Thompson-Robinson rallies No. 17 UCLA past Cal, 35-28

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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BERKELEY, Calif. – Dorian Thompson-Robinson ran for two touchdowns and passed for another as No. 17 UCLA rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat California 35-28 on Friday.

The Bruins (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12, No. 16 CFP) finished with 541 yards of offense, including 352 on the ground, and rebounded from a narrow defeat to USC the previous week that eliminated them from league title contention.

Thompson-Robinson passed for 189 yards and gained another 88 on the ground. Zach Charbonnet rushed for 119 yards and a score, and he converted a fourth-and-2 run in Cal territory late in the game that chewed up valuable time. TJ Harden added 89 yards rushing on 12 carries for the Bruins.

It was Thompson-Robinson’s ability to improvise when plays broke down that keyed UCLA’s surge after it fell behind 21-10 late in the second quarter.

“That’s Dorian,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “He can beat you with both his arm and his legs. He’s a threat. Everybody knows it.”

The Bears (4-8, 2-7) got a fourth-down stop that gave them the ball back trailing 35-28 with 1:58 remaining. But Bruins linebacker Kain Medrano knocked the ball loose from Jaydn Ott after a fourth-down reception that would have converted a first down, and Carl Jones Jr. recovered to ice the game for UCLA.

Cal’s Jack Plummer threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Jeremiah Hunter had eight catches for 153 yards and two scores.

UCLA trailed by 11 with 58 seconds left before halftime. But Thompson-Robinson led his team on a 75-yard drive that took 40 seconds, capping it with a 19-yard touchdown scramble that brought UCLA within 21-17 at the intermission.

“Obviously we were a little frustrated, a little teed off. We’re a lot better football team than that,” Thompson-Robinson said. “But again, the resiliency and ability to fix those things. We’ve got a bunch of smart football players out on that field. If we need to make adjustments, we make adjustments.”

UCLA scored on its first possession of the second half to take the lead. But Plummer hit Ott for an 8-yard touchdown that put Cal up 28-27 with 11:16 remaining.

Then Thompson-Robinson engineered a 73-yard scoring drive capped by Charbonnet’s 5-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion pass to Jake Bobo gave UCLA a 35-28 lead.

UCLA had 113 rushing yards in the first quarter alone and moved the ball at will. But Nicholas Barr-Mira missed a 33-yard field goal, and penalties forced the Bruins to settle for a field goal on another drive. They led 10-7 midway through the second quarter.

That gave Plummer time to find his rhythm. The transfer from Purdue threw three first-half touchdown passes, including two to Hunter, who beat one-on-one coverage for 38- and 22-yard scores.

Cal safety Daniel Scott, who played his final college game after six years in the program, said the Bears couldn’t make enough key plays throughout the season to qualify for a bowl game.

“It’s been a challenging year with ups and downs,” Scott said. “At the same time, you’ve got to look at the positives. We played a lot of close games. It’s just the small details that cost us some games.”

THE TAKEAWAY

UCLA: The Bruins kept their poise and leaned on their ground game, ultimately wearing down an opponent that couldn’t match up on paper.

California: The Bears had control of the game late in the first half, but allowing the Bruins to score quickly before halftime snatched away what momentum they had built.

BIG DECISION

Thompson-Robinson, a senior whose athleticism makes him an intriguing NFL prospect, said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll play in UCLA’s bowl game.

“To be determined,” he said. “Some things go into that. I have to talk to my family and my agent and all that stuff.”

Plummer, a senior who transferred to Cal from Purdue before the season, has a season of eligibility left and said he will probably decide in the next two weeks whether to return.

STARKEY’S FINAL CALL

Cal radio broadcaster Joe Starkey worked his final game after 48 seasons. Starkey is best known for his call of “The Play,” Cal’s multi-lateral touchdown on the last play of its 1982 win over Stanford.

Starkey was on the field for Friday’s pregame coin toss. He was also honored during last week’s win over Stanford, which marked the 40th anniversary of The Play.

“Very emotional. I’ve been there for a very long time,” Starkey said after Friday’s game. “We’ve gone to some wonderful places. I’ve done college games, for God’s sake, for Cal in Tokyo and Australia. What a way to spend a life. I’ve been so lucky to be able to go to those places and be part of it.”

UP NEXT

UCLA: Awaits a bowl invitation.

California: Failed to reach last season’s total of five wins.

Williams’ 470 passing yards puts No. 7 USC over No. 16 UCLA

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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PASADENA, Calif. — Caleb Williams passed for a career-high 470 yards, Austin Jones rushed for a season-high 120 yards and seventh-ranked Southern California clinched a spot on the Pac-12 Championship game with a 48-45 victory over No. 16 UCLA on Saturday night.

