UCLA looks ripe for drubbing by No. 5 Oklahoma

Field Level Media

September 11, 2019 at 12:15 am.

A pair of offensively anemic performances to open the 2019 campaign have UCLA staring down a second consecutive 0-3 start. And coming to the Rose Bowl on Saturday: No. 5-ranked Oklahoma.

The Sooners (2-0) rolled through their first two games of 2019 — non-conference home dates against Houston and South Dakota — by a combined 74 points. Early into the new season, Oklahoma is 11.1 points per game ahead of last year’s FBS-leading pace (59.5 to 48.4).

Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts electrified in his debut as a Sooner, throwing for 332 yards, rushing for another 176, and scoring three touchdowns through the air and ground apiece.

Hurts is the third consecutive transfer to excel behind center in Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s offense, following back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

“I was in a situation or position where I am back to where I am supposed to be,” Hurts said during the postgame news conference following the 70-14 win over South Dakota last weekend. “Being out there with this team, this group, is very exciting, and I enjoyed it a lot.”

The Bruins (0-2) know the proficiency of the Sooners’ system well. Murray scorched UCLA last season in Norman, Okla., for 306 yards passing, 69 yards rushing and five total touchdowns in a 49-21 Oklahoma win.

The secondary has long been a strength for UCLA, and coming into this season, the Bruins returned a talented core of starters. However, after giving up nearly 300 yards passing in a Week 2 loss to San Diego State, the unit must make adjustments ahead of facing a loaded Oklahoma wide-receiving corps.

The one-two receiving punch of CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo has as many touchdowns through two games as the entirety of UCLA’s roster (four). Freshman Jadon Haselwood has debuted with a flourish, totaling 124 yards and a touchdown on five grabs in his first two career outings.

“Being a defensive back, it’s disappointing to see how we performed,” UCLA cornerback Quentin Lake told reporters this week. “I thought we came out good, started off with a stop, but going on, we have to be consistent in the back end. We can’t let a quarterback get his rhythm going.”

Perhaps more concerning for UCLA are the 14 points the Bruins were held to in each of their first two contests. The Bruins were without surprise 2018 star and running back Joshua Kelley for the season-opening loss at Cincinnati. He returned and scored a touchdown last week, but managed only 53 yards on 15 carries.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly earned plaudits for his high-powered offenses at Oregon, first as coordinator then as Ducks head coach from 2009-12. Since returning to the college ranks after three years in the NFL and one as a TV analyst, Kelly’s offenses at UCLA have been inconsistent.

“I believe it will happen. I have faith in these guys,” Kelly said of his players.

Likewise, Riley praised UCLA’s pieces, particularly the defense, saying it will come together.

“We know the kind of coaches, we know the kind of players they have on both sides of the ball there,” Riley said. “There’s still the makings of a very good team when you watch them on tape.”

It will take a marked turnaround for the Bruins for that to show in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday.