UCLA's Chip Kelly not naming starting QB vs. Colorado

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Monday, October 23, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA coach Chip Kelly is not a financial advisor, but he seems to believe past performance does not guarantee future results.

While quarterback Ethan Garbers returned to the starting lineup and delivered an effective performance in the No. 23 Bruins' 42-7 win at Stanford, it does not mean the fourth-year junior will be the first man up against Colorado on Saturday.

Kelly reiterated his belief UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) has three quarterbacks capable of playing at a high level in Garbers, freshman Dante Moore and Kent State transfer Collin Schlee.

"And we're one of the fortunate teams in the country, we have depth at quarterback," Kelly said Monday. "I believe Ethan's a starter at the Power 5 level, Dante's a starter at the Power 5 level, and Collin Schlee's a starter at the Power 5 level, so that's a luxury that not a lot of people have."

Garbers was 20-of-28 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns with 51 yards rushing against the Cardinal.

Garbers had seen his playing time decrease significantly after starting the season opener against Coastal Carolina. He threw two interceptions in that win, allowing Moore to take hold of the position with multiple explosive throws during the nonconference slate.

But Moore struggled in conference play. He completed 45.5% of his attempts for 689 yards and three touchdowns against six interceptions in the three previous games, each against Pac-12 opponents who were ranked at the time.

Kelly insisted the change at quarterback was made because Moore was dealing with an undisclosed injury last week and not because of those struggles.

"It was at the beginning of the week Ethan got a lot more reps in practice because Dante was banged up, so over the course of the week we decided we were going to go with Ethan," Kelly said.

Tight end Hudson Habermehl said the confidence Garbers showed in practice carried over into the game against Stanford.

"I think he just took on the role well, no hiccups, and he embraced his position and did his job," Habermehl said. "Hopping right back into it, he was ready for it."

Moore recovered to where he was able to play one series in the fourth quarter against Stanford, completing 4 of 5 throws for 26 yards with an 11-yard run.

Schlee did not play because of injury but practiced on Monday.

Kelly said performance in practice and health would determine who gets the nod against the Buffaloes (4-3, 1-3).

"The starter at the Power 5 level today is what we worry about," Kelly said. "And I'll answer the question for the 10,000th time is we make our decision at the end of the week, so I couldn't tell you who's going to be up or down by the end of the week. And when we get to the end of the week, we sit down as a staff and we'll go through it."

Kelly did acknowledge holding on to the ball made a significant difference for the offense compared to losses at Utah and Oregon State that sandwiched a defensively driven win over Washington State, something likely to factor into the decision-making for choosing a quarterback.

"I thought, offensively, we were efficient," Kelly said. "We don't turn the ball over. We can be pretty good on that side of the ball when that's what we do."