LOS ANGELES (Tucson News Now) - UCLA running back Joshua Kelley’s 28-yard touchdown run with 11:33 to play in the fourth quarter Saturday night helped the Bruins win a 31-30 shootout over Arizona at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Kelley carried the ball 31 times for 136 yards.
Rhett Rodriguez got the start at quarterback for UA, subbing for an injured Khalil Tate. He finished the game with 234 yards passing with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions.
JJ Taylor had a critical first half fumble on a play in which he was running in for what appeared to be an Arizona touchdown. The Bruins recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
Taylor did score later on a one-yard fourth quarter run to give UA a 27-24 lead. He finished with 154 yards rushing. Gary Brightwell added 121 yards on the ground for the Wildcats on 15 carries.
Shawn Poindexter caught both of Rodriguez’s touchdown passes. The senior had six catches for 106 yards.
Things didn’t start well for the Wildcats (3-5, 2-3) as UCLA took a 17-7 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats went three-and-out on the opening drive of the game and Rodriguez threw an interception in the end zone on the Wildcats' next series.
UCLA (2-5, 2-2) scored the first time it touched the ball and went ahead 10-0 with a field goal to open the second quarter.
The start was bad, but things got worse for Arizona.
With 9 minutes to go before the half, Wildcats running back J.J. Taylor broke off a huge run. Taylor picked up 55 yards before fumbling the ball in the end zone. A UCLA defender picked it up for a touchback.
Arizona’s defense held and UCLA was forced to put the ball back less than a minute later.
The Wildcats then marched down the field and scored thanks to two big passes by Rodriguez.
First, he hit Tony Ellison on a 38-yard strike. Arizona made it 10-7 two plays later when RhettRod connected with Shawn Poindexter for a 13-yard touchdown.
UCLA didn’t blink and pushed its lead back to 10 points thanks to the 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Wilton Speight’s touchdown pass to Devin Asiasi.
Tate, mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate during the preseason, sat out with an ankle injury. He was first hurt during the Wildcats' Week 2 loss at Houston.
The injury has limited Tate’s ground attack this season. He has only 112 yards and two touchdowns through seven games. Last season, he ran for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to becoming a star.
Some of that can be attributed to the new system brought in by first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Tate simply has not run as often as the Wildcats have concentrated on the passing game.
In 11 games last season, Tate was 111-for-179 passing for 1,592 yards and 14 touchdowns. Through seven games this year, he is 95-for-178 for 1,415 yards and 11 scores.
Rodriguez, the son of former Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez, played at Catalina Foothills High in Tucson. He threw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns during his senior season in 2016.
The sophomore secured the starting nod with his performance against Utah last week.
Tate left the game early and backup Jamarye Joiner, who prepped at Cienega High in Tucson, was ineffective.
Rodriguez came in and was impressive. He ended up passing for 226 yards and one touchdown in the Wildcats' 42-10 loss.