Entering the contest as 23.5-point favorites, the Bruins certainly didn’t play like it right away.
A blocked punt, a muffed punt, an interception and a turnover on downs left UCLA football (1-0) facing a 17-7 deficit in the second quarter, and the only reason they weren’t shut out was a broken play turned 68 touchdown , led by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. However, Bowling Green’s (0-1) early dominance disappeared as the game wore on and the Bruins ran away with a convincing 45-17 victory.
But for much of the first half, the few fans in the stands at the Rose Bowl booed their own team, clearly unhappy with the product they were waiting for in 100-degree heat. Officially announced attendance was a record low of 27,143, but surely fewer actually made it to Pasadena.
The sparse crowd rose to its feet for Thompson-Robinson’s long sprint to the end zone and was the opposite of unenthusiastic when he threw an interception over the middle on the very next snap. The first drive of the day ended with Nicholas Barr-Mira’s first career punt being blocked for a touchdown, and a key delay of goal line play penalty cost the Bruins four points a few minutes later.
Duke transfer Jake Bobo muffed a punt, returning to the game after being injured on his first attempt as a returner, and it gave Bowling Green a field goal. After Thompson-Robinson’s pass was picked off on fourth down, the Falcons marched the length of the field and into the end zone on a 22-yard drop screen.
However, it didn’t take long for UCLA to flip the script and it was all Bruins from there.
Bowling Green was held to four straight 3rds and their offense accounted for 0 yards on the 15 plays immediately following their touchdown. UCLA scored 38 unanswered on the other side of the ball, taking its first lead of the day on a 20-yard touchdown catch by receiver Kazmeir Allen and a 52-yard touchdown run by running back Keegan Jones.
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Running back Zach Charbonnet found the end zone on the first drive of the second half, putting the Bruins up by 14. The offense stalled briefly, but got back on track when Thompson-Robinson rolled out to his right for an 8-yard touchdown.
Thompson-Robinson finished the day with 298 yards and two touchdowns through the air on 32-of-43 passing while adding another 76 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Charbonnet racked up 111 yards on 21 carries, while Allen led the way with 85 receiving yards, 10 catches and 13 targets.
Even quarterback-turned-receiver Josiah Norwood — a redshirt senior who finally earned a scholarship earlier in the week — got in on the action, taking a short pass from Ethan Garbers 50 yards to the house.
The Bruins’ offense racked up 626 yards of total offense, tied for the most since Washington State’s wild 2019 comeback.
Safety Stefan Blaylock and defensive end Grayson Murphy had key sacks to help the defense keep things in check down the stretch, while linebacker Darius Moussau racked up four tackles and recovered a fumble that would have gone for a touchdown had it not been late block-in-the-back call on defensive end Laiatu Latu.
UCLA held Bowling Green to 162 yards, only 64 of which came after the Falcons’ only touchdown early in the second quarter. Six punts, a fumble and a turnover on downs were the end results of their meaningful hitting in that period as Bowling Green ran out in the hot sun.
Read more stories from UCLA: Sports Illustrated’s UCLA Bruins
Read more UCLA football stories: Sports Illustrated’s UCLA Football