Even with the deck stacked against them, the Bruins are holding their own against the reigning Pac-12 champs.
UCLA football (1-1) is down 24-21 against No. 11 Oregon (2-0) at the half in a game where the Bruins are without multiple players – including starting junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson – and playing a top-15 team on the road.
Aside from Thompson-Robinson, UCLA is missing eight other players because of COVID-19 protocols, including redshirt junior defensive back Quentin Lake and redshirt sophomore running back Kazmeir Allen.
Thompson-Robinson’s replacement, redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Griffin, started his collegiate career with seven straight completions and finished the half 10-of-13 passing for 112 yards with one touchdown, one fumble and one interception.
Griffin’s first possession under center as the starting quarterback saw two completions and one first down but ultimately stalled and resulted in a punt. UCLA’s defense followed up with a stand of its own before a string of turnovers gave Oregon an early lead.
Griffin completed his first four passes before fumbling the ball on a keeper on his second drive of the game. Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough returned the favor on the very next play, finding wide receiver Devon Williams wide-open in the endzone to put Oregon out to a 7-0 lead within the first 10 minutes.
On the play after that, graduate transfer safety Qwuantrezz Knight fumbled the kickoff return, giving Oregon the ball back within the Bruins’ 30-yard line, and again Shough buried the Bruins with another touchdown pass, this time to running back Travis Dye.
Without their regular starting quarterback, the Bruins leaned on redshirt senior running back Demetric Felton early and often, giving him 11 touches for 62 yards in the first quarter alone. Felton finished the half with 16 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown.
Felton scored the Bruins’ first touchdown of the game on a two-yard run to make it 14-7 late in the first quarter.
Knight eventually made up for his earlier fumble, as he picked up Oregon running back CJ Verdell’s fumble and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game 14-14 within the first two minutes of the second quarter.
After an Oregon field goal, UCLA had its longest drive of the game so far that ended with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to redshirt sophomore tight end Greg Dulcich to give the Bruins their first lead of the game at 21-17.
Six seconds away from ending his first half of collegiate football without an interception, Griffin threw the first pick of his career, resulting in a touchdown return by Oregon to give them back the lead heading into the locker room.
Oregon will receive the ball to open the second half.