Oregon St-UCLA could draw record-low crowd to Rose Bowl
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chip Kelly’s tenure at UCLA has been rough on the field and in the stands.
The Bruins have only four wins in the 17 games with Kelly at the helm. UCLA (1-4, 1-1) has looked better since the start of Pac-12 play but with the Bruins’ poor record, fan interest is close to hitting rock bottom.
The game Saturday against Oregon State (1-3, 0-1) could have the lowest attendance since the Bruins moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982. The two smallest crowds have been for games against the Beavers, with the low-water mark being 32,513 in 1992.
Two of the last three UCLA home crowds have been under 40,000. The Sept. 15 game against Oklahoma drew 52,578 but it was a predominantly Sooners crowd.
Kelly said he understands fans’ frustrations but is optimistic the program can show signs of improvement.
“I have faith in these guys,” he said. “It’s on us to make the corrections and to play better as a football team and to coach better as a coaching staff.”
Both teams are coming off rough three-point losses last week. UCLA fell at Arizona 20-17 and Oregon State dropped a 30-27 decision to Stanford.
“We’re getting closer but getting close and winning is another thing in hand,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “There is drastic improvement, especially on the defensive side. Has that turned into wins? No, but we are continuing to work at it.”
Other things to watch as the Bruins and Beavers meet for the first time since 2016:
UCLA QB: Dorian Thompson-Robinson suffered a leg injury during the third quarter last week and is doubtful after not practicing this week. Fellow sophomore Austin Burton would get the start if Thompson-Robinson can’t go.
Burton was 5 of 9 for 48 yards against the Wildcats and led a drive that got the Bruins in range for a potential tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.
“Austin came in and did a nice job. He can beat you with his arm and legs. He throws a nice catchable football,” Kelly said. “Austin and Dorian have similar traits. They’re not designed runners but if defenses give them the opportunity in man coverage, they can tuck it and run.”
AIRING IT OUT: Oregon State’s Jake Luton has thrown 140 straight passes without being picked off. That ranks fourth nationally and second in the conference.
Luton threw for 338 yards vs. Stanford last week and faces a UCLA defense that is giving up the second-most passing yards nationally (351.8 per game). Luton’s favorite target is Isaiah Hodgins, who has six touchdowns.
KEY PIECE BACK?: Beavers running back Jermar Jefferson is close to being 100% after being hampered the past two games by an ankle injury. Jefferson led Pac-12 freshmen in rushing yards last season.
Senior Artavis Pierce has been able to pick up the slack and is averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Pierce rushed for 141 yards and had a pair of touchdowns last week against Stanford.
STARTING TO ROLL: UCLA running back Joshua Kelley was bothered by a knee injury the first three games but has gained momentum the past two weeks with games of 90 yards or more. The senior rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown last week at Arizona and is facing an Oregon State run defense that is last in the conference, allowing 180.5 yards per game.
Kelley and Demetric Felton will have to carry the load if Thompson-Robinson is ruled out.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Oregon State linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr., who leads the Pac-12 with 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. The junior and Arizona’s Jalen Harris are the only players in the Pac-12 with at least one tackle for loss in each game this season.