In this week's edition of Across the Press Box, the Daily Wildcat caught up with sports editor Jack Perez from the Daily Bruin to preview Arizona's game against UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 28 in Los Angeles, California.
Daily Wildcat: What's the status of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson? If he can't play again on Saturday, how confident are you in Chase Griffin?
Jack Perez: At the moment, head coach Chip Kelly is keeping Thompson-Robinson's status a secret. However, since he was one of the athletes who was forced into contact tracing, it's likely he's out for most of practice this week and probably the game. We won't know for sure until Saturday most likely, but if he's out, I'm very confident in Griffin. He might not have lit up the stats sheet, but he's a good game manager. Even if he doesn't put up huge numbers, he is capable of leading the offense on long drives. He did reasonably well facing a top team on the road so a home game with a full week of practice should help him greatly.
DW: Is UCLA's defense better than advertised? They've given up a ton of points this season but how much of that is actually their fault?
JP: UCLA's defense has been very aggressive in 2020 after laying off the ball in 2019. The result is one of the top defenses in tackles for losses in the nation. Many of the problems with the scoring defense actually fall on the offense and special teams. The two units have committed nine turnovers in three games, and 49 of the 96 total points given up by the Bruins have come off turnovers. You can't expect your defense to stop every score when the opponents are starting within your own half, so the defense has been a huge bright spot this year.
DW: You wrote a column about this last week but tell me more about Chip Kelly's aggressive play-calling. Are you in favor of Kelly's new offensive and defensive scheme, and how aggressive do you think UCLA will be against Arizona on Saturday?
JP: I'm very much in favor of Kelly's aggressive playcalling. For the past two years, UCLA has seemed hesitant to try anything new and experimental, even with a roster that would benefit from it. With a new quarterback and some new defensive staff, Kelly has been more likely to try to take the game to opponents. If the Bruins go up big early against the Wildcats, expect him to put his foot on the gas pedal and try to kill the game off.
DW: Who is one UCLA player to watch for this weekend?
JP: Redshirt senior running back Demetric Felton. Ever since the Washington State comeback last season, Felton has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the conference. He is often the best player on the field and can change the game in multiple ways. Whether out of the backfield, out in the slot or on kick returns, all eyes should be glued to the screen when he touches the ball.
DW: What is your final score prediction for this game?
JP: 38-21 UCLA. A lot can change if the nine players who were forced to sit out due to contact tracing are allowed to come back, but the Bruins should be able to overpower the Wildcats at home either way. Felton will have a huge game, and UCLA will get payback for the loss in Tucson last season. Anything closer than a double-digit win for UCLA should put some worry into Kelly before the final two regular season games.