Williams also rushed for 32 yards and finished with 503 yards of total offense. The Trojans (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12) had a season-high 648 yards of total offense and took advantage of four Bruins turnovers.

Williams completed 32 of 43 passes with two touchdowns and an interception. His favorite target was Jordan Addison, who had 11 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown.

USC fell behind 14-0 before rallying. The Trojans scored on eight of nine drives, including five straight.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson accounted for all six UCLA touchdowns, but also had three interceptions and a fumble.

UCLA got the ball with 2:21 remaining after forcing USC to punt. The Bruins (8-3, 5-3) got to midfield but their hopes of a comeback evaporated when Thompson-Robinson was picked off by Korey Foreman at midfield with 1:26 remaining.

Thompson-Robinson was 23 of 38 for 309 yards and passed for four touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards and two scores.

TURNING POINT

After Jones’ 8-yard run brought the Trojans within 21-17, UCLA got the ball and was looking to get one last score before halftime — along with getting the ball at the start of the second half.

Things didn’t go according to plan.

Thompson-Robinson was picked off by Mekhi Blackmon, who returned it to the UCLA 35. USC’s Denis Lynch missed his second field goal.

The Bruins got the ball back but Shane Lee intercepted Thompson-Robinson at the UCLA 47 with 14 seconds remaining. USC was able to convert this time as Lynch connected from 49 yards to get the Trojans within 21-20 at halftime.

Nicholas Barr-Mira’s 46-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half extended the Bruins’ lead to four before Williams connected with Addison for a 35-yard TD to put the Trojans on top 27-24.

USC’s defense came up with its third turnover midway through the third quarter when Tyrone Taleni sacked Thompson-Robinson and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Latrell McCutchin at the UCLA 9. Two plays later, Jones scored up the middle from 2 yards to extend the Trojans’ lead to double digits.

THE TAKEAWAY

USC: There were some concerns after Travis Dye’s season-ending injury last week that the Trojans would struggle in the running game, but Jones averaged 5.7 yards per carry and had two touchdowns.

UCLA: The Bruins’ defense has had issues the past two weeks, especially with stopping an opponent’s passing game. They allowed four completions of at least 35 yards.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Trojans could make a bid for the top five after this win, while the Bruins will try to hang on being ranked.

UP NEXT

USC: Hosts No. 18 Notre Dame next Saturday.

UCLA: Travels to California on Friday.

UC Board of Regents delays decision on UCLA move to Big Ten

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Luis Sinco /Getty Images
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SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California Board of Regents has scheduled a special meeting for Dec. 14 in Los Angeles to finalize a decision on UCLA’s planned move to the Big Ten Conference.

Regents set the date during a meeting in San Francisco on Thursday, the second public session where the move was debated.

UCLA announced on June 30 that it was leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, a decision that quickly drew the ire of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In 1991, campus chancellors were delegated authority by the UC Office of the President to execute their own contracts, including intercollegiate athletic agreements. But the regents heard during an August meeting that they retain the authority to review decisions impacting the UC system, meaning they could affirm, overturn or abstain from following up on UCLA’s decision.

The University of Southern California is also moving to the Big Ten, but it’s a private institution and not part of the UC system.

UCLA chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond took questions Thursday from the regents on the benefits of the move and their concerns.

Block said the university’s athletic budget will add at least $10 million for additional nutritional, academic and mental health support for athletes and add more charter flights to cut down on travel time. A report in August said eight of UCLA’s 23 sports – baseball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, softball, gymnastics and women’s volleyball – would experience additional travel impact.

A report published by the regents for this week’s meeting estimates that UCLA will see $60 million to $70 million in additional revenue from the Big Ten’s new media rights deal that begins next year. Even factoring in the additional expenses, the Bruins would still see a significant windfall compared to the $34.3 million in media rights and conference distribution it received in 2020, according to the report.

The Pac-12 is also negotiating a new media rights deal, but it is not expected to come close to what the Big Ten receives.

The move would also largely wipe out a $102.8 million deficit in the athletic department. UCLA secured a loan to cover losses, which the athletic department is responsible for repaying with interest.

Initial responses to a survey commissioned by the regents showed many of the UCLA athletes who had participated favored the move. Out of 111 athletes who responded, 35% said joining the Big Ten would be a good idea compared to 7% who thought it was a bad idea. More than one-third of the respondents (38%) said they needed more information and 20% had no opinion.

Nearly 600 surveys were sent out and the regents are hoping more are returned before next month’s meeting.

The regents could require UCLA to pay Cal an exit fee for leaving the Pac-12 or share TV revenues they will gain from a move. UCLA and Cal have played each other in football since 1923.