Alexander: UCLA’s Chase Griffin steps up and almost delivers an upset

Is it possible that the grand L.A. tradition of a quarterback controversy might be roiling UCLA’s fan base this week?

Probably not, to be honest. The Bruins’ results over the last few years haven’t lent themselves to the sort of fan passion required for that sort of controversy. And the backup, Chase Griffin, didn’t win Saturday, though he and his teammates hung in quite a bit longer than anticipated against No. 11 Oregon in Eugene.

Moral victories don’t count. But the Bruins did frighten Oregon, in a 38-35 loss in Autzen Stadium, and they very well may have spoiled any longshot hope the Ducks and their fans might have had of a berth in the College Football Playoff, hanging in there to the end and denying Oregon the type of style points it would probably need to make up for the Pac-12’s (a) diminished national profile and (b) shortened 2020 schedule.

UCLA’s coaches and players also learned a lot about what they have in Griffin, a redshirt freshman who was thrust into the starter’s role against the Ducks when junior Dorian Thompson-Robinson was scratched because of COVID contact tracing issues. He did not embarrass himself at all in his first college start.

Griffin, who was born in Santa Monica – UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, to be precise – but grew up in Round Rock, Texas, won the competition to be the backup quarterback in the weeks leading up to this season, and he got the word late in the week to be ready. So he went into a tough place to play – though less tough with no fans than it would be with a full house – and hit 12 of his first 14 pass attempts, brought the Bruins back from an early 14-0 deficit and kept them within striking distance to the end while completing 19 of 31 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, complementing Demetric Felton’s 176 rushing yards and two scores.

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“Chase is a gamer,” Felton said in the postgame video conference. “He’s really cool, calm and collected. So, you know, nothing really changed for me. And, you know, I trusted him and I know he’s going to do his best. So I’m extremely proud of him and just ready to see what’s next for him.”

There were rough spots for the rookie, two interceptions and a lost fumble, although the pick-six at the end of the first half that Jordan Happle returned 58 yards for an Oregon touchdown was sort of a fluky play. On third-and-6 play from his own 44, at the end of the half with the Bruins’ holding an unexpected 21-17 lead, Griffin was attempting a Hail Mary heave to the end zone for a tip or a lucky bounce, but he was hit as he threw and the ball popped straight up and fell into Happle’s arms.

The play gave the Ducks a 24-21 halftime edge, and the Bruins would never lead again.

“I know in Pac-12 games you need as many points as you can (get),” coach …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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