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New-look UCLA heads south to face undefeated San Diego State

Sep 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA;  UCLA Bruins quarterback Dante Moore (3) throws a pass in the second half against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Surf’s up Saturday when UCLA and host San Diego State put their unblemished early-season records on the line in a nonconference matchup at San Diego.

UCLA (1-0) held off Coastal Carolina 27-13 last Saturday behind a stingy rush defense that held the Chanticleers to 56 yards, and a fourth-quarter spark from freshman quarterback Dante Moore.

Moore shared snaps with starter and veteran Ethan Garbers, who capped a game-opening touchdown drive with a 21-yard connection to Carsen Ryan, as part of a 10 of 17, 121-yard passing night.

However, it was the only touchdown drive Garbers led and he was intercepted twice while getting bumped in the pocket. Moore went 7-of-12 passing for 143 yards in his collegiate debut and a pair of touchdowns. One of those TDs came on a 62-yard strike to J. Michael Sturdivant that gave the Bruins breathing room after leading just 14-13 to start the final quarter.

“I thought both quarterbacks played really well,” said UCLA coach Chip Kelly, who intends to get a third QB, Collin Schlee, some snaps this week. “We had three interceptions (two for Garbers, one Moore), two of them were being hit, so it was a protection breakdown.

“Unlike the NFL, we don’t have preseason.”

San Diego State (2-0) did not have a preseason either, but the Aztecs have not looked hindered. San Diego State opened at home on Aug. 26 with a 20-13 victory over Ohio. The Aztecs stayed home last Saturday and beat Idaho State 36-28.

“There were some good things, and there were a lot of bad things,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said of the team’s performance vs. Idaho State.

Hoke cited the Aztecs’ whopping 14 penalties for 138 yards, which resulted in six Idaho State first downs, as an area in need of improvement.

The good, Hoke said, included a multifaceted rushing attack. San Diego State averaged 6.5 yards per carry en route to 304 total rushing yards last week and put that up against a UCLA defense that limited Coastal Carolina to 1.6 rushing yards per carry.

The Bruins totaled 10 tackles for loss as part of their stifling run defense, including three sacks from Laiatu Latu, who finished 2022 tied for eighth in the nation with 10.5 sacks.

Saturday’s meeting marks the first between the programs since San Diego State snapped an 0-21-1 run against UCLA with a 23-14 win in 2019. This year’s is the first game between the two in San Diego since 2005.

–Field Level Media