UCLA feeling fresh with South Alabama ahead

Field Level Media

September 13, 2022 at 8:39 pm.

UCLA aims to complete a perfect nonconference portion of its schedule when it hosts South Alabama in a Saturday matinee at Pasadena, Calif.

The Bruins (2-0) faced little resistance in its first two outings, routing Bowling Green 45-17 in Week 1 and getting the best of Alabama State last week 45-7.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly used the two blowouts to rotate multiple players into the lineup, a strategy reflected in six different players accounting for the Bruins’ eight rushing touchdowns through the first two games.

Kelly said during his weekly media availability that the opening weeks have helped UCLA improve in various position groups in preparation for the Pac-12 Conference season.

“The (offensive) line is getting better as a group, playing together,” Kelly said. “The left side’s new with (Garrett) DiGiorgio and Raiqwon (O’Neal) out there. Those guys are starting to get a little bit more familiar with each other.”

The line has paved the way for UCLA to average 241 yards on 5.8 per carry rushing. The Bruins can expect resistance from a South Alabama defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally against the run early into the season.

The Jaguars (2-0) followed a 48-7 dismantling of Nicholls State in Week with a 38-24 win on the road last week at Central Michigan. South Alabama held the Chippewas to 81 yards rushing and limited Nicholls State to 59.

UCLA presents a much different challenge with dual-threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who has carried for 87 yards on just seven attempts with two touchdowns. Powerhouse running back Zach Charbonnet has 111 yards on 21 rushes.

Thompson-Robinson was used sparingly against Alabama State, while Charbonnet wasn’t used at all as the Bruins elected not to lean on their stars against an overmatched opponent.

“Zach Charbonnet, their running back, has tremendously improved from where he was when he was at Michigan,” South Alabama coach Kane Wommack said. “We went against him my last year at Indiana and watching him from that point to where he is now, I feel he’s done a tremendous job. Hats off to Chip Kelly and his staff for maximizing him.”

The Jaguars look to become the next Sun Belt Conference team to score an upset over a Power Five opponent. League counterparts Appalachian State and Marshall knocked off Texas A&M and Notre Dame last week, while Georgia Southern won at Nebraska.