After a COVID inflicted 2020 season playing in empty stadiums, UCLA was back at the Rose Bowl to kick off the 2021 season against Hawaii on 87 degree Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins came out possessed to start the game and never looked back, beating the Rainbow Warriors 44-10 in a good old fashion smackdown.
“I think it’s huge, mentally. You never want to start the season with a loss. I think that’s very important to this program,” said Senior defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia. “It definitely gives us more hope, more enthusiasm going into future games and understanding what we can do if you put the work in.”
UCLA got the party started early with nine dominant plays for 87-yards, in just 2 minutes and 49 seconds capped off with a Zach Charbonnet 21-yard rushing touchdown setting the tone early for the rest of the contest.
Two plays later Defensive lineman Datona Jackson made a spectacular one-handed leaping interception at Hawaii’s 20 yardline giving the ball right back to the Bruins in great field position.
UCLA running back Brittain Brown punched in a one yard touchdown score for a quick 17-0 lead with 6:06 left in the first quarter.
Before the quarter ended Charbonnet added one more vicious run as he mowed down multiple Rainbow Warrior defenders to a 47-yard touchdown increasing the lead, 24-3.
Charbonnet clearly wasn’t done scoring touchdowns. The running back feasted on another elusive 21-yard run adding to the already absurd early score, 30-3.
“I feel like this team can do whatever we want to do,” said Senior defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight. “We have a very experienced team, so we just got to get back to the tape and ready for next week.”
The UCLA student section started filing out and it was safe to say the game was over. It was a statement non conference win –– the first in Chip Kelly’s tenure as Head Coach for the Bruins.
Not only did the students see enough, Chip Kelly did as well. Kelly removed Junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson after a successful day completing 10-of-20 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
With his touchdown pass in the third quarter, Thompson-Robinson tied Troy Aikman with 41-career touchdown passes, seventh in school history.
Kelly made sure to give Charbonnet some rest as well. The Junior running back only carried the rock six times but bulldozed his way to 106 yards with three touchdowns.
The last Bruins running back who rumbled to three touchdowns was Joshua Kelley against Arizona State on Oct. 26, 2019.
It wasn’t only an offensive show. The defense made their presence felt forcing two Rainbow Warrior turnovers.
Senior defensive back Jay Shaw grabbed an interception in the fourth quarter, his fourth-career interception and second-career interception in a season-opener.
“I think we did well. A lot of things to correct, we’ll see that on the film come Sunday and Monday,” said Ogbonnia.
Even though his athletes were probably itching for a chance for more reps, Coach Kelly knows how important rest is with the daunting task the Bruins face next week against LSU back at the Rose Bowl in a showdown against the 16th ranked team in the nation.