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Dorian Thompson-Robinson bruised but not beaten as UCLA prepares for Cal

Dorian Thompson-Robinson spent the final 21 minutes of Saturday night’s game grimacing in pain after the UCLA quarterback, his right thumb already taped, smacked his throwing hand on the helmet of Bruins guard Sam Marrazzo on the follow-through of his 38-yard pass to Logan Loya in the third quarter.

This was in addition to the two monster hits Thompson-Robinson took from USC defensive back Latrell McCutchin, the latter of which sidelined the fifth-year senior for one fourth-quarter play.

And the helmet-to-chest hit he absorbed from Trojans nose tackle Stanley Ta’ufo’ou, a second-quarter blow that was so ferocious it was reviewed for potential targeting.

Then there was the vicious lead block that Thompson-Robinson, showing the vigor of a 275-pound pulling guard, “pancaked” USC safety Max Williams with on Zach Charbonnet’s 19-yard run in the second quarter.

Also the third-quarter sack by Tyrone Taleni, USC’s 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle who flattened Thompson-Robinson and forced a fumble the Trojans recovered.

Thompson-Robinson was nearly beaten to a pulp in a grueling 48-45 loss to USC, his willowy 6-1, 205-pound frame battered and bruised, his right index finger bleeding, his hand throbbing and his ego stung by his four turnovers — three interceptions and a lost fumble.

But there was Thompson-Robinson about 45 minutes after the game, emerging from his postgame interview for a final look at the Rose Bowl field and, upon hearing a pair of UCLA fans shouting down from the upper concourse, acknowledged them by raising his hands in the shape of a heart.

It was a fitting end to a frustrating night in which Thompson-Robinson, who was outplayed by USC counterpart Caleb Williams, couldn’t have shown much more heart.

“I think one of Dorian’s greatest qualities, and I say it all the time, is his toughness,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said before Sunday night’s practice, as the Bruins began short-week preparations for Friday’s regular-season finale at Cal. “He’s as tough a quarterback as I’ve ever been around. … Dorian literally leaves it on the field every time he plays.”

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Thompson-Robinson claimed two more school records in Saturday night’s wild game, passing Brett Hundley for the total offense mark with 11,953 yards in his five-year career, and taking the top spot in total touchdowns with 110 after accounting for six scores against the Trojans.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson dives for a touchdown against USC.

(Wally Skalij / VFAB)

He completed 23 of 38 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns, three to tight end Michael Ezeike and one, a 55-yard dart that he threaded between four USC defenders, to Kazmeir Allen for an early fourth-quarter score.

But his performance didn’t measure up to Williams, who shredded the Bruins for 470 yards and two touchdowns and completed 32 of 43 attempts, part of 649-yard USC effort that was the most yards UCLA had given up since Washington State’s 720 yards in 2019.

“We blitzed them, we played zone, we dropped guys into coverage, we rushed two, we rushed three, we rushed four, we rushed six,” Kelly said. “I think we ran through it all on defense against them.”

As poorly as the defense played — USC scored touchdowns on four straight second-half possessions — the unit gave the Bruins a chance late in the game when Laiatu Latu sacked Williams for a 12-yard loss to force a punt.

UCLA, trailing 48-45, took over on its 11-yard line with 2 minutes 21 seconds left. Thompson-Robinson connected with Jake Bobo for 27 yards on third down, but a third-down pass intended for Allen was picked off at midfield by edge rusher Korey Foreman, who had dropped into coverage, with 1:26 left.

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Game over.

“They did a drop-eight on the last play,” said Thompson-Robinson, who left the field in tears. “Nobody was open. Probably should have thrown it away. At the end of the day, I got to live with it.”

The heartbreaking loss to their crosstown rivals knocked the Bruins out of Pac-12 championship-game contention and relegated them to a mid-tier bowl game — think Holiday, Las Vegas or Sun Bowl — but the schedule left no time “to feel bad or sorry for ourselves,” Kelly said.

Players resumed workouts on campus, and Thompson-Robinson was a full participant in Sunday’s practice, flinging passes around the field, no worse for Saturday night’s wear and tear.

“We’ve got to get right back to it,” Thompson-Robinson said, “flush this loss, look at all the mistakes, get it fixed and put it behind us.”

USC's Calen Bullock forces scrambling UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson out of bounds.

USC’s Calen Bullock forces scrambling UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson out of bounds.

(Wally Skalij / VFAB)

A strong two-game finish would help erase the sour taste from the USC loss and send 27 UCLA seniors, many of whom helped lay the foundation for Kelly’s tenure that began in 2018, out on a high note.

“The younger guys, I think after tonight, have realized that this is a special group of seniors, one that will be talked about for a very long time at UCLA,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I just can’t wait to go back out there with them next week and play one last time with them, for sure.”

Staff writer Thuc Nhi Nguyen contributed to this report.

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