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MAYBE WE DON’T ALL NEED SPRING GAMES

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A QUICK CHECK-IN ON SPRING BALL WITH CHIP KELLY

NCAA Football: Stanford at UCLA
THIS IS THE FIRST PHOTO THAT COMES UP WHEN YOU SEARCH “UCLA FOOTBALL” IN THE PHOTO TOOL DON’T BLAME US
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the Pac-12 so no one really cares, but: UCLA did have a spring game, at least by what some definitions would qualify as a spring game. It ended in a 3-0 Blue team victory over the White side. That score is an honest one. There was no special scoring system, no series of baffling turnovers in the redzone, no weather delays. Nothing at all really happened here, with the offenses generating zero touchdowns in ten drives and the Bruins defense dominating every phase of the game.

It was nothing, but at least the portions were small. The game only took an hour, a bite-sized diet slice of spring ball compared to some of the longer, more dramatic productions by other programs. (Florida’s full spring game, not exactly the most serious rehearsal for fall, took about two and a half hours.) Chip Kelly mentioned prior to the game that the time restriction came from the Pac-12 Network’s allotted hour for the game’s broadcast. This might be true — but it also sort of might not be true, too.

Either way, UCLA didn’t really have enough healthy linemen to mess with anything like a full game, so it really made sense to play as little football as possible. This is a perpetual curse-type thing for UCLA. Our best guess: Sometime in 1999 or 2000, all the buffet-style restaurants around UCLA must have closed, leaving UCLA in a desert for big men they have never managed to escape. (One Golden Corral is all it takes, UCLA. Just one.)

The first inclination is to make fun of Chip Kelly for his ongoing, weird, and incomplete re-entry into college football. Do that, it’s fine and justified. Kelly had his team running conditioning drills during a 38-14 loss to Fresno State at home last year, signed just one of the nation’s top 400 prospects in the last recruiting cycle, and won just three games in his first year in the Pac-12. It’s been even stranger and more painful than expected, and expectations for relative strangeness/pain in year one weren’t all that optimistic to begin with for the Bruins.

The second is to ask: Does everyone have to have a spring game, really? UCLA didn’t even decide on a format for the game until late in the week before, and ended up going for an hour no one seemed to enjoy that much. The rest of the day was effectively a recruiting event and small fan get-together, so that has to count for something like a success. (Hey look: Chip’s recruiting! He heard y’all, and listened, maybe.)

But for a program like UCLA, a sport like football where contact should be minimized at all costs, and a coach like Chip Kelly who clearly doesn’t care about making it a thing? It’s not even really necessary, or shouldn’t be, at least. Turn this into a strength, and enjoy the advantages of being UCLA’s football coach, Chip: Having a low profile generally, but specifically being off the local radar in the offseason. No one will pillory you for not having a spring game, something you clearly don’t really want to have anyway.

To be clear, though: Oregon should still have one, at least as long as redshirt freshman Tyler Shough insists on doing things like flying into the endzone ass-first.

NCAA Football: Oregon Spring Game Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports