SAN DIEGO (AP) — Dante Moore threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns in his second college game and T.J. Harden had a 53-yard scoring run for UCLA, which used big plays to overpower the San Diego State Aztecs 35-10 on Saturday night.
Although UCLA coach Chip Kelly won't say it, Moore, an 18-year-old from Detroit who completed 17 of 27 passes, appears to have won the quarterback competition against Ethan Garbers with the Bruins' Pac-12 opener coming up in two weeks against two-time defending champion Utah. The Bruins outgained the Aztecs 550 yards to 259 yards.
Asked when he’d commit to one QB, Kelly said: “Not tonight.”
“I feel like we have three guys that are really good football players so that's something that not every team can say, and we'll see how this whole thing plays itself out," Kelly said.
Moore, the first five-star recruit in Kelly's six seasons in Westwood, started and played through the third quarter a week after coming off the bench to replace the ineffective Garbers in a 27-13 win against Coastal Carolina. Moore was replaced by Collin Schlee early in the fourth quarter against the Aztecs and Garbers didn't play.
The Bruins (2-0) improved to 22-1-1 in a series that dates to 1922. The Aztecs (2-1) were hoping to make it two straight against the Bruins after winning 23-14 at the Rose Bowl in 2019.
Moore and Josiah Norwood connected on an 81-yard catch-and-run on the first play of UCLA's third drive and Moore threw a 24-yard scoring pass to Logan Loya late in the second quarter. Moore sidearmed a 6-yard TD pass to Carsen Ryan late in the third quarter. The three TDs tied the school record by a true freshman set by Cade McNown in 1995 and matched by Josh Rosen in 2015.
“When I came in and took the first snap of this game, I felt more calm for sure, felt more in control and sure of what I can do,” Moore said. “Different from when you get your number called in the second quarter than going out for the first snap.”
Moore enrolled at UCLA in January after graduating early from high school. “If I would have came in the fall I think I'd be screwed right now for sure,” he said. “As a quarterback it's always good to get out there early to your school and see how the offense is, especially go through spring ball.”
With the Bruins starting their third drive on their 19, Norwood was wide open as the inside receiver in a triple set, caught Moore's pass at about the 37 and outraced four defenders to the end zone.
Jalen Mayden responded by moving the Aztecs 75 yards on nine plays to tie the game on a 21-yard pass to Mekhi Shaw.
Moore then led the Bruins to touchdowns on consecutive drives to go up 21-7.
Carson Steele ran 13 yards practically untouched on fourth down to cap a drive kept alive by two pass interference calls against Dez Malone, who was covering J. Michael Sturdivant. On third-and-9, Moore was flushed and gained eight yards before landing awkwardly.
Three plays into the next UCLA drive, Harden sped through a huge hole on the left side for his 59-yard score.
The Aztecs could have pulled within a touchdown late in the second quarter, but Joshua Nicholson dropped a pass from Mayden in the end zone and they had to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Jack Browning that made it 21-10.
Running a no-huddle offense out of the shotgun, Moore needed less than a minute and seven plays to move 85 yards for a 28-10 lead just before halftime. He hit Moliki Matavao for 35 yards and then Loya for a 24-yard touchdown.
Moore is “a super-young kid but he knows what he's doing,” Loya said. “He's going to be a star, 100%. He already is, but he's going to continue to grow.”
The Aztecs appeared to have scored on a strip-sack of Moore midway through the third quarter but after a review, the ball was placed on the 1. The Aztecs were stuffed on two straight plays before Mayden's deflected pass was intercepted by Darius Muasau in the end zone, one of three takeaways by the Bruins.
“We will be very explosive this year,” Loya said.
UCLA: Kelly improved to 29-29 in his six seasons at UCLA. ... Harden had 91 yards on nine carries and Steele had 84 yards on 12 rushes.
SDSU: Mayden had just 18 yards on nine carries a week after running for a school-record 132 yards by a quarterback and two touchdowns on eight carries in a 36-28 win against Idaho State.
UCLA: Hosts North Carolina Central next Saturday.
SDSU: Visits No. 16 Oregon State next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll