Kelly, UCLA look to snap nonconference skid against Hawaii
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chip Kelly has a win over Southern California and two victories over ranked teams during his tenure at UCLA. What he doesn’t have is a win over a nonconference opponent.
If the Bruins want to show signs of a turnaround, that will need to change Saturday at the Rose Bowl against Hawaii.
Kelly, who begins his fourth season in charge, has a 10-21 record in Westwood, including 0-6 in nonconference games. Those aren’t the results UCLA fans were hoping for when he signed a five-year, $23.3 million contract after being hired in December 2017.
For all the talk about Kelly needing to win this season, he has remained consistent in preaching about focusing on each practice and not looking ahead or behind.
“We’ll take care of business on the field, and the rest of it will take care of itself,” Kelly said.
UCLA (3-4 last season) returns 20 starters — 10 on each side of the ball — including quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is aware of the pressure this season for the Bruins to post their first winning season since 2015.
“This is what we’ve been building toward,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We’ve been talking about rebuilding the program. We’ve gotten through that rebuilding process, and we’ve built up something special here.”
Even though the Bruins are 17 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, Hawaii remains a formidable opponent. The Rainbow Warriors return 18 starters from a squad that was 5-4 last season.
Todd Graham’s program also has a chance to get a national stage with the game being broadcast on ESPN.
“You work hard to have that opportunity. We know how much it means to us,” he said. “I like we are playing the best team on our schedule Week 1. Good, that makes you better.”
Here is what else to watch as the Rainbow Warriors make their second trip in five seasons to the Rose Bowl:
PAC-12 VS. MOUNTAIN WEST
Two of Kelly’s nonconference losses have been at home to Mountain West teams. The Bruins lost to Fresno State in 2018 and then San Diego State the following year.
Hawaii is 4-12 in its last 16 games against Pac-12 opponents, with all the wins at home.
ON THE RUN
UCLA’s running game averaged 203.6 yards in seven games last season, which was 12th in the nation. Demetric Felton graduated, but Brittain Brown averaged 6.6 yards per carry and he’s now the lead back. Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet, who made nine starts for the Wolverines the past two seasons, is also expected to see plenty of carries.
Hawaii allowed 211.7 rushing yards per game, which was seventh-worst in the nation among teams that played seven or more games last season.
THE OTHER QB
Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro is just as much of a dual-threat quarterback as Thompson-Robinson.
The junior had 21 touchdowns last season (14 passing, seven rushing) and led the team in rushing yards. Cordeiro had three carries over 50 yards last season and had the Rainbow Warriors’ four longest rushes.
Hawaii’s secondary returns intact after leading the Mountain West Conference in interceptions last season. UCLA committed 13 turnovers last season, with opponents converting all but two into points (10 touchdowns, one field goal).
KEEP AN EYE ON
Hawaii’s Calvin Turner Jr. The senior all-purpose back enters the season as the nation’s leading returner in career all-purpose yards (4,359 yards) and scored 11 touchdowns last season.
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