Kerry Says: It's OSU vs. UCLA in Rose Bowl rumble
In a world where close-but-no-cigar gets you only so far, Jonathan Smith needs to be puffing on a Cohiba here sometime soon.
That's going to come Saturday at the Rose Bowl, where Oregon State gets the opportunity to prevail in another winnable game — this time against Chip Kelly's UCLA Bruins.
Smith and Kelly are both bouncing through turbulent waters in a second season at their respective helms. Smith has won three of 16 games with the Beavers. Kelly has pulled out four wins in 17 contests with the Bruins.
Oregon State (1-3 overall, 0-1 in Pac-12 play) is coming off a painful 31-28 home loss to Stanford in which Jet Toner's 39-yard field goal won it with one second on the clock. UCLA (1-4, 1-1) finished in similar straits, falling 20-17 at Arizona after J.J. Molson missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt with 34 seconds left.
The Bruins ended that game without sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who injured an ankle in the third quarter. Austin Burton, a 6-2, 195-pound sophomore making his first college appearance, engineered a late drive that carried the Bruins into range of a field goal that could have forced overtime. But Molson's kick sailed wide right.
"It's frustrating when you feel like you let one slip away," Kelly told reporters, "and that's what we did today."
UCLA couldn't win despite Arizona going without its two offensive stars — quarterback Khalil Tate and tailback J.J. Taylor, who missed the game with injuries. Freshman Grant Gunnell, whose only previous college experience came in mop-up duty against Northern Arizona, completed 29 of 44 passes for 352 yards with one touchdown for the Wildcats.
The Bruins, of course, were without Thompson-Robinson at the end. Kelly called him "one of the toughest quarterbacks I've ever had the opportunity to coach" after his performance in a 67-63 win over Washington State the previous week. After accounting for 564 total yards and seven touchdowns against the Cougars, Thompson-Robinson was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week and the Davey O'Brien Foundation's Quarterback of the Week.
After Thompson-Robinson left, Burton completed five of nine passes for 48 yards. The Bruins turned mostly to the running game and 5-11, 220-pound senior Joshua Kelley, who finished with 27 carries for 127 yards and a TD.
UCLA's beleaguered defense, which gave up 720 yards total offense against Wazzu, yielded 451 against Arizona. Oregon State, which ranks third in the Pac-12 in total offense at 482.5 yards per game, could have a field day against a Bruin club that ranks last in the conference in scoring defense (35.6), pass defense (351.8) and total defense (514.4). UCLA ranks 127th of 130 teams in the FBS ranks in total defense, 129th in pass defense and 112th in scoring defense.
After a slow start against Stanford, Oregon State's offense kicked into gear the last 16-plus minutes, churning out long drives and scoring touchdowns on each of its final four possessions. The Beavers, who lead the league in third-down conversions (56 percent, 30 of 54), were 9 of 13 in that category against the Cardinal.
Jake Luton, who is 85 for 140 passing for 1,012 yards and nine TDs, is fourth in the Pac-12 in passing yardage per game and has not thrown an interception this season. Isaiah Hodgins, who has caught 33 passes for 509 yards and six touchdowns, is second nationally in receptions per game, fourth in receiving yardage per game and tied for sixth in TD receptions.
Jermar Jefferson (287 yards in three games) and Artavis Pierce (363 yards in four) are 3-4 in the league in rushing yardage per game. Jefferson's availability is questionable after playing sparingly against Stanford with a sore ankle, but Pierce carried 16 times for 141 yards and a pair of scores.
Oregon State's run defense was outstanding against Stanford. The secondary looked shaky at times, though, and could use the return of senior safety Jalen Moore, who missed the game with a recurring hamstring injury. UCLA will try to establish a ground game with Kelley and also exploit OSU's pass defense.
The Bruins, it would seem, are ripe for the pickings, especially if Thompson-Robinson is unavailable. Can the Beavers take advantage, close the deal and pull out a victory that would do wonders for the program?
Here's saying they will, and that Smith will be enjoying a stogie at the Rose Bowl late Saturday night.
The pick — Oregon State 34, UCLA 28
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