Ethan Garbers rallies UCLA to 35-22 victory over Boise State in LA Bowl

Updated Dec. 17, 2023 12:42 a.m. ET

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Ethan Garbers answered the call for UCLA when it needed him the most.

The junior quarterback told coach Chip Kelly that he did not feel well enough to start Saturday's LA Bowl against Boise State, but when Collin Schlee was injured during the third quarter with the Bruins trailing, Garbers knew he had to come into the game.

Garbers threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns as the Bruins rallied for a 35-22 victory over the Broncos, giving them their first bowl victory since the Alamo Bowl to end the 2014 season.

“This whole week and before the game I wasn’t feeling 100%. When I looked out there (in the second half), and the team needed me, that’s my biggest priority. It was an easy call to say the least," said Garbers, who completed 9 of 12 passes and won Offensive MVP honors.


Garbers started six games for the Bruins this season, but also had his share of injuries. Kelly wasn't surprised with Garbers' performance and when he said he wasn't ready to start.

“He said I think we got to go with Collin, but I’m ready to be a backup if we have to go," Kelly said. "So when Collin went down, I asked him are we ready to go, and he said he was and played fantastic.”

Garbers also gave Kelly a gift after the game when he announced he would return for one more season and UCLA's move to the Big Ten. Garbers participated in Senior Night ceremonies and there were plenty of questions about the quarterback position after freshman Dante Moore entered the transfer portal.

The Bruins trailed 16-7 at halftime and scored on their first three drives in the second half to take control of the contest, which took place 12 miles from the UCLA campus.

TJ Harden rushed a season-high 105 yards on 20 carries, including two third-quarter touchdowns. J. Michael Sturdivant had four receptions for 142 yards, including a 40-yard score midway through the fourth quarter that put UCLA (8-5) up by three scores.

George Holani had both of Boise State's touchdowns and finished with 138 yards rushing on 17 carries. The Broncos (8-6) had won four straight games to claim the Mountain West title and earn the automatic bid to the game.

Boise State got into the red zone on all four of its first-half drives, but had to settle for field goals by Jonah Dalmas on its first three trips instead of touchdowns.

That would end up proving fatal for the Broncos.

“How you execute in the red zone is everything. Not field goals. Scoring touchdowns," coach Spencer Danielson said. "We've got to find ways to capitalize and put that ball in the end zone. We just didn’t get it done, so obviously the difference between nine points and 21 points is going to be a big part of the game.”

Garbers came into the game with 11:25 remaining in the third quarter after starter Schlee was injured after a 44-yard run up the right sideline. Schlee appeared dazed after the hit as he walked to UCLA's bench.

Garbers completed his first eight passes, including a 5-yard TD to Kyle Ford three plays after entering the game.

Harden then scored the next two touchdowns — a 1-yard run off left end with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter to give the Bruins a 21-16 advantage, and a 14-yard score in which he patiently waited for a hole to develop and then broke a tackle at the Broncos' 4.

Holani had a 1-yard carry off left tackle in the second quarter to put the Broncos up 16-7. The senior then went 66 yards up the middle with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to get the Broncos within 13. The 2-point conversion was no good.


Schlee made his second start of the season. The junior transfer from Kent State had 127 yards on seven carries and was 11 of 16 passing for 78 yards and a TD.

Schlee gave the Bruins a 7-6 lead with 48 seconds left in the first quarter when he stepped up in the pocket on third-and-goal, stayed just shy of the line of scrimmage and flipped a pass to tight end Hudson Habermehl for a 5-yard touchdown.

Three plays earlier, Schlee had a 50-yard run off right end and up the sideline to the Broncos 8.


Boise State: CJ Tiller was 12 of 21 for 117 yards in his first collegiate start. The Broncos have plenty of talent returning, but removing the interim title off Danielson helped give them a jump heading into the offseason.

UCLA: Linebacker Darius Muasau had 11 tackles and 2 1/2 tackles for loss in his final collegiate game to take Defensive MVP honors.


Boise State: Opens the 2024 season at Georgia Southern on Aug. 31.

UCLA: Heads to Hawaii for the season opener on Aug. 31.


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