Pac-12 Beat: Yep, Rosen is an early Heisman hopeful

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold, left, runs in for a touchdown as Western Michigan linebacker Caleb Bailey pursues during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Josh Rosen’s spectacular comeback for UCLA on Sunday vaulted him up the (early) list of the Pac-12’s Heisman hopefuls.

Rosen threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone as the Bruins rebounded from a 44-10 deficit for a 45-44 victory over Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl. Rosen faked a spike and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds left for the win.

It was the second-biggest comeback in FBS history, surpassed only by Michigan State’s rally past Northwestern from a 35-point deficit in 2006.

Rosen’s performance drew raves, including from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

”He’s a unique quarterback, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and he proved that on Sunday,” Whittingham said. ”Just the way he and his entire team handled adversity – that’s just what you’re looking for when you talk to your team about adversity. That was the epitome of it. He did a great job.

Rosen earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for the effort. He finished the game with 491 yards passing and those four final quarter touchdowns.

Yes, it’s super early, but Rosen’s big day cemented his status as one of the league’s possible Heisman candidates, along with fellow quarterbacks Sam Darnold of USC and Jake Browning of Washington. There were questions about how Rosen might rebound from last season when he was injured.

Darnold was considered the league’s front-runner but the sixth-ranked Trojans struggled last weekend against Western Michigan, rallying from a 21-21 tie heading into the fourth quarter to win 49-31.

He didn’t have a touchdown pass – a first in the Trojans’ ongoing 10-game winning streak – and also had a pair of interceptions. But he rushed for a score.

As a redshirt freshman last season, Darnold started 10 games and threw for 3,086 yards with 31 TDs. He passed for 453 yards and five touchdowns in USC’s comeback win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

Browning was solid in Washington’s season-opening win against 30-14 season-opening victory over Rutgers, throwing for 284 yards and two TDs.

Browning led the Huskies to the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. He threw for 3,430 yards and tied a Pac-12 record with 43 touchdown passes to earn the league’s offensive player of the year honor as a sophomore.

Other possible Pac-12 Heisman hopefuls as the season gets underway.

FEEDING THE HORSE: Royce Freeman ran for 150 yards and four touchdowns in Oregon’s 77-21 victory over Southern Utah on Saturday.

”Royce is our guy,” Ducks first-year coach Willie Taggart said Monday. ”Feed Royce then everybody else will get their carries as they go. We’re going to feed the horse.”

Freeman returned for his senior season with a shot at breaking LaMichael James’ career rushing yards record at Oregon. He was widely considered a Heisman candidate last season, but he struggled with injuries. He still ran 945 yards and nine scores.

IT IS THE CONFERENCE OF QUARTERBACKS, AFTERALL: Luke Falk threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns as Washington State beat Montana State 31-0 on Saturday night. He passed Connor Halliday for most touchdown passes in school history.

A former walk-on, Falk decided to return to the Cougars for his senior year. Last season he threw for 4,204 yards and 37 TDs – his second straight season with 30-plus TD passes.

LAST YEAR’S LEADER: Colorado tailback Phillip Lindsay picked up where he left off last season, running for 140 yards on 19 carries in Colorado’s 17-13 victory over Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Lindsay had a 45-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

His 16 touchdowns rushing led the league last year.

”Last year people stopped catching him, this year they won’t catch him either. He has that extra gear, he’s a little faster, a little stronger,” said Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre.

UP AND COMER? Bryce Love emerged with 180 yards rushing and a touchdown in Stanford’s 62-7 victory over Rice in the Week Zero opener in Sydney.

Love, who has the daunting task of replacing Christian McCaffrey, ran for 779 yards and three scores last season.

”I think he’s a different type of player than Christian to a certain degree,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said on Tuesday. ”But the games he’s played in the past two years, I think he’s played well. He played well in Game One, he’s getting stronger and I look forward to him being a part of everything we have going forward.”

By the way, Stanford visits USC in an early season conference matchup on Saturday.