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Sunday Morning QB: UCLA Defense Finds New Way to Lose
A once-promising season is slipping away from Chip Kelly and the Bruins.
Some Bruin fans who prefer to wear Rose Bowl-colored glasses will probably try to blame last night’s loss on the fact that Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t play against Utah. I can almost read the Facebook posts now. They’ll say things like, “UCLA would have won if DTR had been able to play.”
That’s just not true.
To be sure, the offense may have scored another touchdown or even two if DTR had been healthy enough to play, but the offense wasn’t the problem last night.
The problem was the same problem which has occurred in each of UCLA’s four losses this season. It was the UCLA defense.
That said, last night’s game wasn’t lost by the suspect pass defense. It was lost because the Utes became the first team to run all over the Bruins this season.
You really have to give Kyle Whittingham, Andy Ludwig and their offense credit. Any team could attack the Bruins’ pass defense and probably win. But the Utes prefer a balanced attack and, instead of throwing their way to a win, Utah said, “We’re gonna run the ball down your throat until you stop us.”
Unfortunately for UCLA, they couldn’t stop the Utes and they gave up nearly 300 yards rushing last night.
It’s just the latest sad chapter in the Chip Kelly era of UCLA football. It’s one that cannot come to an end quickly enough. The worst part about it is that UCLA fans could still potentially be looking at, at least, one more year of Kelly at the helm.
Why? Because he has one more year left on his contract and it’s questionable as to whether the UCLA Athletic Department can afford to burn either $9 million by firing Kelly immediately at the end of the season or $4.6 million by waiting to fire him until January 15th when Kelly’s buyout goes away.
It’s important to remember that, even if UCLA were to wait until January 15th when Kelly’s buyout “goes away,” the Athletic Department would still be on the hook for Kelly’s salary for the final year of his contract. So, do not immediately assume that, just because the buyout “goes away” on January 15th, that UCLA can fire Kelly without any financial repercussions.
“But ‘donors’ will step up to foot the bill.” Oh, really? If that were the case, the Athletic Department wouldn’t have run into the much-reported financial issues which were caused by the combine firings of Jim Mora and Steve Alford.
There is one scenario, however, that could potentially lead to Kelly’s early departure and it has to do with fixing the team’s terrible defense. If Jerry Azzinaro is fired at the end of the season as he certainly should be, or if the Athletic Department simply refuses to renew Azzinaro’s contract, Kelly could choose to walk away from the final year of his contract because he wasn’t given the freedom to employ whatever coaches he wants.
It could be mighty expensive sword for Kelly to fall on. In fact, it would turn the tables in UCLA’s favor as he would owe UCLA a $9 million buyout before January 15th, though, after January 15th, Kelly could just walk away from the final year of his contract without any financial repercussions on his part. At the same time, I’m pretty sure a lot of Bruin fans would be perfectly ok with waiving Kelly’s requirement if he wants to walk away after this year just so the Bruins can move on to righting the ship.
If I had to guess, based solely on wins and losses, I’d say that Kelly needs to win UCLA’s remaining three games in order to get himself some sort of contract extension. If Kelly wins no more than one more game, his job could be in jeopardy. Two more wins would give Kelly his first winning season since coming to Westwood, but might now save his job if the Athletic Department’s financial issues are not taken into consideration.
Moving forward, UCLA’s best chance to become bowl eligible comes in the Bruins’ next game on November 13 against Colorado and a loss to Colorado would mean that all bets are off.
After losing the last two games of October, the only things that are certain for UCLA football heading into November is that the Bruins’ defense is bad and that Chip Kelly, his coaching staff and, in fact, everyone that cares about UCLA football is watching another once-promising season slip away quickly.