiasi and center Boss Tagaloa will continue to serve their suspensions.

Losing those players figure to slow down the transition to Kelly’s offense.

“We’re not an excuse operation,” Kelly said when asked about his limited roster.

UCLA’s offense might be without one of its top playmakers on the offensive side after Wilton Speight left last week’s loss to Cincinnati with a back injury.

Kelly said Speight did some work Tuesday but didn’t elaborate much

If Speight isn’t able to play, freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson figured to be the starter there.

Thompson-Robinson was 15 of 25 for 117 yards against the Bearcats.

While there is no question who Oklahoma’s starter will be at quarterback, especially after Kyler Murray’s performance last week, Murray’s backup is up in the air after Austin Kendall suffered a leg injury during the second half of last week’s win.

Walk-on Tanner Schafer and freshman Tanner Mordecai would be the options, with Kendall likely sidelined this week.

A week ago, Schafer was the Sooners’ third quarterback, though both Schafer and Mordecai played extensively on the second half.

“It’s a little open-ended,” Riley said.