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    UCLA routs Stanford behind Steele’s three touchdowns, Garbers at QB
    • October 22, 2023

    STANFORD — Looking to steady an offense that has been up-and-down this season, UCLA made a rather surprise change at quarterback for Saturday’s game at Stanford, with Ethan Garbers taking back the starting reins. The result: A complete performance on both ends of the ball in a 42-7 rout, and a breakout game for running back Carson Steele.

    UCLA coach Chip Kelly would not commit to a starting quarterback next week against Colorado. He said that true freshman Dante Moore — who started the last five games– was “banged up a little” in the early part of the week, and Garbers got most of the snaps during practice.

    Garbers found out he’d be starting towards the end of the week, and Kelly said Moore’s struggles last week against Oregon State did not factor into the decision to start Garbers.

    “Ethan earned the start this week from a practice standpoint, in terms of where we are,” Kelly said.

    Kelly said who starts moving forward will depend on “who’s healthy and available” at the end of the week, and that he feels “really good about our quarterback situation.”

    “We’ve got a couple of really, really good quarterbacks, so we’re excited,” Kelly said.

    Steele scored three touchdowns in the first half as the Bruins jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead. The Ball State transfer has received the bulk of the carries over the last three weeks over TJ Harden, as UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) looks to replace the production lost with Zach Charbonnet departing for the NFL.

    “Very rarely does the first person knock him down, and he’s got a great mindset when it comes to running the football,” coach Chip Kelly said of Steele. “He’s tenacious when he has the ball in his hands, so really productive.”

    Steele’s three touchdowns seemed identical, with rushes of two, eight and three yards, finding creases through the Cardinal goal-line defense.

    A more pressing issue, though, for UCLA to get back into Pac-12 title contention, is replacing another stalwart departed for the NFL: Dorian Thompson-Robinson – the quarterback who deftly guided Chip Kelly’s offense for the past five seasons. Garbers, the backup for the last two years, started the first game but Kelly went with the Moore for the next five — three of them against Top 25 opponents.

    Moore, a five-star recruit, showed flashes of potential but also struggled with turnovers. His three picks proved costly last week against Oregon State, and Kelly turned to the veteran Garbers against a defense for Stanford (2-5, 1-4 Pac-12) that has been among the worst in the conference.

    Garbers took advantage, leading a free-flowing offense down the field with ease. He began the game completing his first eight pass attempts, and scrambling for two first downs on his first drive. Before Stanford recorded a first down, UCLA was up a pair of touchdowns, courtesy of Steele, who also turned 21 on Saturday.

    “It’s pretty cool,” Steele said of scoring three touchdowns on his birthday. “It’s awesome how little things like that kind of work, just being able to jump out in front and hold them down.”

    Garbers finished 20 for 28 with 240 yards passing and two touchdowns and also ran for 51 yards.

    Garbers said there were times the last couple of weeks when he felt like he wanted to quit. But he kept his head straight, knowing he had to be ready to come in at a moment’s notice.

    “You’re always one snap away,” Garbers said. “So, I’ve got to still prepare like I’m the starter every week. That’s kind of the mindset I kept going, and it works out.”

    Garbers said he didn’t talk to the coaches about burning a redshirt year, which he did by playing in a fifth game this season.

    “My focus is on helping the team win when I can,” Garbers said.

    Garbers’ efficient night included a 15-play, 97-yard drive that was capped off by a Steele touchdown. He also threw touchdown passes to J. Michael Sturdivant and Moliki Matavao to open up a 35-0 lead for UCLA in the third quarter.

    With the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, Moore, Chase Griffin and Justyn Martin each saw playing time.

    In perhaps the final time UCLA will visit Stanford Stadium, the Bruins out-rushed Stanford 221-24 – the fifth time this season UCLA has held an opponent to under 100 yards rushing. The UCLA defense rebounded from allowing a season-high 36 points at Oregon State, keeping Stanford off the scoreboard until late in the third quarter. UCLA has held six of seven opponents this season to under 20 points.

    “I think our effort is consistent,” said defensive back Alex Johnson, who had a blocked punt.

    Kelly, unprompted at the end of his press conference, said he was sad that UCLA would probably not play at Stanford again – with the two teams moving to different conferences next year.

    “This is a special place,” Kelly said. “I keep going down memory road when we’re here. And I’ve been on the other side of it here. It’s good to win here. It’s tough to win here.”

    ​ Orange County Register