Oct 30, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Ethan Garbers (4) drops back to pass the ball during the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA names Ethan Garbers starting QB

UCLA coach Chip Kelly named redshirt junior Ethan Garbers as the starting quarterback for Saturday’s season opener against Coastal Carolina.

Garbers got the nod over 5-star freshman Dante Moore and Kent State transfer Collin Schlee. However, Kelly said both Moore and Schlee will see action.

“All three of them deserve to play,” Kelly said Monday. “They’ve all played outstanding. It’s been a really good battle with those guys. Healthy competition and they all have earned the playing time.”

The Bruins are looking to replace longtime starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Garbers transferred to UCLA from Washington in January 2021. He saw action in six games last season, including the Sun Bowl loss to Pitt after Thompson-Robinson was injured.

Garbers has 599 yards passing with four TDs and four INTs in 12 games (one start) at QB for UCLA.

Moore flipped his commitment from Oregon to UCLA in December. Moore was ranked No. 3 overall in the Class of 2023 by ESPN.

UCLA’s Pac-12 slate begins Sept. 23 at No. 14 Utah.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo looks on during the second quarter against the UCF Knights at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo joins UCLA in advisory role

Ken Niumatalolo, who served as head coach at Navy for the past 15 seasons, was hired by UCLA as the football program’s “director of leadership” on Friday.

Niumatalolo is Navy’s all-time winningest head coach, with a 109-83 record, and is the winningest head coach in the Army-Navy series with 10 victories. He was the first head coach in the history of the service academies’ rivalry to win eight straight installments.

Navy fired Niumatalolo, 57, after December’s loss in the Army-Navy Game. The Midshipmen went 4-8 in 2022 and 11-23 over the past three seasons.

In his position with UCLA, Niumatalolo will fill an advisory role to both student-athletes and the coaching staff.

He told ESPN in an interview that he was excited to work with UCLA coach Chip Kelly. The Bruins went 9-4 last season and will join the Big Ten in 2024.

“He’s an established coach, he’s not threatened by me or anything, he’s not worried about somebody looking over his shoulder,” Niumatalolo told ESPN. “That’s how Chip looks at it — anything I can add. They’re not far off, whatever I can bring, but it just felt right.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2022; El Paso, Texas, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Nick Patti (12) throws the ball against the UCLA Bruins defense in the first half of the 2022 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt rallies past No. 18 UCLA, wins Sun Bowl on late field goal

Ben Sauls set a Sun Bowl record by going 5-of-5 on field-goal attempts, including the game-winning, 47-yard attempt with four seconds remaining to elevate Pitt to a 37-35 win over No. 18 UCLA on Friday in El Paso, Texas.

Pitt (9-4) scored 20 straight points in the second half, rallying from down 28-14 after Jaylin Davies’ 52-yard pick-6 in the third quarter for UCLA (9-4), to pull ahead 34-28.

But after a failed fourth-down conversion attempt with a little more than two minutes remaining, the Panthers gave up a 70-yard drive, resulting in the Bruins’ lone offensive touchdown of the second half.

T.J. Harden, filling in for Pac-12 Conference-leading rusher Zach Charbonnet as UCLA’s primary ball-carrier, capped a 111-yard day with a go-ahead 8-yard score with 34 seconds remaining. The touchdown marked the culmination of a drive in which Harden also broke free for a 34-yard gain.

Quarterback Ethan Garbers — who stepped in after Bruins standout Dorian Thompson-Robinson left the game in the second half, the result of an unspecified injury — completed passes of 12 yards to Titus Mokiao-Atimalala and 14 yards to Jake Bobo on the possession.

With no timeouts remaining, Pitt drove 46 yards in 30 seconds.

Quarterback Nick Patti completed passes of 18 yards to Jared Wayne, then 17 yards to Bub Means on a spectacular catch that nearly hit the turf. Patti then evaded tacklers — any of which would have ended the game with the Panthers unable to call timeout — to rush 11 yards and stop the clock with a first down.

That gave Pitt time to send out Sauls for his fifth and most significant kick of the day.

Patti went 20-of-41 for 232 yards in the win, which gave Pitt consecutive seasons of nine-plus wins for the first time since 2008 and 2009. Tylar Wiltz had a key performance for the Panthers’ defense with a sack and an interception.

