Here’s a timeline of Chip Kelly’s wild ride with UCLA before the Bruins take on ASU football this Saturday.
Pac-12 football can be described using a variety of words.
Weird. Unpredictable. And at times, downright chaotic.
The offseason alone saw longtime ESPN analyst Herm Edwards transition back into coaching after a 29-year hiatus from the college game. Joining him in the conference coaching ranks was former uber-successful Oregon and NFL head coach Chip Kelly.
Fast forward to week 11 of the college season, and both Arizona State and UCLA are currently headed in two different directions.
In the desert, the Herm Train is powering through Tempe as Arizona State is in prime position to make a run at the Pac-12 South title.
In Westwood, the Kelly era has gotten off to more of a rocky start as the Bruins currently sit at a record of 2-7 after a tumultuous start to the season.
Here’s how UCLA ended up here after securing one of the hottest coaching candidates in the nation.
Nov. 25, 2017 ─ UCLA inks Chip Kelly to five-year, 23-million-dollar deal
After going 46-30 in six seasons under head coach Jim Mora (10-17 since the latter part of the 2015 season), the Bruins moved to Kelly to turn the program around.
The former offensive guru took over a program that had historically been struggling to win the Rose Bowl. Their drought sits at 19 straight seasons. The reason for hiring Kelly? Quite simply, he knows how to get to the Rose Bowl.
During his time at Oregon, Kelly guided the Ducks to a record of 46-7 while reaching the Rose Bowl twice and the Fiesta Bowl once.
His final Oregon team averaged 49.6 points and an incredible 82.8 plays per game to cap off a tenure in which the Ducks finished the season ranked in the AP Top-4 three times.
The hire put UCLA in prime position to attract top talent across the nation and end their 19-year Rose Bowl drought.
Aug. 30, 2018 ─ Michigan transfer tabbed as starting QB
After suffering a back injury while playing for Michigan, Wilton Speight transferred to Westwood after finding success during his time in the Big Ten.
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This success included earning Third Team All-Big Ten honors in 2016 while throwing for 3,192 yards alongside 22 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Speight won the job over last season’s backup Devon Modster and 2018 recruit and No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation Dorian Thompson Robinson. The move to go with Speight would come with some heat, including a player’s father, but more on that to come.
Sep. 1, 2018 ─ Bruins open Kelly era with a loss to Cincinnati
Speight’s debut is cut short due to a back injury suffered at the five-minute mark in the second quarter. The injury foreshadowed the impending doom as the Bruins struggled to move the ball, scoring just 17 points in a loss to Cincinnati.
Thompson-Robinson came in relief of Speight, finishing 15-for-25 on the night for 117 yards in a little over two quarters of play. The freshman made crucial mistakes down the stretch including a fumble with the game tied at the nine-minute mark in the fourth quarter.
The fumble resulted in a safety for UCLA, giving Cincinnati the lead for good. Thompson-Robinson was sacked four times in the loss and threw wide of a receiver on a crucial fourth down that led to an eventual game-sealing drive from the Bearcats.
Oct. 10, 2018 ─ UCLA falls to 0-5, worst start in 75 years
The season only got worse as the team dropped their next two games against Oklahoma and Fresno State. UCLA’s offense struggled in the trio of games, averaging 17.3 points per game while moving to 0-3 for the first time since 1971.
After the third loss, Kelly was criticized publicly by Thompson-Robinson’s father, Michael, in a series of tweet stating his coaching and play-calling was “lousy”. Michael didn’t stop there as he said, “Coaching that is so bad that it demands closed practices. Million-dollar coach who bears no responsibility… Just random observations from a frustrated dad!”
The quarterback drama didn’t stop there as Modster, who played two games last season backing up Josh Rosen, decided to step away from the team and transfer.
Quarterback drama combined with continued offensive struggles plagued the team as they got off to their worst start in 75 years, falling to 0-5 after losses to Colorado and Washington.
Oct. 13, 2018 ─ Kelly picks up first win at UCLA
It took a little over five years, but Kelly won his first game as a college coach since leaving Oregon for the NFL. The Bruins dominated Cal in a 37-7 victory where Kelly’s defense shined as UCLA had five takeaways, including four in the first half.
Freshman Thompson-Robinson was efficient in the victory with only two incompletions in 15 attempts and 141 yards through the air. Running back Joshua Kelley did the majority of the damage on the ground with 157 of the team’s 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
UCLA would keep momentum for their next game as they edged out Arizona in a tightly contested 31-30 victory.
Nov. 10, 2018 ─ TBD
After winning two straight games, UCLA returned to early season form in their previous two as they were blown out 41-10 to Utah and 42-21 against Oregon.
Kelly and Co. will look to break the two-game skid as they enter Tempe looking to derail Arizona State’s aspirations of winning the Pac-12 South. The Sun Devils enter the game after back-to-back victories over USC and Utah.
While ASU enters the matchup on the right side of a two-game streak, head coach Herm Edwards has warned his team to not overlook what has been described as a dangerous UCLA team.
Will the locomotive continue chugging in Tempe, or will Chip Kelly pull a rabbit out of his hat and return his offense back to his juggernaut days at Oregon?
Only Saturday’s matchup in Tempe will tell.