UCLA Football Beats Down Alabama State Without Offensive Stars

Zach Charbonnet didn’t get a carry, while Dorian Thompson-Robinson left with an injury, opening the door for Ethan Garbers and several running backs to break out.

Down their two biggest stars, the Bruins were still able to run the Hornets out of the building.

UCLA football (2-0) stormed ahead to an early lead Saturday afternoon and never looked back, beating Alabama State (2-1) by a score of 45-7 at the Rose Bowl. Running back Zach Charbonnet didn’t play a snap in the contest, while quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson exited the game with an undisclosed injury early in the second quarter.

The Bruins didn’t miss a beat without them, racking up the yards and points with Ethan Garbers under center. The backup stepped in and completed 14 of his 18 passes for 164 yards and a 143.2 passer rating. Garbers built up enough of a cushion that third-stringer Chase Griffin actually came in to close things out.

Thompson-Robinson got the job done when he was in, going 9-of-11 with 101 yards and a touchdown to tight end Hudson Habermehl. A backhanded flip pass to running back Keegan Jones was his signature highlight, but it resulted in an injury that cost him the rest of the game.

The Bruins did end up scoring on that drive, though, and they scored on six of their first seven possessions.

Garbers did his best Thompson-Robinson impression on the ground too, rushing for two touchdowns in the first half to put UCLA up 31-7 heading into the locker room. Jones was far less efficient, only going for 33 yards on 10 carries, but he passed the duties off to Colson Yankoff and TJ Harden as the game went on and the running game picked up real steam.

Garbers, Yankoff and Harden’s first 14 carries resulted in 95 yards and three touchdowns, with the unexpected ball-carriers standing in as the engine of the offense. Harden even got his first career score in that stretch, following his blockers through a wide open hole on the left side.

By the time the fourth quarter came around, it was Christian Grubb’s turn to get in on the action. The running back and dual-sport track athlete broke free for a 21-yard rush, then capped off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown – also the first of his career. Deshun Murrell chipped in as well, adding 34 yards on six carries on the last two drives.

UCLA rushed for 220 yards, with five players racking up 30-plus. The Bruins didn’t allow a single sack, and the lone ball-carrier who didn’t hit that 30-yard threshold was Garbers, and both of his carries finished in the end zone.

The defense made some plays early, getting a stop on fourth down and forcing a strip sack on their second drive of the day. The Hornets managed to put up yards in bunches regardless, though, actually outgaining the Bruins 154-111 and putting up 5.5 yards per play before Thompson-Robinson’s injury.

From there, the Bruins started to take back control and only allowed 3.9 yards per play the rest of the way. Washington transfer defensive lineman Laiatu Latu recorded two sacks and a forced fumble, and the Murphy twins each made plays in the backfield themselves.

Receiver-turned-cornerback DJ Justice made the game-sealing interception in the end zone with time winding down, and all UCLA had to do was run out the rest of the clock.

UCLA has improved to 2-0 in nonconference play, besting teams from the MAC and SWAC thus far. The Bruins will face a third non-Power Five squad Sept. 17 when South Alabama comes to Pasadena.

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