UCLA fell short of matching its program-best mark of 10 wins. Kam Brown caught four passes for 115 yards in the loss, while Mokiao-Atimalala and Logan Loya were on the receiving end of Thompson-Robinson’s two touchdown throws.

Thompson-Robinson had 262 yards passing but threw three interceptions before his exit.

–Field Level Media

November 25, 2022; Berkeley, California, USA; UCLA Bruins offensive lineman Raiqwon O'Neal (71) and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) celebrate a two-point conversion against the California Golden Bears during the fourth quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 UCLA, Pitt seek to polish off successful years at Sun Bowl

No. 18 UCLA can reach 10 wins for the first time since 2014 against Pitt, which seeks it best consecutive finishes since 2008-09, at the Sun Bowl on Friday in El Paso, Texas.

The Bruins (9-3) embarked on the closing weeks of the regular season in contention for their first Pac-12 championship since 1998 and a berth in the College Football Playoff, but they dropped decisions to Arizona and rival Southern California by a combined nine points.

Despite falling out of the title race, the Sun Bowl provides plenty of motivation for UCLA. It is the first postseason opportunity for the Bruins in the tenure of head coach Chip Kelly, after last year’s scheduled Holiday Bowl matchup with NC State was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.

“I’m very excited. Hopefully everything goes according to plan and this will be the first bowl game I play in,” center Duke Clemens said, adding the significance of earning a potential 10-3 final record. “It’s very important. As I know, that doesn’t happen a lot at UCLA. For this team to go get a 10th win would be awesome.”

UCLA has reached the 10-win threshold — the program record for most in a season — just nine times.

Whether the Bruins will pursue that landmark victory with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson remains unclear. Thompson-Robinson completed a shade less than 70 percent of his 358 pass attempts in the regular season for 2,883 yards with 25 touchdowns.

The dual-threat playmaker also ran for 631 yards with 11 rushing touchdowns, complementing the power-run game of back Zach Charbonnet. Both Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet have continued practicing with UCLA despite their uncertain status for the Sun Bowl.

“As of right now, it’s leaning more towards playing,” Thompson-Robinson said of his own status during a Dec. 16 media availability.

Pitt (8-4) heads to El Paso in pursuit of its best consecutive finishes since winning nine games in 2008 and 10 games the following season. The Panthers finished 11-3 a season ago with an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

The departure of Heisman Trophy-finalist quarterback Kenny Pickett and transfer of Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jordan Addison led to a facelift for the Pitt offense, which leans on the rushing combination of running backs Vincent Davis, Rodney Hamond Jr. and Israel Abanikanda.

Abanikanda led the ACC with 1,431 rushing yards, but he is a definite scratch for the Sun Bowl after declaring for the NFL draft on Dec. 19. The Panthers defense will be without All-American defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, who made his postseason departure official with an announcement on Dec. 22.

“It’s a great thing. We wish those guys luck. They all have decisions to make,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “We obviously wish they were playing, but that’s their decision. All I can do and all our staff can do is educate them on, hey, what we think, and they’ve got to make a decision (that is) best for them.

“Fifteen years ago,” Narduzzi added, “Guys would have given their left leg to play in a bowl game. I don’t think it’s the case anymore.”

Among the personnel questions for Pitt going into the Sun Bowl is quarterback. Kedon Slovis, who started much of the regular season, transferred. Nick Patti played in last season’s Peach Bowl in place of the exiting Pickett but broke his collarbone in the first quarter.

Patti announced his intention to transfer for the 2023 season but is competing with Nate Yarnell for the starting spot in the Sun Bowl.

–Field Level Media

November 25, 2022; Berkeley, California, USA; UCLA Bruins wide receiver Logan Loya (17) and California Golden Bears cornerback Jeremiah Earby (29) go for the football during the third quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Regents conditionally approve UCLA’s Big Ten move

The University of California Board of Regents officially approved UCLA’s proposed move to the Big Ten during a special meeting on UCLA’s campus on Wednesday.

The decision cleared the biggest remaining hurdle for the Bruins to make the move with crosstown rival Southern California, coming five months after the departure was announced.

