Mandel’s takeaways: Rosen isn’t perfect after all, but UCLA is Pac-12 South’s team to beat

PASADENA, Calif. —  A wild Week 3 in college football did not end with another BYU miracle. Here are three takeaways from No. 10 UCLA’s 24-23 win.

1. UCLA is the Pac-12 South’s team to beat. On a night when the Bruins’ perennially overhyped crosstown rival, USC, suffered a defensive implosion in its loss to Stanford, UCLA hardly played its best game but still notched a solid non-conference victory. It trailed most of the way before engineering a go-ahead drive in the last five minutes, and then star linebacker Myles Jack intercepted BYU’s miracle maker, Tanner Mangum, with 58 seconds remaining.

The Bruins showed off a punishing rushing game, highlighted by star Paul Perkins’ 219 yards. But on their go-ahead drive, backup Nate Starks spelled a tired Perkins and broke off consecutive runs of 31 and 22 yards before punching in a short touchdown. And despite losing two key starters, linebacker Kenny Young (targeting ejection) and cornerback Fabian Moreau (foot injury), the defense swarmed Mangum, sacking him four times and breaking up nine passes.

“This was a hard-fought, really significant win for our program,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said afterward. “We’ve had some times when we’ve gotten into games like that with teams similar in structure to BYU and have not come out with the win. Tonight, although we were down [10-3] at half, I don’t think we ever had any doubt.”

2. Confirmed: Josh Rosen is human. UCLA’s celebrated true freshman quarterback appeared to play well beyond his years in a spectacular debut against Virginia. On Saturday, however, he reverted to in-over-his-head 18-year-old for most of the night.

Rosen threw three first-half interceptions, most notably throwing into triple coverage in the end zone to squander a scoring opportunity just before halftime. BYU got decent but hardly overwhelming pressure, and Rosen appeared to be forcing throws in an attempt to get the Bruins down the field. He described one of his picks as, “I tried to make a middle-school flag football play.”

With Perkins shredding the Cougars all night, UCLA mostly just needed Rosen to protect the ball. But, he’s a freshman, one who may have gotten caught up himself in the Chosen One hype. To his credit, he did complete a picture perfect 19-yard touchdown to Jordan Payton to cut a 20-10 deficit to 20-17.

“It’s just being a freshman,” said Mora. “He thinks that he can get away with some things that you cannot get away with at this level … It was an ugly game for him, but he is going to look back and that will be a turning point for him.”

3. BYU’s not done. While most teams with conference schedules have spent September loading up on Sun Belt and FCS foes, independent BYU has visited Nebraska and UCLA and hosted Boise State. And it came out 2-1. Not too shabby. While its wins required last-second miracles against a pair of teams that aren’t necessarily Top 25 caliber, it played toe-to-toe with a very talented UCLA team.

Even an 11-1 BYU team would likely have a case for a Top 10 committee ranking and New Year’s Six bowl berth. But first the Cougars will need to turn around and win yet another tough game next week at Michigan.