Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet carry UCLA to 34-16 victory over Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. — UCLA rediscovered a familiar, comforting friend in its time of need. It found its running game.
On a night when the defense largely faltered and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson failed to find a passing rhythm, the Bruins made a successful run for it.
Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet churned out yard after yard to help UCLA persevere for a 34-16 victory over Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, avoiding potential embarrassment against a team that extended its school-record losing streak to 17 games.
Brown’s 48-yard touchdown run on a burst up the middle midway through the fourth quarter gave UCLA a 31-16 advantage and removed all remaining drama as the Bruins improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 Conference.
Brown finished with 146 yards rushing and Charbonnet had 117 to help UCLA pile up a season-high 329 yards on the ground, averaging seven yards per carry. Thompson-Robinson added two short rushing touchdowns and 28 yards on the ground.
It was the sort of efficiency UCLA was missing in its two losses, when the Bruins averaged 157.5 yards rushing and 3.9 yards per carry.
They needed the massive improvement after their defense surrendered 362 yards, requiring repeated Arizona mistakes to prevent the Wildcats (0-5, 0-2) from potentially taking command of the game.
Thompson-Robinson also endured one of his worst passing performances, completing eight of 19 passes for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
As has often been the case this season, the Bruins made things more difficult than necessary.
UCLA appeared to be taking command deep in Arizona territory while leading 24-16 late in the third quarter. On third and six, Brown ran for 11 yards ... only to have the ball ripped out for a fumble at Arizona’s 18-yard line.
But the Bruins defense finally tightened, lineman Otito Ogbonnia forcing a fumble that he recovered early in the fourth quarter on a play in which Arizona quarterback Jordan McCloud was injured. McCloud had to be helped off the field and was replaced by Gunner Cruz.
UCLA was fortunate to hold a 14-13 halftime lead considering the way it faltered near the end of the half.
A pass interference penalty on defensive back Jay Shaw and facemask penalties on linebacker Caleb Johnson and defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight extended an Arizona drive shortly before halftime that ended in a trick play devised by Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch.
McCloud lateraled to wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, who threw across the field to open running back Michael Wiley in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.
On the next play, Thompson-Robinson forced a deep pass into coverage that was intercepted. The Wildcats moved the ball to midfield before some bad clock management prevented them from having a chance to move into field-goal range.