VOL. 132 | NO. 182 | Wednesday, September 13, 2017
UCLA’s Prolific QB Rosen Will Test Tigers D
By Don Wade
In Week 1, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen rallied his team from 34 points down to defeat Texas A&M 45-44. It was the second-largest comeback win in FBS history.
Last week in the Bruins’ 56-23 victory over Hawaii, Rosen hit on 22 of 25 passes for 359 yards and five touchdowns. Excluding a one-play drive before halftime, UCLA scored on its first seven offensive possessions.
Coach Mike Norvell’s Tigers have played only one game, and that was in tropical storm conditions, so he’s anxious to see where his team really is when the Bruins come to town Sept. 16. (Matthew Smith)
“Obviously, it starts with their quarterback on offense,” said University of Memphis coach Mike Norvell. “The game against Hawaii was just about perfect.”
UCLA (2-0) brings its No. 25 ranking and, in Rosen, a projected first-round NFL Draft pick to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium this Saturday for an 11 a.m. game that will be televised nationally by ABC.
Rosen has completed just under 70 percent of his passes in two games for 820 yards, nine TDs, and no interceptions. But where Norvell saw perfection in his performance against Hawaii, Rosen managed to find fault.
“We have to expect to score every time we touch the ball,” Rosen told media after the Hawaii game. “You can’t be happy with 70-80 percent success rates that normal people would consider good or whatnot. You have to set the bar unreasonably high and always strive for it.”
The Tigers (1-0) opened with a 37-29 victory at home over Louisiana-Monroe in the wind and rain, after effects from Hurricane Harvey. Because of Hurricane Irma, the Tigers’ game at Central Florida was cancelled and is unlikely to be rescheduled.
So, Memphis got extra practice time but also never got to put to use all the preparation for the UCF game. At some point, is there such a thing as too much preparation?
“That’s a really good question,” Norvell said. “We’re still trying to get a sense of who we are. To be able to go out there and see exactly where we are with this football team is something I’m looking forward to seeing.”
What would be hard on the eyes come Saturday would be to see Rosen flinging the ball all over the stadium. In the win over the Aggies, UCLA tight end Caleb Wilson made 15 catches for 208 yards and senior receiver Darren Andrews had 12 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Andrews caught three TD passes last week.
The Memphis defense staggered to the finish line in the fourth quarter of the first game, but the Bruins have issues there, too. Actual headline from the Los Angeles Times: “UCLA turns its attention to problems on defense following 2-0 start.”
UCLA gave up 515 yards to Hawaii, but three times stopped its opponent on fourth down. Four defensive starters did not finish that game because of injury and a fifth player, linebacker Josh Woods, was penalized for targeting and ejected.
Between the injuries and the large lead, Bruins coach Jim Mora played a lot of underclassmen on defense and some of those players could be put in key roles vs. Memphis.
“Some of those guys we’re going to depend on,” Mora told the L.A. Times.
Norvell understands that generating a pass rush will be critical to trying to slow down Rosen, but added, “The thing that’s probably been most impressive about Josh is that even though he’s been hit he’s maintained his composure, he’s gone out there and played the next play. He’s playing at a high level.”
• This is the second meeting between UCLA and Memphis. The Tigers came up short, 42-35, in 2014 in a game played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
• UCLA’s Woods and Memphis defensive lineman Jonathan Wilson, who was flagged for targeting in Week 1, will both have to sit out the first half of Saturday’s game.
• Rosen’s 810 passing yards ranks fourth in the nation.
• The Tigers’ 319-yard rushing average (albeit from that one game) ranks seventh in the country.
• Watch out for a trick play with Caleb Wilson, the Bruins’ tight end. He was a quarterback in high school and has completed his only pass this season for 39 yards.