PASADENA (AP) — Michael Warren II rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns, and Cincinnati spoiled Chip Kelly’s coaching debut at UCLA by throttling the Bruins’ offense in a 26-17 victory Saturday night.
Cortez Broughton forced a fumble that led to a tiebreaking safety with 9:45 to play, and the Bearcats’ defense limited UCLA to 306 yards in the first game of Kelly’s ballyhooed return to collegiate coaching after a six-year absence.
Shortly after Broughton stripped UCLA freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and forced Caleb Wilson to fall on it in the end zone, the Bearcats stopped the Bruins on downs at the UCLA 36. Cincinnati then got its only offensive points of the second half with 1:44 to play on Warren’s third 1-yard TD run.
Kelly lost only seven combined games during his wildly successful four-year tenure at Oregon, but he clearly has ample work to do rebuilding the thin Bruins in his return to the college game after two disappointing NFL stops.
Kelly deliberately revealed little about the look and style of his first team at UCLA during the past months, but nothing was inordinately flashy or unusual about the Bruins’ game plan — and Thompson-Robinson was inconsistent after taking over for injured starter Wilton Speight, who apparently injured his back in the first half.
Freshman Kazmeir Allen made a 74-yard TD run while rushing for 103 yards in an exciting debut for the Bruins. Thompson-Robinson went 15 of 25 for 117 yards, missing several big throws.
Freshman Desmond Ridder passed for 100 yards and ran for 63 more after replacing senior starter Hayden Moore in the third offensive series for the Bearcats, but he struggled in the second half before the defense brought it home with a series of big plays.
When Warren scored his third TD, Cincinnati’s and the Bearcats’ hearty cheering section celebrated a big win in their school’s first appearance at the famed stadium and its second-season debut under coach Luke Fickell, who went 4-8 last year.
Kelly’s new offense played fast, but not distinctively so in its debut at a half-full Rose Bowl. The Bruins’ sideline also didn’t use the oversized, logo-strewn offensive play cards popularized by Kelly at Oregon — but the Bearcats did.
UCLA got its first points of the Kelly era on a 1-yard TD run by Bolu Olorunfunmi after the defense forced a fumble by Moore on Cincinnati’s second possession.
Ridder took over and mounted a 14-play TD drive. James Wiggins then intercepted Speight’s next pass, and Warren made another short scoring run.
But both freshman quarterbacks showed their youth in the second half by missing a handful of makeable throws. The only scoring play of the third quarter was Allen’s thrilling 74-yard TD run through the heart of the Cincinnati defense.
UCLA still struggled to move the ball after yielding the safety. Kelly went for it on fourth-and-1 in his own territory, but the play resulted in a low-percentage pass that fell incomplete.
Cincinnati: Despite the Bruins’ clear status as a work in progress, a win at the Rose Bowl is an enormous boost to Fickell’s rebuilding efforts after the disappointment of last season. Ridder got valuable experience if he turns out to be the long-term starter, too.
UCLA: In case anyone still doubted it, Kelly won’t transform the Bruins overnight, not with a thin roster coming off two losing seasons. But in Thompson-Robinson and Allen, Kelly has the ingredients for some excitement when his team gets up to speed.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ road start continues at Miami (Ohio) next Saturday.
UCLA: A daunting trip to Norman to face No. 7 Oklahoma next Saturday.
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