Per reporting from ESPN, the regents approved UCLA’s switch from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten by a vote of 11-5, a required step in the process for UCLA as a member of the University of California educational system.

The move is conditional on UCLA meeting certain guidelines, including a requirement that the school spend a specified amount of money and take certain mitigation steps to support their athletes through the rigors of increased travel. And as The Athletic and ESPN report, UCLA will also have to pay Cal-Berkeley a sum between $2 and 10 million for leaving the conference without them.

That amount will ultimately be determined by the Pac-12’s next media deal, a deal which will suffer with the conference’s two most valuable brands now leaving for greener pastures.

“We’re excited to join the Big Ten Conference in 2024 and are grateful for the Board of Regents’ thoughtful engagement in this decision,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a release. “We’ve always been guided by what is best for our 25 teams and more than 700 student-athletes, and the Big Ten offers exciting new competitive opportunities on a bigger national media platform for our student-athletes to compete and showcase their talent.”

The move, expected to provide a financial windfall to debt-plagued UCLA, was called into question shortly after it was announced in August when two regents told the Los Angeles Times that they had the authority to block it from happening.

The regents subsequently met on the matter multiple times. A decision was expected in November but was postponed until today’s special meeting.

With a decision in hand, the Big Ten and UCLA can proceed.

“With the collective goals to prioritize the health and well-being of our student-athletes and forward our academic and athletic mission under the umbrella of higher education, we will continue our methodical integration process of UCLA and USC into the Big Ten Conference,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said.

–Field Level Media

November 25, 2022; Berkeley, California, USA; UCLA Bruins wide receiver Jake Bobo (9) scores a touchdown against California Golden Bears safety Craig Woodson (2) during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, No. 18 UCLA finally finish off Cal

Dorian Thompson-Robinson accounted for three touchdowns and Zach Charbonnet rushed for 119 yards and the game-winning score to lead UCLA to a 35-28 victory over host California on Friday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif.

Charbonnet carried the ball 24 times as UCLA rushed for 352 yards. T.J. Harden rushed for 89 yards and Thompson-Robinson, who threw for 189 yards and a score on 21-of-30 passing, added 88 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

The Bruins (9-3 overall, 6-3 Pac-12) clinched the win with less than two minutes remaining when Laiatu Latu recovered his second fumble of the game after the ball was punched out of Cal running back Jaydn Ott’s hands.

Cal quarterback Jack Plummer threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns on 24-for-34 passing. Plummer also became the sixth quarterback for Cal to surpass the 3,000 yards passing in a season.

Less than four minutes after Cal (4-8, 2-7) took a 28-27 lead, Charbonnet scored a 5-yard touchdown run and Thompson-Robinson converted a two-point pass play to Jake Bobo as UCLA went 73 yards on 10 plays to take the lead.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, with UCLA striking first on a 5-yard toss from Thompson-Robinson to Bobo. Plummer capped an 80-yard drive with a 46-yard bomb to J. Michael Sturdivant to tie the score.

Nicholas Barr-Mira punched in a 23-yard field goal for a 10-7 UCLA lead in the second quarter.

Cal seemed to grab the momentum before halftime with a pair of Plummer touchdown passes to Jeremiah Hunter — from 38 and 22 yards out — as the Bears went up 21-10 with 58 seconds remaining.

But Thompson-Robinson led the Bruins on an impressive 75-yard drive on five plays in 40 seconds, rushing 19 yards for the score to make it a 21-17 game at the half.

Thompson-Robinson then helped the Bruins regain the lead at 24-21 with a 14-yard keeper midway through the third quarter.

Latu recovered a fumble after Jack Landherr IV popped the ball out of punt returner Hunter’s hands late in the third quarter in what was Cal’s only other turnover.

The Bruins had to settle for a field goal and a 27-21 lead.

On Cal’s next possession, Hunter gained 49 yards on a reception, setting up an 8-yard screen pass to Ott as Cal temporarily regained a one-point lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) throws as Southern California Trojans defensive back Max Williams (4) and defensive lineman Solomon Byrd (51) move in during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 UCLA looks to rebound in finale vs. Cal

Coming off a heartbreaking loss that dashed its Pac-12 championship hopes, No. 18 UCLA tries to regroup and finish its season on a high note when it travels to Berkeley, Calif., for a matchup with Cal on Friday.

