LOS ANGELES — UCLA football coach Chip Kelly revealed on Monday morning that Martin Andrus Jr. suffered a season-ending injury in Saturday’s game against South Alabama.
Andrus has dealt with adversity throughout his career at UCLA, including comebacks from two ACL injuries. He returned to play two games in the 2021 season and was poised to be a key piece for the Bruins on the defensive line this season.
“It’s crushing because you’ve watched him rehab,” Kelly said. “He’s a sixth-year kid that came back, took advantage of the COVID year and has worked hard and was playing really, really well for us.”
Andrus was helped off the field in the third quarter against South Alabama. Kelly said he spoke with Andrus on Sunday, but they haven’t explored the option of a medical redshirt yet. If he were to be granted the redshirt, it would be his seventh season as a Bruin. Kelly didn’t specify what kind of injury Andrus suffered Saturday.
“I think he’s got great resolve,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be successful. That’s just because of I think the life lessons and the persistence that he has and he’s continued to develop, so it hurts our team. He was a real critical member of our team up front.”
In other Monday injury updates, Kelly said that freshman running back TJ Harden will practice, defensive lineman Gary Smith will try to practice and offensive lineman Siale Taupaki is unavailable.
More receivers involved
Three different UCLA receivers scored on Saturday against South Alabama: Jake Bobo, Kam Brown and Logan Loya. For all three, it was the first touchdown of the season. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said he was happy to see the effort from all the receivers early this season.
“In previous years, maybe guys weren’t running routes as hard because they know you’re not gonna get the ball, whereas this year everybody has a chance to get the ball,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We’re putting guys in different spots in different positions to make plays, so I think everybody’s just hungry to go out there and make plays.”
Thompson-Robinson also spoke of developing quick chemistry with Bobo, a transfer from Duke who has been an important part of special teams as a punt returner and is adding increased value as a receiver. On Monday morning, Kelly praised his ability to play at multiple spots, and do some blocking when he needs to.
“He can handle anything,” Kelly said. “He’s got a lot of experience coming in from Duke and what he did there. I was really, really happy he’s part of it. He’s a big, tall, long target and I think Dorian is getting really comfortable with him.”
UCLA had a total of 263 passing yards against South Alabama. Bobo was the Bruins’ leading receiver with five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Mokiao-Atimalala on track at UCLA
UCLA receiver Titus Mokiao-Atimalala expects to be the second person in his family to earn a college degree. His older brother, Tamatoa, who is a junior playing football at Hawaii, is expected to be the first.
“It’s something very special,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “My mom and dad were more worried about me getting my degree than football. So as long as I can get a degree here and do good in school, then I know I’m making my parents proud.”
Mokiao-Atimalala had had at least one catch in all three of UCLA’s games this season and had his most productive game against South Alabama, hauling in three passes for 47 yards.
The sophomore transferred from UCF this season, but Kelly had recruited him in high school. Kelly reached out immediately when Mokiao-Atimalala entered the transfer portal.
“Coach Chip was the first one to call me saying, in his words, it’s the second tie around, I’m not going to lose you,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “I kind of took that to heart, knowing that they were willing to take a chance on me again.”