The Practice Jerseys were not the same shade of green as the University of Oregon, but they would still work. As Chip Kelly answered questions from the media at the start of last week's bye week for UCLA and said the Bruins wouldn't start fully preparing for Oregon until the following week, members of the scout team wore colored jerseys and prepared for practice.
Kelly smiled when he was asked about it. I'm going to ask them about that. Some of our guys jump ahead.
It's never too late to get ready for Kelly's world. The words "prep" and "process" may be what the UCLA head coach has used the most this season. UCLA's success was somewhat unexpected. There is no mystery, no dramatic improvement or storybook energy behind the wins that Kelly talks about.
Kelly said that she saw confidence in the group last year.
This has been validation of what Kelly preaches. UCLA has been able to marry that confidence with execution and now stands at the doorstep of beating its third ranked opponent in a row: Kelly's former team.
"It's always special going back to Eugene, it's a special place in my life, and there's a lot of great people there that had a profound impact on my life." I'm not doing anything.
Since he was hired, Kelly and the Bruins have played at Autzen Stadium twice, but haven't won against his former teams. Stephan Blaylock said this week that there are no good memories of going to Oregon. The quarterback added, "We got our butt kicked." It wasn't enjoyable.
The Bruins are starting to resemble Kelly's Oregon teams, including being led by a dynamic quarterback in Thompson-Robinson. UCLA went 10-21 in Kelly's first three seasons but has gone 14-4 over the past two years. UCLA has scored a touchdown on 40% of its drives this year. Only Ohio State and Tennessee have a higher number than that for Power 5 programs.
Kelly said that they are on track with where they thought they would be. Our guys do a good job, they know there's a consistency to the process. It's not easy to be good every Tuesday, every Wednesday and every Monday. Consistency is something that pays off on Saturdays, but it's easier said than done.
The journey has not been easy for the Bruins. It will be the first time since 2001 that UCLA has beaten three ranked opponents in the same season. It's been 10 years since the last time a Pac-12 team did that.
Thompson-Robinson has the most knowledge of Kelly's process and the nature of the game. The fifth-year senior has been through all the peaks and valleys of the Kelly era, yet he has continued to return. After last season, he decided to stay at UCLA and return for his senior year, instead of going to another school. The move has been vindicated so far, as Thompson-Robinson is on the verge of the Heisman trophy, and UCLA is a top 10 team.
Thompson-Robinson thought we would be heading into the season. It's what I wanted for this team.
The partnership of the coach and quarterback looks strange. Kelly extricates emotions from how he talks about his team. Kelly gave his ethos when he answered a question about Oregon's evolution since the Georgia loss.
Kelly said that they try to take the emotion out of their game plans.
Premium unleaded emotion is what Thompson- Robinson runs on. He wears it on his sleeve, but his entire jersey is made out of it.
Thompson-Robinson was barely able to talk after UCLA beat Washington. His teary eyes painted a picture of how fulfilling the moment was, while his hoarse voice provided a sense of his intensity. He made it a point to watch the UCLA-Washington game from his freshman year, when the Bruins lost 31-24.
"Seeing that kid, seeing how we played against them, making sure that doesn't happen again, a lot of nostalgia for sure," Thompson-Robinson said, wiping away tears.
Kelly said that Thompson-Robinson had a lot of great games during his career, but wouldn't compare them to this one.
After not being able to beat specific teams in the conference like Washington, Utah and now Oregon, Thompson-Robinson has talked a lot about the bad taste in his mouth. He has been able to use the criticism he has received as motivation. He said he had read that UCLA was considered one of the worst teams in the country after beating the University of Washington.
This has been happening for a while. The chatter that used to surround prep football in the area is what the Las Vegas native remembers. Being a football player in the area had a lot to do with rankings, stories, columns and other things.
Thompson-Robinson said that the game of football is fun because of the ability to prove people wrong. I've been dealing with so much here that I haven't emphasized it much. Everything opens up now that we're winning, you know?
His current situation is close to the lowest point that he has ever experienced. UCLA was 0-5 during Thompson-Robinson's freshman year.
Thompson-Robinson said that he came from a program where winning was all they did. It was a rough patch for the team after they got here and were talked about so much. Being a college athlete, with school, fan base, my family, just the team, everything was just a freshman. It was a difficult time for me.
Thompson-Robinson has glided his way to his most productive season so far, be it experience, offseason work, sudden clarity, criticism or a combination of it all. Thompson Robinson has thrown for 1,510 yards, ran for 231 yards, threw for 15 touchdown and added four more scores with his legs in six games. Thompson-Robinson's quarterback rating against Power 5 opponents was the best in the conference.
Kelly said that she loved that he was a lifelong learner. He always tries to get better and he has that mentality. I don't think he thinks he's arrived, he's always trying to improve. He has grown over that time. He has a lot of talent.
Ball protection has been the biggest leap Thompson-Robinson has made. Thompson-Robinson has thrown two this season after throwing 26 in the previous four years. The level of comfort and confidence Thompson-Robinson seems to have adopted this year has been noticed by players who have been at UCLA for many years. When he was asked who he thought were some of the smarter guys on the team, he joked: "Except me?" before mentioning his offensive line.
The preparation continued on Wednesday. Kelly was out on the UCLA practice field taking water bottles and squirting them onto the hands of returners before they caught the kick off. There is a chance of rain in Eugene.
The kind of offensive efficiency UCLA is displaying was once the defining characteristic of the Kelly-led Oregon teams, which upset USC by simply out scoring them.
It took Kelly a long time to build that continuity and foundation at UCLA. The combination of experience, consistency and new additions have coalesced to make a contender. According to Kelly, a team that can lead itself can benefit.
The College Football Playoff chase will be affected by Saturday's games. The odds for the top four. The answers can be found in the playoff Predictor. The odds are updated after each game.
"Any time you have a player-led team and not a coach led team, that's what we all strive for," Kelly said. Our older group of guys is outstanding in that aspect and that is what we are fortunate to have.
Kelly has made it clear that he expects the Bruins to be where he expected them to be. The continuity that has been created by the players who have been with the program for a few years is working to their advantage.
When the defense needed to step up, they didn't. The Bruins have one of the best defense in the country. In those moments, we step up so that we don't have to worry about Dorian. He feels a little bit more confident about his play.
Thompson-Robinson looked at his early play as a learning experience rather than a failure.
Thompson-Robinson said that he had a lot of flash plays in the past. Those flash plays have taught me a lot. The plays where I was sacked 20 yards behind the line have taught me a lot.
The fact that those sacks and turnovers linger on his mind gives an insight into the mindset of this Bruins team. It's been through rock bottom before. The Bruins have been through the process. They will be able to build on their results.
"You cannot replace experience," he said. You have to learn from your mistakes. That has been a good thing for us.