Rosen, No. 25 UCLA face 1st road test in trip to Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The UCLA Bruins’ resume consists of a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Texas A&M followed by a convincing home win over Hawaii.
And while quarterback Josh Rosen and the No. 25 Bruins have put themselves among the nation’s top teams right now, the Memphis Tigers have only one rain-soaked game under their belts to prepare themselves for this matchup.
For UCLA, this visit to Memphis for Saturday morning’s game will be a test if the Bruins (2-0) can keep up their strong start. The Tigers (1-0) are just happy to finally be back to football after an unscheduled open date with Hurricane Irma canceling last week’s game at Central Florida.
”Hopefully, this week we’ll actually get the game” in, Memphis coach Mike Norvell said.
Rosen has been simply dazzling over his past five quarters starting with UCLA’s rally for a 45-44 win over Texas A&M , throwing for 292 of his career-best 491 yards in the fourth quarter. He drove UCLA to five touchdowns in the final 18 minutes. Rosen followed that up with a 56-23 win over Hawaii , completing 22 of 25 passes with one of the incompletions a drop.
”I just think he’s got his mojo back,” said senior wide receiver Darren Andrews, who has caught five of Rosen’s nine touchdowns.
Riley Ferguson hasn’t had a chance yet to showcase his strengths for Memphis after completing only 10 of 25 for 97 yards in brisk winds and rain in the remnants of Hurricane Harvey against Louisiana-Monroe. Memphis from the American Athletic Conference stuck to the ground in that game, running for 319 yards.
”They didn’t play last week, probably emotional a little bit,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ”I’m sure a lot of those kids are from areas that have been affected, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Here are some things to know about Saturday’s game:
UCLA AT THE LIBERTY BOWL: This will be the Bruins’ first game in Memphis against the Tigers after UCLA won the only previous meeting 42-35 in 2014. But UCLA played in the 1976 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, losing to Alabama 36-6 in the first bowl other than the Rose Bowl ever for the Bruins. UCLA also played Tennessee in Memphis in 1965 in the stadium’s inaugural season. The 37-34 loss left UCLA coach and Memphis native Tommy Prothro so upset with calls down the stretch that he said he was ”ashamed to be a Southerner.”
MEMPHIS MYSTERY: UCLA doesn’t have much to work with in scouting the Tigers. So Mora has looked back to the Tigers’ 8-5 season in Norvell’s debut along with the Memphis coach’s experience at Arizona State where he was offensive coordinator in the Pac-12. Norvell already has one win over a ranked opponent with his Tigers upsetting No. 18 Houston last season.
TARGETING LOSSES: Both teams will be without key defenders for the first half because of targeting penalties. Bruins junior linebacker Josh Woods was called for the infraction against Hawaii, while Memphis defensive lineman Jonathan Wilson was flagged for targeting against Louisiana-Monroe.
EARLY KICKOFF: This game kicks off at 11 a.m. local time, and that’s why the Bruins flew into Memphis on Thursday. But Mora said his Bruins won’t be affected by the early kickoff. He noted his players are up lifting weights by 6 a.m. in Los Angeles with practices starting at 7 a.m. This game gives Memphis a chance at a big audience being televised on ABC.
SIGHTSEEING: Being in Memphis a little early is giving Mora a chance to take his Bruins sightseeing at the National Civil Rights Museum. Mora came to Memphis in March with the UCLA basketball team for the Sweet 16 and realized he could take advantage of a road game himself. He thanked museum officials for helping set up a private tour scheduled for Friday. ”This will be really something special for our guys to see, especially West Coast kids who probably haven’t had a lot of time to go to Memphis,” Mora said.
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