TUCSON, Ariz. — Things looked bleak for UCLA on Saturday night when it held a slim one-point margin at halftime over winless Arizona, accumulating more penalty yards than passing yards at that point.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly seemed perturbed by the calls, saying, “I can’t comment on the penalties.”
In the first half of the 34-16 win over Arizona at Arizona Stadium, the Bruins had four penalties for 50 yards, while Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed only one of eight passes for three yards with an interception.
Two costly penalties by UCLA helped Arizona in its lone touchdown-scoring drive, culminating with a 10-yard pass from receiver Jamarye Joiner to Michael Wiley on a trick play that cut UCLA’s lead to 14-13.
Joiner took a lateral pass and connected with Wiley in the end zone.
UCLA had two facemask penalties called on Caleb Johnson and Qwuantrezz Knight and a pass interference call on Jay Shaw that significantly aided Arizona’s possession.
“Sometimes you grab a guy’s facemask, that happens,” Kelly said. “Sometimes … I don’t have an answer for some of those.”
A reporter asked, “Reading between the lines, you’re saying those were not penalties?”
“I did not say a word,” Kelly answered.
Kelly seemed to be not concerned about Thompson-Robinson’s performance, as he finished completing 8 of 19 passes for 82 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Some of that had to do with UCLA not needing the passing game — the Bruins rushed for 329 yards, their most in a game in eight seasons — and that Kelly has confidence in his senior quarterback no matter what.
“Sometimes the game expresses itself in different ways,” Kelly said. “Today as the game unfolded, we realized we had to run the football and we responded that way.
A reporter asked if the performance is injury related, to which Kelly answered, “No, he’s our starting quarterback. It’s going to take a lot to get Dorian off the field. He’s such a tough competitor.”
PECULIAR SIDELINE SIGHTING
Five people on UCLA’s sideline held up body-length shiny silver flimsy boards behind each UCLA coach in an effort to keep Arizona’s coaches in the booth upstairs from stealing signs when the Bruins were calling offensive plays.
Kelly has not used this tactic before, although he is known for discussions about signs.
When he was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles, he used boards showing Rocky Balboa and the Phillie Phanatic as a way to disguise plays.
Safeties Quentin Lake and Kenny Churchwell III were limited early in the week at practice because of injuries but both played against Arizona.
Churchwell registered a tackle and Lake had two.
Defensive back Mo Osling III was sidelined during practice this week, and did not play for the second consecutive week. He was limited to individual workouts throughout practice last week before the Arizona State game.
Kelly ruled center Sam Marrazzo “unavailable” for practice earlier this week and he was not listed in UCLA’s two-deep roster entering the game.