Amid a career filled with highs and lows, fifth-year UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson came back for one more season of college football in hopes of helping the Bruins win a Pac-12 championship and establishing himself as an NFL-caliber player.

“I think I told ya’ll on Monday, see if Washington can run with us, not the other way around.” — UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson after big win over Washington

Last Friday at the Rose Bowl, Thompson-Robinson enjoyed perhaps his finest moment as a Bruin with a win over Washington. It was considered the program’s biggest victory under coach Chip Kelly.

Now, UCLA (5-0, 2-0) has jumped into The Associated Press poll at No. 18. The Bruins host No. 11 Utah Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, Fox).

Against the previously unbeaten Huskies, Thompson-Robinson completed 24 of 33 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns, outshining Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. in a 40-32 triumph. 

But Thompson-Robinson, who is climbing up the school’s all-time charts for passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing yards, wasn’t finished making a statement after the game. 

First, he retweeted a slight posted by USA Today from earlier in the week: “Have you ever seen a less impressive 4-0 team?”

“I’m reading through the articles throughout the whole week, people are saying we’re the worst 4-0 team out there, they’re writing us off,” Thompson-Robinson told reporters. “So I think my boys came in here with a chip on their shoulder. I think I told ya’ll on Monday, see if Washington can run with us, not the other way around. So that’s my answer. That’s my answer.”

Asked if he reads what’s written about his team, Thompson-Robinson said, “I do read it. I get notifications just like everybody else does. And if you think words don’t hurt, they do. They do and I always remember even if I don’t say nothing. So we have a lot of things ahead of us. Right now, we’re focused on Utah.”

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Meanwhile, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham is impressed by what he’s seen from Thompson-Robinson, the reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the week, this season. 

“You can see him getting better and better. He’s playing his best football right now, from my vantage point,” he said. “Chip’s done a great job developing him. Not that he wasn’t good before but he’s really taken his game to another level.

“He seems to be very poised, he makes plays and he takes care of the ball. He’s a dual-threat (quarterback), which is the biggest issue for us — his ability to run as well as throw the football. … It’s always tough to face a guy that can extend plays like he can.”

Thompson-Robinson has certainly elevated his game this season. Has he had a chip on his shoulder lately? 

“No, I think Dorian’s had a chip on his shoulder since the day he walked in here. I think that’s what drives him and motivates him in everything he does,” Kelly said. “He’s always kinda played like he’s had a chip on his shoulder, that’s his motivation and that’s what drives him, that’s the competitor that he is. And that’s what you love about him, that he’s the ultimate competitor.

“Whether he’s a true freshman or he’s a fifth-year senior, I don’t think his motivation level has changed at all. He’s always been a fiery competitor and that’s one of the things you love about him, his competitive nature is awesome. So we love to see that, but that’s not something that just all of a sudden he fell into during his fifth year, he’s been like that for five years now.” 

Of course, UCLA has other playmakers besides Thompson-Robinson.

Duke transfer wide receiver Jake Bobo caught six passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns against Washington.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps over Washington linebacker Kamren Fabiculanan during a game Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. The dual-threat QB has the full attention of Utah coach Kyle Whittingham this week. | Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

“I would say he’s been in a rhythm every game we’ve played, so it really just depends on how the defense deploys themself in what they’re gonna give us. But he’s been like that since the day he got here, he’s got a tremendous work ethic, really cares about football, loves playing football,” Kelly said about Bobo. “He’s one of those guys that’s in the building 24/7, he’s got a great feel for our quarterbacks. … He’s a byproduct of the hard work he’s putting in. We’ve been fortunate enough to have him. People decide they want to play certain coverages on him, I think he understands them and can exploit them.” 

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Meanwhile, running back Zach Charbonnet, who had 22 carries for 124 yards and one TD against the Huskies, is another weapon for the Bruins.

“He’s one of the best (running backs), for certain. He’s really good,” Whittingham said. “He’s a big, strong back with good vision. He’s got some speed to him. He’s tough. If he’s not the best, he’s one of the best we’ll face this year.”

Last year, Utah beat UCLA 44-24 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. That night, Thompson-Robinson didn’t play due to an injured hand. Two years ago, the Utes-Bruin matchup was canceled due to COVID-19.

Before that, in 2019, Thompson-Robinson was on the wrong side of a 49-3 game against Utah in Salt Lake City. 

“They kicked my butt around a few times,” Thompson-Robinson recalled. “So that’s the last memory I have, that’s the last taste I have in my mouth.”

Now, Thompson-Robinson gets one more crack at Utah, the defending Pac-12 champs. He’s eager to show, like he did last week against Washington, why he, and UCLA football, deserve national respect. 


Utes on the air

No. 11 Utah (4-1, 2-0)

at No. 18 UCLA (5-0, 2-0) 

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT

Rose Bowl 

Pasadena, California

TV: Fox

Radio: ESPN 700