PASADENA – UCLA dominated Alabama State on Saturday, but it wasn’t without a wrinkle of concern over the status of their two most important players.
Running back Zach Charbonnet did not play at all, and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson left in the second quarter. They were both dressed and remained on the sidelines.
What caused them to sit out is unclear, with head coach Chip Kelly offering just an “unavailable” when asked postgame about their status. Thompson-Robinson appeared to tweak an ankle while making a shovel pass early in the game. The UCLA radio broadcast reported that Charbonnet was limited at Thursday’s practice, which was closed to the media.
“I’m not a prognosticator, and if I was, I’d be at Del Mar tomorrow and make a lot of cash, so we’ll just take it how it comes,” Kelly said when asked of Charbonnet’s availability for next week. “I don’t make those decisions. Other people make those decisions.”
Backup quarterback Ethan Garbers, who replaced Thompson-Robinson and finished 14-of-18 passing for 164 yards and two touchdowns, said he had been preparing all week as if he was going to play – hinting that the plan all along for UCLA was to roll through its depth.
Kelly will likely elaborate on Monday on what the gameplan was and whether the star duo will be available for Monday’s practice.
UCLA wraps up its non-conference schedule next week against Southern Alabama before beginning Pac-12 play in two weeks.
Stealing the show
UCLA’s first game against an HBCU program brought with it a special halftime performance.
Alabama State’s marching band, the Mighty Marching Hornets, returned to Pasadena after playing in the Rose Parade in 2019.
Alabama State’s marching band, “The Mighty Marching Hornets,” which performed at the 2019 Rose Parade, returns to perform at the Rose Bowl: pic.twitter.com/U6DFzhiFwF
— Eric He (@erichejourno) September 10, 2022
The band performed at halftime on Saturday and received a rousing ovation from many of the UCLA fans in attendance. Set up in the south end zone, Alabama State’s band outflanked UCLA’s band in what had to be a proud moment for the members.
UCLA won’t have its full band in tact until the Fall quarter begins later this month.
The temperature at the Rose Bowl was muggy and humid, but it was heavenly compared to the 100-degree temperatures of last week’s home opener. That drew a record-low crowd of 27,143.
Saturday’s crowd at the Rose Bowl was 33,727, and it looked bigger too, with fans perhaps compelled by the better weather, USC playing on the road and the history of watching an HBCU program in town.
Rising up the ranks
Even in his limited action, Thompson-Robinson moved up the record books at UCLA. The fifth-year quarterback made his 37th career start, which is fourth most for all-time games started by a UCLA quarterback.
Thompson-Robinson also passed Josh Rosen for third all-time in total offensive yards with an 18-yard completion to Keegan Jones early in the second quarter. He now has 9,208 yards in his career.