Staving off a comeback effort from the Huskies, the Bruins won their second straight road game in a tight one up in Seattle.
UCLA football (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) beat Washington (2-4, 1-2) 24-17 at Husky Stadium on Saturday. The Bruins went ahead 17-3 only for the Huskies to score 14 unanswered, and then a methodical touchdown drive and late interception helped them regain their footing and come away victorious.
These are four of the biggest takeaways, narratives and questions to come out of Saturday's game.
Win the fourth quarter, win the game
Now, this probably seems pretty obvious considering the game was tied 17-17 heading into the final period, but that doesn't make it any less true.
The Bruins dominated in the fourth quarter, starting things off by getting a third-down stop for the first time in what felt like forever – the Huskies were 7-for-11 on converting to that point, so it was certainly a pleasant surprise.
Taking over from its own 10 after a punt, UCLA marched all the way down field and got into the end zone, converting on third and fourth downs along the way while running it, pitching it and throwing it outside the numbers. To be frank, everything was working, and that helped the Bruins take a lead.
When the Huskies got the ball back, the Bruins got an interception. With nearly five minutes left on the clock, they drained it down to zeros by running the ball and picking up three first downs.
UCLA outscored Washington 7-0 in the fourth, which doesn't seem very dominant on paper. Looking deeper, though, the Bruins didn't have a single incompletion and they rushed the ball for 77 yards on 12 carries before kneeling it.
Their 6.2 yards per play – prior to the kneels, again – dwarfed the Huskies' 2.9, as did their 10:37 to 4:23 advantage in the time of possession battle.
Simply put, UCLA played its best when it mattered most, and that's what led to the win.
Offensive line play peaking
For the first time all season, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson did not get sacked.
Interestingly enough, the offensive line managed to protect the quarterback so well without one of their mainstays on the left side. Paul Grattan, who entered Week 7 as the third-highest rated guard in the Pac-12, was replaced by Atonio Mafi for the fourth quarter.
We didn't notice if Grattan get hurt, so that's something to keep an eye on moving forward. Regardless, Mafi paved the way for absolutely massive holes for running back Zach Charbonnet and he played a major part in running the clock late.
Center Duke Clemens didn't have a bad snap after launching one over Thompson-Robinson's head in each of the previous two games. Left tackle Sean Rhyan was moving all over the field, and all the starters just looked physically dominant and athletically superior all night long.
Zero sacks and 6.6 yards per carry pre-kneels really says it all for this Bruin offensive line. They just played their best game of the season, and now it's time to see if they can build upon it further.
Defensive is disruptive once again
The Bruins had gone three straight games without forcing an interception, and they went ahead and got two on Saturday.
It started when defensive lineman Tyler Manoa got to quarterback Dylan Morris and forced his deep pass to stall in the air. Safety Quentin Lake camped under it and got the interception, the team's first since the Fresno State game.
UCLA broke into the backfield for 7.0 tackles for loss to go along with defensive lineman Datona Jackson and linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath's sacks. Even deep in the red zone, the Bruins were getting to the ball behind the line of scrimmage, saving points and forcing field goals by breaking things up when teams of old may have given up six.
The defense's big night came to a head in the fourth, when freshman cornerback Devin Kirkwood broke up a pass over the middle and tipped it to himself for the first interception of his career.
In the past, the Bruins being "disruptive" would have meant selling out and rushing five, bringing extra blitzers and sacrificing coverage through the air. Morris wasn't just getting pushed around though, his passes were getting swatted away and stolen.
The pass rush helped the secondary, and the secondary helped the pass rush. That's exactly what you're looking for out of this defense, and it finally came to fruition Saturday.
The Bruins are right on track
Before the season, we set a hard threshold of eight wins that Kelly needed to hit in order to keep his job past this year.
And in our preseason game-by-game predictions, we had the Bruins reaching that mark.
The specific results may be different, but UCLA still stands at 5-2 through seven games, just like we predicted.
Yes, we picked them to beat Fresno State and Arizona State, so losing those two docked their chances of reaching eight wins. The wins over LSU and Washington, neither of which we felt comfortable enough to pick for UCLA back in August, made up for those losses, however, so in terms of the win column and the standings, the Bruins are right where they need to be.
UCLA also already has more wins than they ever had under Kelly, and just one more in their final seven (or eight) contests means they're bowl eligible for the first time since 2017. Those bars aren't particularly high, and fans would probably like to see more, but it is at least a slight improvement with significantly more room to trend up.
Don't hang the banners or have a parade yet, this team still has a long road ahead. Just don't be surprised when UCLA is back in the postseason where it belongs, and don't be surprised – like him or not – if Kelly lives another year.