PASADENA — As the song goes: It’s like this and like that and like this and, uh, you might want to revise your opinion of Dorian Thompson Robinson and this UCLA football team.
All week, Thompson-Robinson absorbed all of the analysis and punditry ahead of the Bruins’ Pac-12 matchup with No. 15 Washington on Friday night at the Rose Bowl.
“You hear all week that it’s gonna be a shootout,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Their offense is this and that, their quarterback is this and that …”
He was made well aware that the Huskies would arrive in Pasadena having never trailed this season, having won their first four games by an average of 25 points, led by a quarterback that had thrown for more yards – 1,388 – through four weeks than anyone else in the nation.
Both teams were 4-0 entering play, but because UCLA spent the nonconference portion of its schedule gorging on relative cupcakes, it wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt that the Huskies were, even though both teams were averaging more than 500 yards per game and the Bruins had put up 45 points three times already.
But in Friday’s 40-32 victory, DTR proved he is that guy. And that UCLA was the team on the field Friday deserving of a little respect from sportswriters voting in the AP Top 25 Poll. And from you, too.
The fifth-year senior who returned for one more season against the advice of Coach Chip Kelly, completed 24 of his 33 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He added another touchdown on the ground as he rushed 10 times for 53 yards. (The other QB, Michael Penix Jr.: 33 for 48, 345 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions.)
“Yes,” said Jake Bobo, the UCLA receiver who caught two of Thompson-Robinson’s touchdown passes, a career high along with his 142 receiving yards, “I do think our quarterback is this and that.”
Thompson-Robinson was a human highlight reel, putting on a show for an enthusiastic, season-high crowd of 41,343. He high-hurdled Washington linebacker Kamren Fabiculanan in the first half and, early in the third quarter, sidestepped a pair of tacklers at the goal line, sending them crashing into each other as he strode coolly past, untouched.
And Thompson-Robinson was clutch. With Washington eating into what had been a 40-16 deficit to start the fourth quarter, the Bruins asked him to make a play and he sealed the deal when he hit Hudson Habermehl in the hands for a 6-yard completion that gave the Bruins (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) their final first down, allowing them to run out the clock and snap an 11-game losing streak against top-15 opponents.
Those setbacks included a 2018 loss against the then-No. 10 Huskies, who got the better of Thompson-Robinson, then a freshman, in a 31-24 win at the Rose Bowl. So besides watching game film of this season’s Washington team entering play Friday, Thompson-Robinson said he watched that old game too.
“Seeing that kid, seeing guys like Blay (Stephan Blaylock) and some of the younger receivers we had, seeing how we played against them,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Bringing it today and making sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Thompson-Robinson was determined. He was edgy. He hadn’t only re-watched a years-old loss, he’d been watching his Twitter feed.
“The whole week, people are saying we’re the worst 4-0 team out there,” Thompson-Robinson said. “They’re writing us off, so I think my boys came in here with a chip on their shoulder. I told you all on Monday, ‘Let’s see if Washington can run with us, not the other way around.’
“I love it,” he added. “I don’t stay on social media 24-7 or all day every day like maybe most people think, but 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. And so we got a lot of things ahead of us – and right now we’re focused on Utah.”
The Bruins’ next opportunity to prove themselves will come next Saturday afternoon when they host the No. 12 Utes. And then again when they travel to face No. 13 Oregon the following game (after a bye week).
Thompson-Robinson plans to drink some hot tea before the Bruins’ next game. Because, as Bobo pointed out, he sounds “terrible,” so hoarse from communicating with his guys that if you closed your eyes, you could imagine the 22-year-old signal caller had been replaced on the dais by NBA coach Doc Rivers, who has spent 23 years hollering out plays and at officials.
But don’t expect Thompson-Robinson to simmer down. Because, most certainly, he means business. The man is tough.
When one of Washington’s interior defensive linemen swatted down a pass and seemed primed to pick it off, Thompson-Robinson had both the wherewithal and the grit to switch roles and break up the play.
“He put his helmet right in that dude’s stomach,” Bobo said. “I think that tells you all you need to know.”
It’s like that.
— Martin Jarmond (@MartinJarmond) October 1, 2022
DORIAN THOMPSON-ROBINSON CAUSED THE TWO DEFENDERS TO COLLIDE 😲 pic.twitter.com/AHLc1c9kmw
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 1, 2022