UCLA football has one of the worst run defenses in the country. Arizona has one of the best run offenses in the country. Put the two together and the outcome is fairly inevitable. Add in a poor performance by Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen, you get the 47-30 Arizona lambasting of UCLA Saturday night.
UCLA Crashes In The Desert
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate got his first start, filling in for the injured Brandon Dawkins. The Bruins could have seen this coming. Tate came in for Dawkins the previous week against Colorado and set a FBS record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. So, even coming off a bye week, and with plenty of time to prepare, the Bruins were no match for Tate. The Wildcats ran up 605 yards of total offense with 457 of that coming on the ground. Tate rushed for 230 of those yards to go with two touchdowns. He also threw for 148 yards and another touchdown.
The trend was set early, when on the fourth play of the game. Tate pump faked a pass that nearly took UCLA linebacker Kenny Young right out of his cleats, and then took off 45 yards for a touchdown. The Bruins drove on their first series but J.J. Molsen’s missed 45-yard field goal was an indicator that they would be playing catch up all night.
UCLA was down 10-0 in the first quarter before a four-yard run by Jalen Starks capped a 75-yard drive and put the Bruins on the board. But Arizona was ripping off yards in big chunks all night. On the ensuing drive, a 53-yard pass from Tate to Shun Brown put the Wildcats right back into the red zone. They scored on a one-yard Nick Wilson run to put the lead back up to 10 points.
Rosen Off The Mark
The night was made tougher for UCLA by Rosen having his worst game of the season. He was 20 of 34 passing for 219 yards and no touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions, one of which was returned 43 yards by Jace Whittaker for an Arizona touchdown. That put Arizona up 24-7 in the second quarter and ensured that for every UCLA answer, the Wildcats had a bigger response. In the first half Rosen was putting the ball in the hands of the receivers, who had five drops. In the second half, he was clearly pressing the action and forcing passes. With the Bruins down by double digits throughout the second half, the decision to pass more was obvious. The offensive line could not hold a Wildcats defense that had its ears pinned back. Rosen was sacked five times, with four of those coming in the second half.
UCLA showed some semblance of a ground game. Starks had 10 carries for 63 yards before leaving the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Bolu Olorunfunmi had 102 yards on 10 carries to go with two touchdowns. Soso Jamabo also had a touchdown run that cut the second quarter deficit to 24-14. But again came UCLA’s inability to stop the ground game. Arizona took only eight running plays and two pass plays to go 75 yards for another touchdown at the end of the half. The PAT was missed, (the kicking game was the one weak point for Arizona), but it was a big gap again at 30-14.
With Arizona up 33-22 in the third quarter, Tate ripped off his second touchdown run; this time 71 yards, juking through the defensive line before hitting the edge and outrunning the defensive secondary. It was a common theme. Tate was too quick for the UCLA edge rushers. He was not sacked at all during the game. And if it was not Tate hitting the edges, it was Wilson finding gaps up the middle as he rushed for 135 yards on 25 carries.
The frustration for UCLA is becoming evident. In the post game interview, Young, a senior linebacker, called out some of his teammates. “Some of the guys that I’ve seen, I don’t think they came with the full commitment tonight and I think they know that.” Head coach Jim Mora didn’t have any answers either, focusing on how Tate ran through and around the Bruins defense. “That young man is dynamic. He changes the game because you have to defend him on every play. We put all our energy into stopping him, and we didn’t get it done.” This was Mora’s first loss against Arizona during his UCLA tenure. In the past, the Wildcats had been a team to look forward to on the schedule as they were the cure for anything that ailed UCLA. No more. Tate is only a sophomore.
The Bruins now fall to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play. After losing what used to be an automatic win, they still have Oregon, Washington, USC and Utah remaining on the schedule. Instead of potential bowl scenarios they are left to scramble for ways to finish 6-6.