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UCLA’s TJ Harden has breakout game in win against Cal

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BERKELEY — TJ Harden waited all season for key touches during a game. In UCLA’s Pac-12 finale, the first-year running back got his chance – and he delivered.

Harden, a three-star recruit out of Inglewood High, had a career-high 12 carries and 89 yards in the Bruins’ 35-28 victory over Cal on Friday at Memorial Stadium. With Keegan Jones unavailable, Harden and Colson Yankoff shared backup duties behind Zach Charbonnet.

Together, the trio helped contribute to a 352-yard rushing attack for UCLA, while quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns. The Bruins attempted more than 60 carries in a game for the first time since 2012 and recorded their third 300-yard performance of the season.

Harden, who Coach Chip Kelly said had been nursing an injury since the Washington game, had appeared in four games this season prior to Friday in limited action.

But he received the call on several important carries against Cal, recording multiple first downs – including a 21-yard run in the second half. Harden averaged 7.4 yards per carry in his breakout game.

“TJ added a punch when Zach went out,” Kelly said. “And I feel like Colson Yankoff continues to get better each week. So the fact that we could rotate those three running backs in there – and then there’s always the threat of Dorian.”

Harden, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 19 touchdowns in his final high school season last year, could see more playing time next season if Charbonnet departs for the NFL.

Harden “puts his head down and goes to work every day” despite knowing that there are others in front of him in the depth chart, according to quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

“All the work he’s put in is finally getting to be able to be shown,” Thompson-Robinson said. “When guys go down, he can show that he can step up and fill their spots just fine.”


With 21 completions, Thompson-Robinson passed Brett Hundley to become the all-time leader in completions in program history. The quarterback entered the day needing 15 completions to pass Hundley, who had 837 from 2011 to 2014.

Thompson-Robinson also passed Hundley on UCLA’s quarterback career rushing list. Combined with his 189 passing yards, Thompson-Robinson became the first player in program history to generate more than 12,000 yards of total offense for his career.

Last week, Thompson-Robinson also passed Hundley for the program lead in total offense and touchdowns and for second all-time in passing yards.


Protesters scaled a couple of flagpoles during the game, hanging a banner calling attention to a strike by around 48,000 academic union workers throughout the University of California system. The striking workers are calling for better pay and benefits.

The sign, which was hung during a game between a pair of UC schools, read: “Flag on the Play: Unfair labor practice.”

Somebody put up this sign over Memorial Stadium during the Cal-UCLA game in reference to the UC Strike. Looks like several security folks are just staring up at it

— Eric He (@erichejourno) November 26, 2022

For much of the fourth quarter, stadium security stood at the base of the flagpoles, staring up at the sign. They removed it after the game.

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