The Bruins (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) fell from College Football Playoff contention to out of the hunt for the league title with consecutive losses to Arizona on Nov. 12 and USC on last week.

The latter was a high-scoring, dramatic, back-and-forth contest in which UCLA was driving late with a chance to spoil its crosstown rival’s own playoff hopes, but Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a pass intercepted on the decisive play of the 48-45 contest.

“It hurts, but we want to end this thing on the right foot,” Thompson-Robinson said of switching gears on a short week to prepare for Cal. “We have 20-something seniors on this team, guys I played with here forever. Trying to send those guys out on the right foot, and the underclassmen know that, they understand that.”

Thompson-Robinson passed for four touchdowns and rushed for two in the shootout against USC, continuing to add to the best of his five seasons at UCLA and moving closer to various Bruins records.

Already UCLA’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 85, Thompson-Robinson is 474 yards shy of passing Cade McNown as the program’s all-time leader in passing yards. McNown finished with 10,708 yards through the air.

“One of (Thompson-Robinson’s) greatest qualities — and I say it all the time — is his toughness,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “He’s as tough a quarterback as I’ve ever been around, and that’s just the type of kid he is. … He’s going to play the game and give it all he has.”

Cal (4-7, 2-6) had its bowl hopes dashed amid a six-game losing streak, but the Golden Bears can conclude the season with some positive momentum and a winning streak.

They outlasted rival Stanford 27-20 last week thanks to a fourth-quarter rally.

Cal rolled off 21 consecutive points in the final period, which included Jaydn Ott catching a two-point conversion pass after Jackson Sirmon’s 37-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, then Ott producing the win-sealing touchdown run with less than a minute remaining in the game.

Ott comes in with 842 yards rushing, sixth best among all freshmen in the nation. He became the first true freshman in program history to eclipse 100 yards in his debut, and he holds the conference’s single-game high this season with 274 yards against Arizona.

If he can gain 158 yards on Friday, Ott would become the conference’s first freshman to reach 1,000 since Jermar Jefferson of Oregon State in 2018, and Cal’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Patrick Laird in 2017.

Meanwhile, Golden Bears quarterback Jack Plummer looks to finish strong after underwhelming performances the past two weeks against Oregon State and Stanford. He finished with 147 yards and an interception in the loss to the Beavers, and he threw two interceptions in the red zone against the Cardinal.

“I’ve just got to take those out of the memory bank,” Plummer said. “I knew what was wrong seconds after the play was over. I don’t need to go back and watch the film to say, ‘Hey, I shouldn’t have thrown that.’”

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA;  UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly on the sidelines during the second half against the South Alabama Jaguars at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 UCLA ready to brush off first loss, tackle Stanford

No. 12 UCLA will return home on Saturday, coming off its first loss of the season and looking to keep its Pac-12 Conference title hopes intact against a suddenly resurgent Stanford in Pasadena, Calif.

The Bruins (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) fell to Oregon at Autzen Stadium for the eighth consecutive in a 45-30 loss Saturday. That dropped them behind the Ducks in the conference title race, because the Pac-12 abandoned its prior divisional-representative model to determine conference championship game participants.

As a result, the teams with the top two overall records will advance to the Dec. 2 title game in Las Vegas. Oregon now sits alone in first with the only unblemished league mark; with a single loss, UCLA is tied with Utah, which the Bruins beat on Oct. 8, and Southern California, which the Bruins host on Nov. 19.

“The one thing I told those guys, as I walked up the tunnel at the end of the game, it’s been 357 days since we lost our last game,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said during his media availability. “Last loss we had before that was Oct. 30, 2021. I think they righted the ship and did a great job to finish out the season with three wins, then starting off this season with six wins. There was only one other team in the country, Clemson, that had more wins than us over that time.

“This is a really good football team,” he added. We didn’t play up to what we should have played on Saturday, then we’ll move on.”

While UCLA’s winning streak dating back to last season ended, Stanford (3-4, 1-4) ended two dubious streaks in its most recent outings.

