This week, the Arizona Wildcats (3-4, 2-2) head to Pasadena to face the UCLA Bruins (1-5, 1-2). The Bruins won their first game of the Chip Kelly era last week in a 37-7 domination of Cal in Berkeley, and look to continue their winning ways against an Arizona team still trying to find its rhythm.
Here are the key players for UCLA who can make that happen.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB
A true freshman out of Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman, Thompson-Robinson has continued to develop throughout the season and now looks like a huge threat in the UCLA backfield.
After Michigan transfer Wilton Speight suffered yet injury in the season opener against Cincinnati, UCLA was forced to put DTR in the spotlight very quickly. Initially, the freshman really struggled, completing only 27 of 61 attempts for 289 yards combined against Fresno State and Colorado. Against Washington, DTR first looked like the high four-star he was advertised as, upping his completion percentage to 71.1% for 272 yards and his first two touchdown game. Despite the loss to a talented UW team, DTR continued to improve, and had by far his best half against Cal, going 13-of-15 for 141 yards, and rushing for an additional 27.
Joshua Kelley, RB
Joshua Kelley, after transferring from UC Davis and sitting out last year, has quickly become one of the most dangerous feature backs in the Pac-12 in just three games.
Kelley was not expected to contribute much to the UCLA offense this season, and that held true in the non-conference slate, with 11 carries for 27 yards in those three games. Against Colorado, though, Kelley exploded for 124 yards on just 12 carries, for an absurd 10.3 yards per carry. He rushed for 125 yards against Washington the following week, and last week in Berkeley, he continued his dominance with 30 carries for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
Keisean Lucier-South, LB
Keisean Lucier-South is a force, always coming up with hugely consequential plays when they’re most needed.
The redshirt junior has only been a full-time defensive player for the Bruins since last season. He played fine in 2017, recording 52 tackles and a sack. In 2018 though, Lucier-South has truly blossomed into one of the best havoc players in the country. Lucier-South has a decent 29 tackles, but 8.5 have been for loss, with 3 being sacks. Furthermore, he has an interception, plus 2 forced fumbles and recoveries, including a scoop n’ score last week against the Golden Bears.
With the youth of Arizona’s offense, a player who both causes and capitalizes on mistakes is incredibly dangerous. Lucier-South has that potential on Saturday and for the rest of his UCLA career.
Adarius Pickett, CB
Only one man on the UCLA roster can claim he’s had 70 tackles this season, and that’s Pickett, a senior stud in the secondary.
Pickett is from the Bay Area, specifically Richmond. A four-star recruit, Pickett was redshirted in 2014, and has been wreaking havoc on the Pac-12 ever since. Pickett had 24 tackles in his first season, and raised that to 42 in 2016. In 2017, he doubled his redshirt sohpmore numbers, recording 85. Now, he’s on pace for 140, an impressive number of tackles, and he’s intercepted a pass this year.
Not only that, but Pickett is one of UCLA’s punt returners. Though he has yet to score a touchdown in his career, Pickett averages about 10 yards a return in his career, and returned one for 40 yards earlier in 2018.
On both defense and special teams, Pickett is UCLA’s unquestioned leader, and will be tough for new quarterback Rhett Rodriguez to handle.
JJ Molson, K
Speaking of special teams leaders, Molson is undoubtedly one of the NCAA’s best kickers, and with a close result quite probable in the game on Saturday night, Molson could be key.
As a freshman, Molson didn’t look very impressive. He only made 60% of his attempts that year. In 2017, he kicked around the national average, making 81% of his kicks this time around. In 2018 though, Molson has only missed one field goal this season, espeically impressive considering UCLA is kicking over 2 per game on average. While extra points are almost automatic in college, Molson has gone 91-for-92 in his career on PATs.
If the game is close in the Rose Bowl, Molson could be the deciding factor on who leaves with victory.