The Cardinal dropped 11 straight games against FBS opponents dating back to last season before its 16-14 win at Notre Dame on Oct. 15. Ten of those losses came against Pac-12 opponents, a skid Stanford ended last week in its 15-14 win over Arizona State.

Though the Cardinal opened conference play 0-4 this season, they showed flashes of returning to the form typical of coach David Shaw’s teams from 2011 through 2018, when Stanford won at least nine games in seven of eight seasons.

Stanford committed two turnovers inside the 2-yard line in a 41-28 loss to USC in Week 2, and it gave up a befuddling touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to lose to Oregon State on Oct. 8, 28-27.

Shaw said Tuesday that Thompson-Robinson and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet had “given us fits” in prior meetings.

“Hopefully, we play better than we did last week, and that’s the charge we’ve been on the last weeks … ready to take a significant jump and give ourselves a chance to win on the road at UCLA,” Shaw said.

Since giving up 40-plus points in each of its first three Pac-12 games, the Stanford defense has limited its three most recent opponents to 56 combined points. The passing defense has improved since allowing four first-half touchdowns from USC’s Caleb Williams in Week 2, coming into UCLA holding opponents to fewer than 60 percent completions and 214.4 total yards through the air per game.

Run defense, however, has been an issue. The Cardinal rank tied for 112th nationally at 187.6 yards allowed per game, at 5.2 per carry. Charbonnet went for 118 yards rushing in last season’s 35-24 win at Stanford, while Thompson-Robinson carried for two touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA;   UCLA Bruins running back Kazmeir Allen (19) is stopped by California Golden Bears safety Elijah Hicks (3) just short of the goal line after a pass reception in the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Report: University of California regents can block UCLA to Big Ten

Following a University of California board of regents meeting Wednesday, two regents told the Los Angeles Times that they believe they have the authority to stop UCLA from leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024.

Whether the regents will utilize that authority is another matter, though.

In June, UCLA, a member of the state university system, and Southern California, a private school, announced plans to leave the Pacific Coast-based Pac-12 and join the Big Ten in a stunning shift of the college football landscape.

It figures to cause serious damage to the Pac-12 and its remaining members, including Cal.

“I’m very concerned about the financial impact to Cal-Berkeley and to make sure whatever new revenue might be achieved envisions a scenario to help offset (Cal’s) need,” regent Tony Thurmond said, according to the San Jose Mercury-News.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom had requested the regents meet to discuss the matter. After both an open session and private talks, the consensus seemed to be that all options were on the table.

“We always have the ability to retain authority, which is what we heard today,” board of regents chair Richard Leib told the Los Angeles Times.

As to whether they would block UCLA’s move, Leib said it is “premature” to say.

“It’s important to understand that when the regents delegated authority to the (UCLA) president, they didn’t give it away or lose it,” Charlie Robinson, an attorney for the UC system, added. “Essentially, what they did was extend it such that authority was with the regents and the president.”

During the open session, one regent reportedly proposed that the board should prepare models for various scenarios for Cal athletics, including a move from Division I to Division III, which would be unprecedented for a high-major institution.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly in the first half against the Southern California Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA extends Chip Kelly through 2025

UCLA rewarded coach Chip Kelly with a four-year extension through the 2025 season on Friday, the program announced.

Kelly, 58, is coming off his first winning season with the Bruins in four years as their coach. UCLA went 8-4 in 2021. The team was set to play in the Holiday Bowl against NC State before COVID-19 complications forced the cancellation of the game.

Kelly is 18-25 in four seasons at UCLA after stints with Oregon (2009-12), the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-15) and the San Francisco 49ers (2016).

“We are extremely appreciative of the entire UCLA administration for their support of our football program,” Kelly said in a statement. “We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for our players and staff. Their tireless work and commitment to our vision has built a great foundation. We are excited to continue to build this program into something that makes the UCLA fan base proud.”

ESPN and the Los Angeles Times reported that Kelly’s new contract will pay him $4.7 million per year.

Kelly was linked to Oregon’s vacant coaching job earlier this winter, but the Ducks instead hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.

“This new contract represents the commitment, stability and investment needed to continue the upward trajectory of our football program,” Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Since joining UCLA, our football team’s winning percentage has increased every year, including increased momentum in recruiting and strategic use of the transfer portal.”

–Field Level Media